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Everything You Need to Know

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Everything You Need to Know

Blog writing is a content marketing format that started as an online diary, and has since gained traction and found its way into business websites. It is one of the more accessible formats of content marketing, the strategic approach which aims to provide relevant and valuable information to one’s audiences and build a relationship with them.

According to OptinMonster, 77% of internet users read blogs. If you don’t know where to start and how, this comprehensive guide is for you.

    1. How does blog writing help with SEO?
    2. Why you should prioritize evergreen content
    3. Do publish dates affect rankings?
    4. How to generate blog topics
    5. How to set up for blog writing
    6. How to write a blog post
    7. How to optimize your blog
    8. How to apply a how-to schema on your blog posts
    9. How to update and enhance old blog posts
    10. Key takeaway

How does blog writing help with SEO?

Think of it this way—when your target audience asks a question related to your niche, you would want to be the one answering the question, right? You can’t answer their questions when you don’t include a means in your website to answer them.

That’s what blog writing does for you. It gives relevant and useful answers to your target audience. And if you’re answering those questions well, the search engines have more reason to index your site and put you at the forefront of the SERPs.

Hence, according to Tech Jury, sites that produce blogs have 434% more indexed pages than sites that don’t. That means these sites generate more traffic, potentially generating more leads and revenue as well.

Companies that have blogs also get 97% more backlinks than other company websites, meaning they also get promoted through other people’s content because they took the time and energy to provide value and answer their target user’s questions.

Why you should prioritize evergreen content

SEO-Hacker.com went live for the first time in April 2010—which means it’s been almost 12 years and I’m proud to say that we’re still going strong. Every year, our website traffic grows because most of our old articles are consistently generating us traffic as we produce more fresh content.

The secret behind this is age-old SEO advice: evergreen content. And even though publishing evergreen content is such a classic SEO and marketing strategy, I assure you that it works up to this day.

Don’t believe me? Check out the top 10 pages from January 10, 2021 to January 10, 2022 according to Google Analytics:

Google Analytics for Blog Writing

Most of the articles listed there were published a few years back and yet they are the ones that garner the most traffic even up to this date.

That is the power of evergreen content. It’s a strategy I’ve used for my own websites and I’ve used it to make our clients’ website successful as well.

What is evergreen content

Evergreen content is a piece of content about a topic that is still relevant even after a long time regardless of year, season, or trends. Compared to news articles and writing about trending topics, evergreen content will consistently bring your website traffic over time because there are people always searching about it.

Evergreen content is such a crucial SEO strategy because it keeps your audience engaged and gives your website continuity. It should definitely be the backbone of your SEO strategy as the gains are far greater than the costs.

What evergreen content brings to the table

Long-term gains

Think of evergreen content like an investment. When you initially publish an article that is evergreen, you may not get traction immediately in your article. But as you rank higher, you would notice that traffic will increase slowly

If we compare evergreen content to news and other trending topics, you would see that as time goes by, evergreen content can still generate traffic while news and hot topics will fall off a lot faster.

Here’s an example. I wrote an article a few years ago about the easiest way to apply aggregate rating schema. Years later after its publishing, it is consistently getting traffic and is even my top article for the past year.

easiest way to apply aggregate schema

Let’s compare it to a news article I published two years ago. I wrote about Google’s announcement of the June 2019 algorithm update. After publishing the article, its traffic spiked up and immediately died down after a month.

June 2019 algorithm update

That is why it’s important to focus on evergreen content in blog writing. And as you add more evergreen content on your website, you will be able to see that your traffic increases and is on an upward trajectory.

Take note that while it does seem that publishing evergreen content is a far better use of your time than publishing news doesn’t mean you should put 100% of your focus on it. Writing about recent events and trending topics is a different strategy on its own and it does have benefits as well so make sure you have a good mix of both.

Attracts backlinks

As your content rank and get traffic, there is a high chance of it getting backlinks without you having to work too hard for it. Of course, when you publish an article, you would have to do a little link building to make it rank. But once it does and your content gains consistent traffic, you would notice that your article is getting backlinks without you proactively doing anything.

Check out the backlinks of my YouTube SEO article.

YouTube SEO backlinks

I published this article about seven years ago, did a little link building, was able to get on the first page, and there you go. Years later, it’s still getting backlinks on its own.

This is because people find my blog writing as a good resource and if they write an article about YouTube SEO as well, people usually link back to it. This can be applied in any niche. Since evergreen topics usually target high-volume keywords, ranking for them on the first page may let people see you as an authority which brings me to my next point…

Evergreen content is good for E-A-T

It goes without saying that as you get more backlinks, your website’s authority increases. But this isn’t just about PageRank, evergreen content is also great for E-A-T.

Google quality raters measure the E-A-T of a website using various criteria but the content of a website is definitely one of the main things that they check. If you publish evergreen content that is well-written and well-researched, it is a great sign of expertise, authority, and trust. It gives you more credibility and it is also great for your brand.

Sample evergreen content you may consider

How-to guides and tutorials

  • How to fix blue screen of death
  • How to properly clean your car
  • How to cook fried chicken

Informative articles

  • Best ways to lose weight
  • Money-saving tips
  • Resume writing tips

In-depth guides

  • Everything you need to know about diabetes
  • In-depth guide on dog training
  • Complete guide to link building

Important tip: Update your evergreen content

Although the content you published is evergreen, it doesn’t mean that new information is not going to be available in the future. That is why it is also important to go back to the evergreen content that you publish and update the information in them if applicable. It is also a good practice that when you update a piece of old content, your website should properly label it with the date it was last updated.

Reminder: Take note of the difficulty

One of the biggest hurdles in being successful with evergreen content is that topics and keywords tend to have high difficulty.

If you are just starting out, the best advice that I could give you is to stick to your niche and try to find low-hanging fruits. Regardless of the volume of traffic that it brings, as long as it is consistent, it’s already a win.

Do publish dates affect rankings?

Every day, millions of people are looking for fresh content on Google. For us SEOs, this means that when we publish content can be as important as what content we publish.

We’ve already tackled what kind of content we should be focusing on; now, let’s focus on the when.

Do dates on your blog posts affect rankings?

To simply answer the question, yes, publishing dates may affect rankings. When a user performs a search, Google will try to provide the most relevant and recent search results. These are especially true for news, recent events, and other trending topics.

Let’s say you Googled “best smartphone 2022.” It wouldn’t be right for Google to serve you a search result written in 2019 or 2018. Let’s look at the search results. The top stories for the keyword “best smartphone 2022” was published two days ago as of writing:

best smartphone 2022

The next couple of results were published five days ago and more. Some of these articles were published last December, but because they still answer my question, Google saw them to be relevant enough to put in the first page of the SERPs.

best smartphone 2022 SERPs

To further explain how dates affect rankings, Google released an algorithm update way back in 2011 called “Google Freshness Update.” The update aimed to improve Google’s algorithm called Query Deserves Freshness or “QDF” which identifies if a user is looking for up-to-date articles or not.

Now that Google improved its system of identifying if a user is searching for the most recent content, articles that talked about recent news and events were highly impacted by the time and dates they were published.

But what does this mean for months and year old content?

At that time, the algorithm update affected about 35% of search results according to Google. This means old content is still useful and relevant. Remember that Google will only serve a user content that was recently published if it is applicable to their query.

So let’s say you have a website that talks about cars. If you have articles about how to take care of cars that are well-written even though they were written several years ago, Google may still serve your content to users. That is why evergreen content, as mentioned earlier, is extremely important to your website.

Google’s guidelines on dates

Have you noticed that there are times Google shows the date an article was published in the search results and sometimes it doesn’t?

According to Google’s guidelines, Google will choose to show the publishing date of an article if it is useful for the user, especially for news. So how does Google find out when an article was published?

Google uses multiple ways. Here’s what they say on their guidelines:

“Google doesn’t depend on a single dating factor because all factors can be prone to issues. That’s why our systems look at several factors to determine our best estimate of when a page was published or significantly updated.”

How does Google identify publishing dates

The visible date on time on the page

There are two types of dates you can show on your articles: the exact publishing date or the date the article was last updated.

According to the guidelines, the dates should be clearly visible to the users and should be properly labeled such as:

  • Published: January 11, 2022
  • Last Updated: January 11, 2022

Check out this example. I wrote this article back in 2010 and I recently updated it.

how to build backlinks to your website

Structured data

Google can use structured data on your articles if you have any subtype of CreativeWork schema implemented such as Article and BlogPosting schema. It will use the datePublished or dateModified in the markup.

XML Sitemap

Your XML sitemap should also include the publishing or last updated dates for your articles. It should look like this:

xml sitemap

Note: According to the Guidelines, the publishing date is required and the time is not.

When should you change the publishing dates on your blog posts?

In my opinion, the only time you should be changing the dates on your blog posts is when you make noticeable changes in existing articles. Maybe there is new data on surveys you cited or you have updates on your case studies.

And when you do make changes make sure that you label it properly as “updated” not published again. This is a big thing for users as it is a sign that they can trust that you provide up-to-date information.

How about completely removing the dates from blog posts?

Some websites remove the dates from their articles to show that their content is evergreen. Although it may look suspicious, some studies have shown that it can have a positive impact.

Check out these case studies by ShoutMeLoud and UFO.

Remember: Blog post dates is for user experience

When implementing publishing dates on your blog posts or changing the dates to when an article was last updated, keep in mind that you are doing this for the user. I would also say that if you have evergreen content, it might not be necessary to update them at all. Some topics may have a higher click-through rate if dates are visible, while in some topics, age may give you more credibility. I would recommend testing it out and finding what works for your niche.

How to generate blog topics

Content is king. There’s no doubt about that, but there are challenges when you have to continuously publish content regularly—you’ll run out of topics to write about. This is a challenge most bloggers, content marketers, and even SEOs will face at some point in their careers.

Since the web is filled with competitors, there’s a high chance that a good number of them can produce content faster and more frequently than you. Knowing that, how do you reach a level where producing a topic that your readers will surely love can be achieved in the fastest time possible? Let’s find out.

Tools aren’t your best friend

If you’ve been in the industry for a considerable amount of time, you might have come across some tools or products that market themselves as the only tool you’ll ever need when generating and researching topics. You’ve probably tried out some of them as I have and you’ll quickly realize that they’re only effective at the start. As time goes by, you’ll not only realize that it’s not helping you generate topics anymore but they’re not even giving you the inspiration you need to come up with a topic on your own. All of these are especially true when you’re writing about a niche topic or industry.

So what exactly should you do?

Write about topics that people actually read

All of the experts in content marketing, blogging, and SEO will always tell you to research your audience. This is true. Understanding what your audience likes is the first step to generating a topic that will gain traction.

If you’re only beginning to write about a certain topic or niche, chances are, you won’t have data to use. The best way to mitigate this is to empathize with your audience and try to find out why they’re looking for your specific topic or industry.

  • Are they just curious?
  • Do they specifically need something in your topic or industry?
  • What problems would lead them to find your blog/business?

All of these questions lead to just one goal: Deepening your understanding of the audience that you’ll be writing for.

What I’ve mentioned will still hold true for experienced, veteran writers but their advantage is that they have the data to further refine their understanding of their audience. I was blog writing even before I started SEO and haven’t stopped since. So, I’ve had my fair share of writer’s block and inability to generate topics that I can write about. But one helpful strategy I’ve learned is to use Google Analytics and check to see which of my past blog posts do my audience frequently visit.

GA blog writing results

In the screenshot above, it shows me the top 10 pages that the SEO Hacker blog visitors showed the most interest in. We can safely eliminate the homepage, then by checking the topics that gained the most views, I can conclude that these are the kinds of topics that my visitors are looking into. So, I can branch out and generate topics that are related to the top 10 posts.

This is one great way to quickly come up with topics that you can write about. Not only does this help save you time and energy, but it also improves the chances of your audience actually reading the content you’ve written since they already showed interest in another related piece.

Keywords

Quickly generating your blog topics isn’t enough since you need to make it more accessible and searchable for users that might be interested in the topic you’re writing about. It’s important for you to engage in blog writing for your current audience, but tapping possible audiences to increase your reader count is just as important. So, it’s your job to make the topics you write about to be more accessible and searchable for potential audiences. How do you do that?

Research the keywords you will be targeting.

There are a variety of tools available in the market for you to use to research keywords like Semrush.

semrush

You can use this tool to find the best possible keywords that perfectly fit into your content, but there is a limit to how accurate and reliable the numbers shown in keyword research tools are. At the end of the day, you also have to have empathy for your audience and experience in the search industry.

I’ve had countless experiences where I’ve targeted keywords that didn’t have enough numbers shown in keyword research tools—but I know, based on my understanding of the audience and user search behavior—that it’s a “search-worthy” keyword.

It’s important to have a balance between the topic you’ve generated with the keyword you want to target. A good balance enables you to write for humans and for search engines.

How to set up for blog writing

Now that you know what kind of content you want to write about, it’s time to set up your blog.

You will need three things:

  1. A domain name
  2. Web hosting
  3. Blogging software

Domain name

The first thing you should do is think about what you want your website to be called. My first blog was called God and You, where I wrote about my reflections as a Christian and how God impacted my life. At some point, that blog was subsumed under my personal website, sean.si.

The domain name of this website is called seo-hacker.com because that is my company’s name. I have another website called leadershipstack.com for my podcast titled—you guessed it—Leadership Stack.

When you pick your own domain name, you can choose your own name, your business name, or something that describes concisely what your audience can expect to see on your website.

Web hosting

As I’ve written in my web hosting provider post, “Web hosting is a service that lets people and businesses have their website be accessible on the world wide web.”

Basically, imagine that you want to give your address to a friend so they can visit you sometime. Before you can do that, you need the land first on which your house is built. Web hosting is the land that enables you to have your house.

It’s important that you choose your web hosting provider carefully, as web hosting plays an integral part in the success of your blog. If it’s faulty, then it would really cause a lot of headaches as it could lead to unwanted crashes and other issues.

Arguably the best web hosting provider I ever tested was Liquid Web. It’s a fully managed hosting service, meaning after you pay for their service, they pretty much take care of everything and you don’t need to worry about having to DIY anything else.

Blogging software

Lastly, you’ll need a blogging software. It’s no secret that we at SEO Hacker are huge fans of WordPress; in fact, it’s what we use!

wordpress for blog writing

The good thing about picking a CMS like WordPress is that you can build your website without having to interact with code. It’s great if you’re the type of person who wants to build your website and just blog, but you either don’t know the technical aspects of building a website, or you don’t really want to go in depth on those parts even if you know how.

In fact, if you check the comments in the WordPress blog that I linked above, you’ll see that there are people saying that it’s beginner friendly and that they didn’t look back once they picked WordPress.

You can start using WordPress here.

How to write a blog post

Now that you have set up your blog, it’s time to start writing.

When you finally engage in actual blog writing, you want to ensure that your final product is well-researched and well-written. After you’ve done your keyword research and generated your topic, make sure you include the following in your writing:

Sources and statistics

Remember, when you’re engaging in blog writing, you’re building yourself and your website as the authority figure in your niche. The best way to do that is to ensure that you consistently produce high-quality content.

Thing is, 32% of audiences agree that accuracy is an important factor in creating quality content. It would be difficult to do that when all your content is conjecture or mere opinions, that’s why it’s important that you add statistics and even cite your sources through outbound links.

what is in-house marketing

For example, here’s the article I wrote on in-house vs outsourcing marketing. To illustrate to the readers the situation, I gave a statistic.

However, just because we want your blog writing to be well-researched, it doesn’t mean you have to forgo adding…

Your personal experience

Your personal experience is one of the most important things that you can add to your blog. As someone immersed in SEO for example, I can give tips, tricks, and techniques that I have learned and picked up over the years.

I can share what has worked for me and what hasn’t, what I’ve experimented with, the best tools I’ve found, and what I think of SEO trends that pop up or Google algorithm updates. In the same way, you have your own experiences of your niche, and you have your own valuable insights that you can share with your audiences.

Images

Blogs with images get up to 94% more views than articles that don’t. That’s a pretty high number. And it’s also understandable.

Imagine that plenty of long form content out there are around 2,000 words or so. Now, imagine that they are all just plain text. They would make reading pretty troublesome, and could make understanding for your audience a challenge especially if the topic you’re writing about involves instructions.

And remember, when you engage in blog writing, you have to keep your audience in mind. Not putting images in your articles (especially the longer ones), can make reading your content a bad experience because it’s boring, and you don’t want that.

Internal links

Internal links are the links you create between the pages of your website. When you create your first blog post then you won’t really have a page you can link to (unless if you’re promoting a service or whatnot), so this one is more for when you’ve written a couple of posts.

When you add an internal link, you’re referring your readers to another relevant page on your website. For example, I linked to my outbound links article and my dynamic website article, among others. That’s because they are relevant to this topic and I believe that you can get something valuable from those posts as well.

Sections

Sections make reading your post a lot easier for your audience. When you add sections, you break down your article into more digestible content. Plus you make navigation a lot easier as your readers can skim the section titles and go directly to what they believe is the most relevant part of the article for them.

Your keyword

Lastly, we can’t forget your keyword. Whether you believe that keyword density still matters to SEO, it’s a good idea to give the search engine a chance to know what you’re talking about.

Of course, keyword density is just one way to do that. I’ll discuss more about keywords in the next section.

How to optimize your blog

Next, we go to optimization. You just have to keep in mind a few things here:

  1. Keyword placement
  2. Alt texts
  3. Headers
  4. URL slug
  5. Meta description
  6. Rel=”nofollow”

Keyword placement

First, make sure your keyword is in the following:

  • Title tag
  • Some of the headers
  • Some of the image alt texts
  • URL slug
  • Meta description

It’s important that you make sure the placements aren’t awkward or forced. You’re optimizing for search engines, yes, but you’re also optimizing for your readers.

Alt texts

Make sure you add alt texts to your images. Alt texts are the descriptive texts embedded in images that are read by the search engines so the images can show up when people perform an image search. They also appear when images are broken, and they are read by screen readers for those who are visually challenged.

Headers

Since your article consists of sections, it’s important that you format the section headers properly. For example, H3 would be under H2, H4 would be under H3, and so on and so forth. Proper header formatting allows search engines to understand your content better, and they also ensure that screen readers can help disabled users navigate your blog easily.

URL slug

Next, we have the URL slug. The optimal URL length is around 50-60 characters, with longer URLs negatively impacting SEO.

For example, the URL for this post doesn’t need to be /blog-writing-101-everything-you-need-to-know. It can just be /blog-writing-101.

Meta description

Lastly, we have the meta description. The meta description is the short text that appears on the SERPs that help describe the content of your page. Considering that there are plenty of other websites out there that probably talk about the same things as you do, your meta description can help your blog stand out and get clicked by your target audience.

Here are some examples of meta descriptions:

meta description in blog writing

A good length for your meta description is around 120 to 150 characters. What you want to avoid is for SERPs to truncate them because they’re too long, as seen in the third and fourth blog posts above.

How to apply a how-to schema on your blog posts

Now that you have written and optimized your blog post, it’s time to learn how to apply a how-to schema.

This is, of course, applicable to your articles that are instructive in nature, hence the “how-to.”

How-to articles are one of the best forms of evergreen content (remember what we talked about earlier?). And the thing about how-to articles is that you can basically write about anything and you can be sure that there are at least a handful of people searching for it.

But the work doesn’t end there. Once you are able to get on the first page of Google, you could further improve your article by making it eligible for Google’s Rich Results using the how-to schema.

Google’s guidelines on how-to schema

Rich Results are special types of search results that look far different and more interactive from the traditional blue links. If your content appears in Rich Results, you can expect a higher click-through rate.

To be eligible for Google’s Rich Results, you need to have the right structured data on your page and in this case, we need the how-to schema. Adding how-to schema to your articles simply tells Google that your article is a how-to article. However, before you start deploying how-to schema on all of your articles, make sure that you are following Google’s guidelines first.

  • Advertising: Don’t use HowTo structured data for advertising purposes.
  • Ineligible Content: How-to rich results may not be displayed if the content is obscene, profane, sexually explicit, or graphically violent; or if it promotes dangerous or illegal activities or has hateful or harassing language.
  • Source: All HowTo content must be visible to the user on the source page. The how-to should be the main focus of the source page. Don’t include more than one HowTo for a certain page.
  • Materials and tools: Add structured data to all materials and tools necessary to complete the task.
  • Steps: Each HowToStep must include the entire contents of the source step. Don’t mark up non-step data such as a summary or introduction section as a step.
  • Step images: If the steps are best represented visually, ensure the images in these steps are marked up for each HowToStep. Only mark up the instructional step images that are specific for each step and don’t use the same image in multiple steps for the same how-to. Use the same images that correspond to the content on your page. Don’t use images that don’t reflect the how-to content, or use different images to optimize the rich-result.
  • Final image: If the end result can be accurately described by an image, ensure this image is present on the page, and your HowTo markup includes it using the image property. This image may be the same as the one marked up for the last step.
  • Content: Don’t use HowTo markup for recipes. Recipes should use the Recipe structured data instead. Articles and general advice content that is not a specific set of instructions are not appropriate for HowTo markup.

Applying how-to schema on your blog writing

Understanding the how-to schema objects/elements

Required:

  • Name – title of your article
  • HowToStep or HowToSection – full instructions of each step in the How-To article

Recommended:

  • description – further description of the How-To step
  • estimatedCost – the estimated cost of completing the guide
  • image – a photo of the step for better details
  • supply – an item needed that is consumed to complete a step
  • tool – an item needed but is not consumed to complete a step
  • totalTime – the total time needed to finish the guide
  • video – the full video of the guide
  • video.hasPart – a clip of the full video that indicates a single step
  • video.hasPart.endOffset – the end time of the clip from the beginning of the video
  • video.hasPart.name – the full name of the clip
  • hasPart.startOffset – the start time of the clip from the beginning of the video
  • video.hasPart.url – a link to the specific time of the clip in the full video

Prepare the code and fill in the details

To save you time, you could simply copy and paste this code that I did for the Comprehensive SEO Audit Guide I wrote. There are also a bunch of schema generator websites available or you could also copy the code in the how-to schema guidelines.

Take note that this sample code only has 2 steps in it which is the minimum required. You’ll need to copy and paste the “step” lines of code for each step in your how-to article.

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
{
“@context”: “http://schema.org”,
“@type”: “HowTo”,
“name”: “SEO Audit 2019: A Comprehensive Guide”,
“description”: “An audit is a part of any SEOs regular duties. Here’s how to do it in 2019.”,
“image”: {“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“url”: “https://seo-hacker.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Cover-Photo-SEO-Audit-2019-A-Comprehensive-Guide.jpg?x45231”,
“height”: “406”,
“width”: “305”},
“tool”: [{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “Google Analytics”
},
{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “Google Search Console”
},
{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “Screaming Frog”
},
{ “@type”: “HowToTool”,
“name”: “SEMRush”
}
],
“step”: [
{
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“url”: “https://seo-hacker.com/seo-audit-comprehensive-guide/#check-website-traffic”,
“name”: “Check your Website Traffic”,
“itemListElement”: [{
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Do a regular check of your traffic in Google Analytics. Check for sudden drops and investigate what is the cause of the drop.”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToTip”,
“text”: “It is recommended to do it twice a week.”
}],
“image”: {
“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“url”: “https://seo-hacker.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/screenshot-analytics.google.com-2019.05.16-14-01-30-1024×300.png?x45231”,
“height”: “406”,
“width”: “305”
}
}, {
“@type”: “HowToStep”,
“name”: “Check your Google Search Console Coverage Report”,
“url”: “https://seo-hacker.com/seo-audit-comprehensive-guide/#check-coverage-report”,
“itemListElement”: [{
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Check your Submitted Sitemaps”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Check Submitted and Indexed Report”
}, {
“@type”: “HowToDirection”,
“text”: “Check Indexed, Not Submitted in Sitemap Report”
}],
“image”: {
“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“url”: “https://seo-hacker.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/GSC-Coverage-Report-1-1024×486.jpg?x45231”,
“height”: “406”,
“width”: “305”
}
} ],
“totalTime”: “P1D”
}
</script>

Test your code and deploy

Once you are done filling in all the details, you now need to check your code for errors. I recommend the Google’s Rich Results Test.

The Rich Results test can verify structured data either via a URL or code snippet. It can give you a preview of how your website will look like in the search results.

rich results

Once everything is perfect, you can now deploy your code! Since the how-to schema is placed in a specific page, I would recommend putting it at the start of the <body> of the HTML code.

Resubmit in Google Search Console

This step is not really required because Google will eventually crawl updates on your page within a few days but just to make sure it gets indexed, you can use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console and request for reindexing of the page/s you updated.

How it would look in the SERPS

In the Rich Results Tests, you could click Preview and it will show you how your content will appear in the search results for a How-To Rich Result.

rich results serps for blog writing

Monitor how-to schemas in Google Search Console

Once Google is able to crawl the how-to structured data on your blog posts, you will notice a new section under “Enhancements” in your Google Search Console account labeled “How-To”. This is where you can see all the valid how-to pages in your website and should they have any errors or warnings.

Always remember that Rich Results are not guaranteed. Do not get frustrated if you are not seeing How-To rich results for your website since it depends on Google’s algorithm if it is going to show Rich Results for a specific search result.

How to update and enhance old blog posts

Let us say that you finally have a lot of blog posts as you’ve been consistently writing over the years. It’s important that you don’t leave those blog posts alone, but to go back and update them when necessary and applicable.

Knowing which blog posts to update

The first step to updating and enhancing old blog posts is knowing which blog posts to update or enhance. This is applicable for all webmasters but is especially true for publishers where the main source of attracting traffic is through their content, like this website.

The problem happens when you have blog posts dated to 5+ years back. This means that you’ve published hundreds of blog posts or maybe even thousands. So, there has to be a large number of old, underperforming blog posts in your arsenal. How do you choose the blog posts that you will update and enhance?

Through their rankings and traffic. Easy enough, the primary way to determine which of your blog posts needs updating is to check Google Analytics and Google Search Console (or rank tracking SaaS). Here’s how you can do it:

  • On Google Analytics account, go to Behavior → Site Content → All Pages. There you’ll see your top 10 viewed pages for the timeframe you set.

google analytics

  • You can further refine it by searching for particular blog posts you have in mind through the search bar. Though you have to remember to search using your blog post’s URL slug only. If you accidentally include the domain name, it won’t show the results for the specific blog post.
  • If you want to check the pages they visited to enter your site, go to Behavior → Site Content → Landing Pages. Here you’ll see which pages they see first when they enter your site. This is also a great way to check which pages are attracting the most visitors from various sources.

google analytics landing pages

  • To view which blog posts are performing well organically, you can use Google Search Console’s Performance page. Just go to your Google Search Console property, then go to Performance → Search Results → then scroll down until you see the QUERIES table → click on PAGES.

google search console pages

  • Here you’ll see the blog posts that are garnering the top clicks/impressions on Google search results. You can even search for a particular blog post by clicking on the inverted triangle on the upper right side corner of the table to filter the results.

From these two essential tools alone, you’ll be able to determine which blog posts are underperforming and have them updated AND enhanced immediately. So, how do we do it?

Updating posts as blog writing

Now that you’ve determined which blog posts you’ll be updating, you will need to know where to start. I’ve actually written in the past about content augmentation and how to improve an old blog post’s reach. So, I’ll only be including recent and timely strategies that I haven’t written about yet in my other posts.

Serving intent

Intent should now be the primary focus in blog writing when you’re trying to make your posts rank. Historically, keyword optimization was more technical and straightforward where you just needed to put in the keywords in the title tag, meta description, H1, and the body of your content. But as times have changed and Google has continuously improved their machine learning algorithms and content understanding capabilities, serving the right intent for your target keyword is more important than ever.

The buzzword for the industry in recent years is “LSI keywords” while this may hold some importance to some extent, it doesn’t necessarily help you with serving intent. Why? Because in a nutshell, latent semantic indexing keywords are terms that are conceptually related to your target keyword—so if you’re already writing about your keyword topically—which you should, not focusing on the particular keyword, but the overall topic it covers, you’re automatically targeting LSI keywords without having to research, think, focus, and write about them.

Knowing semantic search and serving intent—through manually checking what kind of pages is Google ranking for your target topic or keyword—will not only help you save time and effort but will also help you in determining if you will rank well. There have been many instances in the past where my team and I wrote about a specific keyword or topic while not checking the search results for them. What happened was we were not able to rank well for a considerable amount of time because the search results were serving category and product pages instead of content-heavy pages. If we had just understood the right intent to serve, we wouldn’t have had to rewrite and repeat efforts which took more time and energy.

Republishing

Republishing (and updating) sounds simple but is still an underrated tactic for updating old blog posts. Blog writing doesn’t always have to be about completely new topics, it can be about republishing articles. There are some blog posts that are so outdated that their contents are not even applicable to today’s day and age.

Republishing and updating the information contained in that blog post does not only improve its freshness signals but it’s also an opportunity for you to gain more valuable traffic by having otherwise useless blog posts turn into a traffic-attracting one.

For example, here’s a blog post I updated a while back:

10 things you need to stop doing in your marketing emails

This was published in 2015 and I noticed that some of the things I wrote about were already outdated. So I added two more factors and updated the content to be more relevant and accurate.

Technical factors

This is the easiest and most used tactic for updating old, underperforming blog posts. If you believe that the information of your old blog post is still sufficiently applicable to today’s time, then maybe it just needs a refresher. Maybe your title tag isn’t attracting clicks? Or your meta description doesn’t necessarily imply what the page is about which is why users don’t click on your search results. Changing them to become more appealing and adding timely and informative content will sometimes do the trick.

Through tactics like the ones I’ve mentioned and the ones I’ve written about before, we’ve achieved more traffic count. One of the best examples I can show is an old and underperforming client blog post that jumped right into their top 10 most visited pages over the course of a year:

We did a mix of the tactics I’ve mentioned and optimized the page to be eligible for the featured snippet position. In a matter of a few months, it already gained traffic that’s immensely better than the numbers it used to have. Once it reached the featured snippet spot, it only enjoyed a larger number.

Key takeaway

Blog writing can be quite the challenge, but it is absolutely one of the most important and most rewarding things you can do for your website (and yourself). It involves a lot of research and preparation, but it works well for SEO and it helps you provide valuable information to the people you want to reach.

Let me know how this blog writing 101 guide has helped you!


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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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Google Announces Gemma: Laptop-Friendly Open Source AI

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Google Announces Gemma: Laptop-Friendly Open Source AI

Google released an open source large language model based on the technology used to create Gemini that is powerful yet lightweight, optimized to be used in environments with limited resources like on a laptop or cloud infrastructure.

Gemma can be used to create a chatbot, content generation tool and pretty much anything else that a language model can do. This is the tool that SEOs have been waiting for.

It is released in two versions, one with two billion parameters (2B) and another one with seven billion parameters (7B). The number of parameters indicates the model’s complexity and potential capability. Models with more parameters can achieve a better understanding of language and generate more sophisticated responses, but they also require more resources to train and run.

The purpose of releasing Gemma is to democratize access to state of the art Artificial Intelligence that is trained to be safe and responsible out of the box, with a toolkit to further optimize it for safety.

Gemma By DeepMind

The model is developed to be lightweight and efficient which makes it ideal for getting it into the hands of more end users.

Google’s official announcement noted the following key points:

  • “We’re releasing model weights in two sizes: Gemma 2B and Gemma 7B. Each size is released with pre-trained and instruction-tuned variants.
  • A new Responsible Generative AI Toolkit provides guidance and essential tools for creating safer AI applications with Gemma.
  • We’re providing toolchains for inference and supervised fine-tuning (SFT) across all major frameworks: JAX, PyTorch, and TensorFlow through native Keras 3.0.
  • Ready-to-use Colab and Kaggle notebooks, alongside integration with popular tools such as Hugging Face, MaxText, NVIDIA NeMo and TensorRT-LLM, make it easy to get started with Gemma.
  • Pre-trained and instruction-tuned Gemma models can run on your laptop, workstation, or Google Cloud with easy deployment on Vertex AI and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).
  • Optimization across multiple AI hardware platforms ensures industry-leading performance, including NVIDIA GPUs and Google Cloud TPUs.
  • Terms of use permit responsible commercial usage and distribution for all organizations, regardless of size.”

Analysis Of Gemma

According to an analysis by an Awni Hannun, a machine learning research scientist at Apple, Gemma is optimized to be highly efficient in a way that makes it suitable for use in low-resource environments.

Hannun observed that Gemma has a vocabulary of 250,000 (250k) tokens versus 32k for comparable models. The importance of that is that Gemma can recognize and process a wider variety of words, allowing it to handle tasks with complex language. His analysis suggests that this extensive vocabulary enhances the model’s versatility across different types of content. He also believes that it may help with math, code and other modalities.

It was also noted that the “embedding weights” are massive (750 million). The embedding weights are a reference to the parameters that help in mapping words to representations of their meanings and relationships.

An important feature he called out is that the embedding weights, which encode detailed information about word meanings and relationships, are used not just in processing input part but also in generating the model’s output. This sharing improves the efficiency of the model by allowing it to better leverage its understanding of language when producing text.

For end users, this means more accurate, relevant, and contextually appropriate responses (content) from the model, which improves its use in conetent generation as well as for chatbots and translations.

He tweeted:

“The vocab is massive compared to other open source models: 250K vs 32k for Mistral 7B

Maybe helps a lot with math / code / other modalities with a heavy tail of symbols.

Also the embedding weights are big (~750M params), so they get shared with the output head.”

In a follow-up tweet he also noted an optimization in training that translates into potentially more accurate and refined model responses, as it enables the model to learn and adapt more effectively during the training phase.

He tweeted:

“The RMS norm weight has a unit offset.

Instead of “x * weight” they do “x * (1 + weight)”.

I assume this is a training optimization. Usually the weight is initialized to 1 but likely they initialize close to 0. Similar to every other parameter.”

He followed up that there are more optimizations in data and training but that those two factors are what especially stood out.

Designed To Be Safe And Responsible

An important key feature is that it is designed from the ground up to be safe which makes it ideal for deploying for use. Training data was filtered to remove personal and sensitive information. Google also used reinforcement learning from human feedback (RLHF) to train the model for responsible behavior.

It was further debugged with manual re-teaming, automated testing and checked for capabilities for unwanted and dangerous activities.

Google also released a toolkit for helping end-users further improve safety:

“We’re also releasing a new Responsible Generative AI Toolkit together with Gemma to help developers and researchers prioritize building safe and responsible AI applications. The toolkit includes:

  • Safety classification: We provide a novel methodology for building robust safety classifiers with minimal examples.
  • Debugging: A model debugging tool helps you investigate Gemma’s behavior and address potential issues.
  • Guidance: You can access best practices for model builders based on Google’s experience in developing and deploying large language models.”

Read Google’s official announcement:

Gemma: Introducing new state-of-the-art open models

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Photo For Everything



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A Complete Guide to App Store Optimization (ASO)

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A Complete Guide to App Store Optimization (ASO)

A mobile strategy is critical to your business presence, considering the saturation of mobile devices.

This is where app store optimization (ASO) comes into play.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • What is app store optimization?
  • How does app store optimization work?
  • How do you optimize for Google Play & Apple App Store?

Whether you are new to app store optimization or simply keen to refine your approach to ASO, this post shares practical insights that are proven to maximize app store success.

What Is App Store Optimization?

Downloads, usage, and in-app spending continue to rise, but many users prefer to use a select few apps more consistently.

Discoverability has never been harder, but the rewards of locking in loyal users are bigger than ever – so maximizing visibility in app stores is crucial.

App store optimization (ASO) describes the process of optimizing the listing pages for your mobile app in app stores like Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

You may come across alternative phrases like “app store marketing” or “mobile app SEO,” but they all refer to the same thing.

The goal is to maximize the visibility (and downloads) of your app for relevant searches – basically, SEO for your mobile app rather than your website.

In many ways, the optimization process for ASO is very similar to SEO; in others, not so much.

Ultimately, ASO aims to maximize app installs while product development works on monetization, engagement, retention, etc.

An effective app store optimization strategy keeps new users coming in while your development team (hopefully) keeps existing ones active and spending.

With the right retention rates, app store optimization acquires the new users you need to drive meaningful growth.

The goal of ASO is nearly always app downloads, but supplemental goals can include items such as:

  • Increased brand exposure.
  • Positive app reviews and ratings.
  • More frequent and increased volumes of app reviews.
  • Audience engagement.
  • Additional marketing channel diversification.

How Does App Store Optimization Work?

If you’re new to app store optimization, it might help to think of it as SEO for your mobile app.

Except, rather than optimizing a website to show in search engines, you’re optimizing your mobile app listings for the relevant app stores.

In this sense, you could argue ASO is more like optimizing a Google Business Profile to show in Maps and local results.

The other key difference is you’ve got two major mobile app stores to optimize for: Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

These aren’t the only two app stores worth considering, especially if you’re developing apps for other devices (TVs, games consoles, etc.), but they are the biggest – by far.

According to Statista insights from Q3 2022, here are the top three app stores based on the number of available apps:

  • Google Play: 3.55 million.
  • Apple App Store: 1.64 million.
  • Amazon Appstore: 0.48 million.

As a result, most ASO guides focus on optimizing app listings for Google Play and Apple App Store. Aside from being the top two platforms, the optimization process is a little different for each.

This is mostly due to each app store having its own algorithm – much like different search engines.

In practice, most app store algorithms are more alike than they are different. So, the basic principles of app store optimization apply to all of them. However, some stores may use the odd ranking signal that others don’t.

To keep this guide simple, we’ll start by running through the most common ranking signals for app stores, in general.

Then, we’ll take a closer look at Google Play and Apple App Store to see how they’re different.

Organic Optimization: Your ASO Foundation

The key ingredient missing from many ASO marketing delivery approaches is organic search optimization and integration of app stores within the broader organic marketing mix.

There is more overlap between ASO and SEO than direct competition between the two.

The integration of these areas, and the application of consistent focus on ASO, can support numerous search marketing gains.

You may be surprised to discover that many of the traditional search engine optimization tactics that work for search engine performance, such as Google and Bing, can also be directly applied to ASO.

Examples of this include:

  • App name, title, and URL optimization.
  • Keyword research for ASO.
  • App rating and reviews generation and handling.
  • Deep linking within mobile apps.
  • Indexation of Apps in Google search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Click-through rate (CTR) optimization.

The biggest marketing mistake, however, when it comes to integrating SEO and ASO is overlooking the role of the website in driving volumes of referral visits directly to your store page and app downloads section.

Your website should be seen as the driving force behind leading people throughout the information-seeking and buying funnel from your main online entity (your website) through to an engaged, ready-to-buy/download audience (your app store).

As content levels are limited within the app stores themselves, the more you can leverage your website content to increase app awareness and discovery to build external app authority and visibility, the greater the value, traffic, and downloads your app will receive.

The Most Important App Store Ranking Factors

Like search engines, app stores don’t reveal the details of their algorithms to the public.

That being said, the following seven ranking factors are key, functional components of all major app stores:

  • App name or title.
  • App descriptions (including keywords).
  • Installs.
  • Engagement.
  • In-app purchases and events.
  • User reviews.
  • Updates.

You can break these ranking factors into three categories: discovery, conversion, and validation.

Discovery signals help app stores connect your app with relevant searches. This includes your app name /title, description, keywords, and other contextual signals.

Conversion signals tell app stores that your listing compels users to download your app – a strong indicator that your listing should show for more relevant searches.

Finally, you’ve got validation signals (engagement, in-app purchases/events, reviews, reports/flags, etc.). These help app stores determine whether users get a positive experience after installing your app.

Positive validation signals (strong engagement, positive reviews, etc.) are an even stronger indicator that app stores should show your app to similar users.

What Do Users Want From An App Store Listing?

Optimizing your app listing for visibility is one thing; getting users to actually download your app is something else entirely.

The catch-22 here is that installs directly impact your ranking in app stores.

The more people install your app, the higher it should rank. This, in turn, should result in more installs, higher rankings once again – and so forth.

So, what are the key factors on your mobile app page that determine whether users hit the install button?

  • App icon: On most app stores, your app icon is the most visually prominent element on results pages and recommendation lists.
  • App details: This includes your app name/title and, usually, some short descriptive text explaining the purpose of your app.
  • App rating: Most platforms show the average rating/review score for your app in search results and at the top of your app listing page.
  • App description: With Google Play and the App Store, users can see a brief description on your listing page and they can click to see the full description – so that first sentence or two is crucial.
  • Visuals: This includes any feature images, screenshots, and demo videos that you can add to your listing, showcasing the key benefits and user experience of your app.
  • User reviews: Unless users are already familiar with your app, they’re probably going to browse through some reviews from existing users.

Here, you can see this in action.

Screenshot from Google Play, February 2024App Store Optimization Elements for ASO

Much like SEO, app store optimization is a careful balance of optimizing to maximize visibility in app stores while prioritizing the needs of your users.

Google Play Vs. App Store: Key Differences

Google Play and the App Store are more similar than different when it comes to app store optimization.

Firstly, the ranking factors are very similar, and the differences are mostly technical – for example, Google and Apple handle keywords differently.

Here’s a quick summary of the main ranking factors for Google Play and the App Store.

App Store Google Play
Listing Listing
App name App title
Subtitle Short description
Long description
Keywords (app name, keyword field) Keywords (all inputs), incl. keyword density
Ratings & reviews Ratings & reviews
Listing CTR Listing CTR
App performance App performance
Downloads Downloads
Engagement Engagement
Uninstall rate Uninstall rate
In-app purchases In-app purchases
Updates Updates

As you can see, there’s not much of a difference here – in fact, most of your time will be spent on things like specifications for icons, videos, and other assets for each app listing.

As a general rule, Apple is more strict with its developer guidelines and it’s usually harder to get an app approved for the App Store.

So, if you’re promoting iOS and Android apps, optimizing your listings for Apple’s guidelines will often satisfy both app stores while maintaining consistency and reducing workload.

Now, let’s take a closer look at app store optimization for Google Play and, then, the App Store.

App Store Optimization For Google Play

To give your app listing the best possible start, you’ll want to dedicate the most time to the following nine elements:

  • App title.
  • App category.
  • App descriptions.
  • App icon.
  • Feature graphic.
  • Screenshots.
  • Promo video.
  • App rating and reviews.
  • Google Play Android Vitals.

We’ll take a closer look at optimizing each of these elements, but always refer to official Google guidelines while managing app listings for Google Play.

App Title

Optimizing your app title for Google Play will feel familiar if you’re used to optimizing website titles for search.

You want to start with the product/branded name of your app and then include a brief description – in no more than a few words – using your primary keyword.

Google Play SearchScreenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play Search

You can use up to 30 characters in your app title, but try to keep it as short and punchy as possible.

Prioritize accuracy over keyword targeting and highlight the key benefits of using your app.

App Category

Selecting the right category for your app is essential for matching with relevant searches.

For example, let’s say you’re promoting a heart rate monitoring app. In this case, “Health and Fitness” is the most appropriate category.

Google Play example 2Screenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play example 2

When users specifically search for “heart rate monitor,” the keywords in your title are a stronger signal.

However, your app category can help your app show for more general searches like “health and fitness apps” or “productivity apps.”

Crucially, users can also browse categories in the Google Play store to discover new apps without searching.

Google Play Categories ExampleScreenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play Categories Example

For more info on selecting the right app category for Google Play, take a look at this Play Console Help page.

Short & Long Descriptions

In Google Play, your app listing includes two descriptions: A short description that shows under the About this app preview and a full description that users can reveal by clicking on the arrow highlighted below.

Google Play Descriptions - ExampleGoogle Play Descriptions - Example

You can use up to 80 characters for your short description and 4,000 characters for your full description.

In your short description, try to describe the core functionality of your app in the most compelling way possible.

Accuracy is key here, but you want to convince users to install your app – so highlight the most attractive benefits.

Your full description provides a more in-depth summary of what your app offers.

Remember that most people won’t click through to read the full description, and those who do are looking for information, not a sales pitch.

You’ll find Google’s official guidelines for creating app descriptions under the “App descriptions” section of this Play Console Help page.

App Icon

App icons show on the left side of search listings in Google Play and the top-right of app listing pages.

Google Play App Icon ExampleGoogle Play App Icon Example

These are the most prominent elements on app store results pages.

Ideally, you want an app icon that either visually describes the role of your app or leverages your brand image as a differentiator.

Designing a unique icon is more challenging if your app has a specific purpose and many competitors – e.g., a heart monitoring app.

Google Play example 3Google Play example 3

If this applies to your app, use design principles like contrast to make your listing stand out from other results.

Notice how Pulse App’s Heart Rate Monitor app stands out from the other listings above?

This is thanks to a combination of simple iconography with strong contrast, using a black background to stand out from the white Google Play results page.

Compare this to the REPS app, which uses similar iconography without a black background, and the Bodymatter app, which uses a black background but a more complex design.

Google Codelabs has an excellent tutorial on designing and previewing app icons. It includes best practices and tips for making an icon that stands out on results pages and the latest Android features, such as adaptive icons.

Feature Graphic And Promo Video

Feature graphics show on your app listing page and can also show for branded searches, paid ads, or recommendation sections on Google Play.

Until recently, you could only use images as featured graphics, but you can now use promo videos in their place.

Google Play Feature Screenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play Feature

This is one of the most visible assets on your Google Play listing, so use feature graphics to capture attention and showcase the best of your app.

Google suggests:

“Use graphics that convey app or game experiences, and highlight the core value proposition, relevant context, or story-telling elements if needed.”

You’ll find more guidance on creating feature graphics under the Preview assets section of this Play Console Help page.

App Screenshots

App screenshots show in the same horizontal panel as feature graphics on your app listing page.

They’re designed to showcase the best features of your apps while showing users what the in-app experience looks like.

Google Play Screenshot ExampleScreenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play Screenshot Example

You can include descriptive text in your screenshots to emphasize the key benefits of your app’s most important features.

Keep things descriptive, though.

Google prohibits the inclusion of performative or ranking text in screenshots, such as “app of the year” or “most popular…” and promotional information like “10% off” or “free account.”

If your app supports multiple languages, you’ll need to provide screenshots for each language version, including any translated descriptive text.

See the screenshots section of this Play Console Help page for more info.

App Ratings & Reviews

App ratings show prominently in results and at the top of the app listing pages in Google Play. Besides this, you’ve also got a prominent Ratings and reviews section as the largest element on your listing page.

Google Play Rating ReviewsScreenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play Rating Reviews

Aside from being a ranking factor, app ratings and reviews are one of the biggest trust factors that help users choose which apps to install.

You don’t need perfect review scores but a positive (3.5+ stars) is a great asset for rankings and installs.

Your review profile also allows users to view the feedback left by others – and how you respond. Once again, how you deal with user problems is often more important than the scores or feedback itself.

You’ll need a framework in place for generating regular reviews and replying to them, engaging with reviewers, and solving user issues.

Your replies are also visible, so avoid generic responses – show new, potential users how good you are at dealing with problems.

In fact, don’t take inspiration from Google’s own support team for Google One. Privacy is great, but the tone of the reply below is more dismissive than helpful, and the exact same response appears throughout replies.

Google Play Review ExampleScreenshot from Google Play, February 2024Google Play Review Example

This feedback can also help you develop a stronger product, and users often edit their reviews, following updates or resolved tickets.

Always remember: Long-term revenue is the goal, which starts with quality app experiences, engagement, and retention.

Google Play Android Vitals

Google provides an extensive toolkit for optimizing your mobile app. Its Android vitals initiative sets out the most important usability metrics that affect the visibility of your app on Google Play.

If you’re used to optimizing websites for search, this will sound a lot like Google’s Core Web Vitals.

The principle Android vitals is similar in terms of performance affecting your search ranking, but this is a far more extensive initiative than Core Web Vitals, as it stands.

Android vitals are broken into two key components:

Core vitals

All other vitals

To maximize the visibility of your app in Google Play, keep the user-perceived crash rate below 1.09% across all devices and 8% per device, with the user-perceived ANR rate below 0.47% across all devices and 8% per device.

Google Play Bad Behaviour ExampleScreenshot from developer.android.com, February 2024Google Play Bad Behaviour Example

Take a look at the official Android vitals documentation page for more information.

App Store Optimization For App Store

For the App Store, we’ve also got nine key elements to optimize, but they’re not quite the same as Google Play:

  • App name.
  • App subtitle.
  • Categories.
  • Keywords.
  • Description.
  • App icon.
  • App previews.
  • Screenshots.
  • App ratings and reviews.

One of the key differences here is how the two platforms handle keywords. While Google analyzes your whole listing for keywords, Apple provides a single field for you to add keywords.

Again, always refer to official Apple documentation when optimizing listings for the App Store.

App Name

In the App Store, your app name simply provides a recognizable and memorable name for your mobile app.

You don’t need to worry about keywords or descriptive text here – that comes later.

App Store NameScreenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store Name

For now, concentrate on coming up with an app name that’s easy to remember and spell while somewhat describing what your app does.

Apple offers the following advice:

“Choose a simple, memorable name that is easy to spell and hints at what your app does. Be distinctive. Avoid names that use generic terms or are too similar to existing app names.”

You can use up to 30 characters for your app name in the App Store, but try to keep it as short and punchy as possible.

App Icon

As with most app stores, the app icon is one of the most prominent elements as users browse the iOS app store. Apple provides extensive design guidelines for app icons and it’s more strict than most.

App Store IconScreenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store Icon

So, if you’re promoting your app across the App Store, Google Play, and any other platforms, you might want to start with Apple first. In most cases, this makes it easiest to maintain a consistent design across all platforms.

Generally speaking, the same design principles apply. Keep it simple and impactful with intelligent use of iconography, color, and contrast.

Look at your competitors and try to come up with something that stands out from the other apps your target audience is likely to see.

Subtitle

Your app subtitle provides a brief description below the app name. Use this to highlight the purpose and benefits of your app in the most compelling way possible.

App Store SubtitlesApp Store Subtitles

This is your first opportunity to excite potential users about your app, so try to make an impression here. You’ve only got 30 characters to work with, which means punchy subtitles tend to do best.

You’ll want to test and refine your subtitles over time, paying close attention to CTRs and installs as you try different variations.

Categories

As with Google Play, categories are key for discoverability in the App Store.

You can assign primary and secondary categories for iOS apps to help users find your app; the primary category has the strongest weight. – so choose the most relevant one.

App Store Categories Screenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store Categories

Apple provides extensive guidance for choosing app categories. Make sure you follow Apple’s guidance because selecting the wrong categories violates the App Store guidelines.

In some cases, you may find multiple categories that match your app.

For example, if you’re running a photo-sharing social media app, you could select either Photo & Video or Social Networking as your primary category.

In such cases, Apple suggests considering the following:

  • Your app’s purpose: Your primary category should be the one that best describes your app’s main function or subject matter.
  • Where users look for an app like yours: Understanding your audience will help you identify the category in which they will likely look for your app. Will they consider your app more of a social network or a photography app?
  • Which categories contain the same type of apps as yours?: Research how similar apps are categorized — users may already know to visit these categories to find this type of app.

If multiple categories accurately reflect the purpose of your app, you’re unlikely to run into any violation issues.

At this point, it’s more a question of which category matches the search and everyday use of your app – not only to maximize visibility but also to set the right expectations for users who install your app (think engagement and retention).

Keywords

While Google Play looks for keywords throughout your app listing (similar to how Google Search analyses web pages), the App Store provides a dedicated keywords field.

You can use up to 100 characters to add keywords (separated by commas – no spaces) to help users discover your app. Apple offers the following advice for choosing keywords:

“Choose keywords based on words you think your audience will use to find an app like yours.

Be specific when describing your app’s features and functionality to help the search algorithm surface your app in relevant searches.”

Apple also recommends considering “the trade-off” between ranking well for less common terms versus ranking lower for popular terms.

The most popular keywords may generate a lot of impressions and traffic, but they’re also the most competitive, which can impact CTRs and installs.

App Description

Your app description should provide a short, compelling – and informative – description of your app, highlighting its main purpose and benefits.

Similar to Google Play, you can use up to 4,000 characters in your app description, but users can only see the first two lines (and most of the third) without clicking to see more.

Apple suggests the following:

“Communicate in the tone of your brand, and use terminology your target audience will appreciate and understand. The first sentence of your description is the most important — this is what users can read without having to tap to read more.”

App Store Description ExampleScreenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store Description Example

If you want to update your app description, you’ll have to resubmit your app listing, so it’s important to try and get this right and only make considered changes.

You can also add up to 170 characters of promotional text to the top of your app description.

Crucially, you can change this text at any time without having to resubmit your app listing, making this a great place to share the latest news and info about your app – such as limited-time sales, the latest features, or fixes from the last update.

App Previews

App previews are the App Store equivalent of promo videos.

You can add up to 30 seconds of footage to illustrate the key benefits of your app and the experience of using it.

App Store App PreviewScreenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store App Preview

Again, Apple has strict guidelines and specifications for app previews – make sure you tick all the right boxes.

As with most things, if you’re listing your app in the App Store and Google Play, getting your app preview approved for the App Store first should mean you can use the same format for Google Play – as long as you include footage from the Android version of your app.

Screenshots

You can add up to 10 screenshots to your app listing for the App Store.

If you don’t have an app preview, the first one to three screenshots will show in search results, so make sure these highlight the core purpose of your app.

App Store ScreenshotScreenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store Screenshot

In your remaining screenshots, you can focus on the main features or benefits of using your app.

Try to stick to one feature or benefit per screenshot to communicate each purpose clearly.

App Ratings & Reviews

Once again, app ratings and reviews are important for maximizing visibility and installs in the App Store.

If anything, user reviews are more prominent in the App Store than Google Play, but we can’t say whether this has any meaningful impact on downloads.

App Store ReviewsScreenshot from App Store, February 2024App Store Reviews

The same general principles apply here: try to develop a regular stream of reviews and manage a positive app rating.

Again, you don’t need perfect scores, but you do need to respond to user reviews and address potential issues.

Prioritize negative reviews and respond as quickly as possible with responses that deal with issues – avoid generic, unhelpful responses.

Extra App Store Optimization Tips

App store optimization is an ongoing process that needs ongoing attention. Getting your listings approved for app stores is only the beginning.

Maximizing visibility and – more importantly – revenue from your mobile apps requires a complete product development strategy.

Here are some final, additional tips to help you drive long-term success from app store optimization:

  • Know your KPIs: Don’t get distracted by the wrong metrics and KPIs – know what you’re optimizing for and center every decision around your business goals.
  • Prioritize user experience: Visibility is one thing, but you’re not going to maximize it or take full advantage of it if people uninstall your app or rarely use it – so make sure quality product development and UX design are at the heart of your ASO strategy.
  • A/B test key app store elements: Test and optimize the most important elements on your app listings to increase visibility, CTRs, installs, and retention (descriptions, videos, screenshots, reviews, etc).
  • Master each app store’s analytics system: Google Play and the App Store both provide capable (albeit in different ways) analytics systems to help you improve visibility, revenue, and product quality – so make full use of them.
  • Promote your app with ads: Both Google and Apple provide dedicated ad systems for their respective app stores to get your app in front of more eyes.
  • Promote your apps outside of app stores: Use other marketing channels to promote your apps – social media, app directory websites, app review websites, affiliate marketers, tech publications, etc.
  • Localize your app listings: App stores can connect you with global audiences, but only if you optimize your listings for each target language and location (this is called localization) – with translated text, screenshots, videos, etc.

Conclusion

The mobile app industry still shows growth despite smartphone penetration being way past saturation.

Smartphones aren’t the only devices in people’s lives anymore, either.

Apple Vision Pro launched with over 600 compatible apps, opening another space for mobile experiences beyond the confines of traditional smartphones.

App store optimization (ASO) will become more complex as new devices and app stores emerge.

However, the rewards will also grow, and the companies already mastering ASO for today’s app stores will be first in line to benefit as emerging technologies bring new opportunities.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Billion Photos/Shutterstock

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