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Get To Know Google’s Before: and After: Search Operators

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Get To Know Google's Before: and After: Search Operators

Google offers a lesser-known advanced search command that could make your Google searching a whole lot easier.

While it’s possible to use Google’s Tools menu to do the same thing, it takes six clicks to do what advanced search operators accomplish with one click.

Advanced Search Operators

Advanced search operators (otherwise known as search commands) are ways to refine your search in order to get a more specific result.

For example, if you want search results from a specific website, you can use the site: search operator.

Example of the site search operator:

apples site:example.com

The above search will return all webpages on the example.com website that contains the word “apple” in them.

Now, here is how to do the same search, but this time we want to find results about “apple” but not from example.com.

To do that, we do the same search but with the minus sign (-).

Example of site exclusion search operator:

apple -site:example.com

Before: And After: Search Operators

The advanced search operators that Google introduced in 2019 are called the before: and after: commands.

What these search commands do is make it easier to find webpages that are published within a specific period of time.

These kinds of time-based searches help a user to find webpages that were published during a specific time period.

There was already a way to accomplish this time-based task by using an advanced search tool available on Google’s home page.

But, using those tools takes six clicks to accomplish a time-based search.

The old way to do it is to first click on the Tools button located below and to the right of the search box:

Screenshot by author, May 2022Screenshot of Google's Tools Button for Advanced Searches

Then, the next step is to click the “Any time” link.

Screenshot of Google's Tools Button for Advanced Searches showing the Time-based search toolScreenshot by author, May 2022Screenshot of Google's Tools Button for Advanced Searches showing the Time-based search tool

The third step is to enter a custom date range in the pop-up calendar box.

custom date rangeScreenshot by author, May 2022custom date range

That’s a lot of typing and clicking in order to search for a document that was published within a specific time frame.

The New Way To Accomplish Time-Based Searches

The new way to search is similar to using the other advanced search operators, like the “site:” search operator example above.

The before and after search commands look like this:

before:

after:

These are examples of how to use the before and after search commands:

spider man before:2005
spider man after:2005
spider man after:2005-01-01 before:2019-31-12

Note: If you’re using the full dates, the search has to be done in the year/month/day format.

before-search-operatorExample of spider man before:2005before-search-operator
multiple date search operatorExample of multiple calendar datesmultiple date search operator

What The Before & After Search Operators Mean

The advanced search operator “before:2019” means before 01/01/2019.

This is a screenshot of a search using the “before:” advanced search operator:

Screenshot of before: advanced search operatorScreenshot from search, Google, May 2022Screenshot of before: advanced search operator

Notice how the above search result has a date of November 16, 2018? That’s because Google is returning webpages from before 01/01/2019.

This is the same search but restricted to results from before 2018:

Screenshot of before: advanced search operator for pages published before 2018Screenshot from search, Google, May 2022Screenshot of before: advanced search operator for pages published before 2018

Similar to the previous search, what Google is doing with the “before:2018” search operator is returning webpages that were published before 01/01/2018.

How Dashes And Slashes Work

Something that’s really cool is that both a dash (-) and a slash (/) in the date also work.

So for this search:

avengers endgame after:2019/03/01 before:2019/03/05

You get this search result:

slashes and dashesScreenshot from search, Google, May 2022slashes and dashes

Time-Based Search Operators Are Flexible With Numbers

Another useful feature is that when entering a date, it doesn’t matter if single digits are written with or without a zero.

This:

07

Works the same as this:

7

Are Dates Sometimes Wrong?

The publication date of the search result pages will not always be shown.

This was the case in 2019 when the before and after search commands were announced, and this continues to be the case today as of the publication of this article.

Also, sometimes there are search results that don’t seem to match.

For example, for the Spider-Man search like this:

spider man after:2005-01-01 before:2019-31-12

The search results should be no later than December 31, 2019.

But, if you look at the example below, there’s a result from 2021. Is the search operator broken?

Wrong Search Result?

wrong search result?Screenshot by author, May 2022wrong search result?

The above search result is not broken. The above search result from the IMDB website appears to be from 2021, but that page was originally published in 2019.

Screenshot of Archive.org Cache of 2019 IMDB Spider-Man PageScreenshot of Archive.org Cache of 2019 IMDB Spider-Man PageScreenshot of Archive.org Cache of 2019 IMDB Spider-Man Page

So, although the current webpage appears to say that it was published in 2021, the actual publication date was in late 2019 (as seen in the cache saved by Archive.org), when the IMDB created the webpage for the (at the time) untitled movie, that eventually came to be known as Spider-Man No Way Home.

Before & After Works In Google News

The date-based search operators also work in Google News.

This should make it easier to research news reports from specific date periods.

For example, WordPress is updated to version 6.0 (named Arturo) in late May 2022.

If I search Google News for WordPress Arturo from before 2022, Google news returns search results where the words WordPress and Arturo are on the news site. But nothing about the WordPress 6.0 Arturo update.

But, if I search for WordPress Arturo for the dates after March 2022, I get the news search results about the WordPress update.

Google News search like this:

wordpress arturo after:2022-03-01

Returns the correct search results:

Google News Search by Date Range

Google News Search by Date Range

Before And After Dates Are Considered Estimates

At the time that the search operators were announced, Google’s Danny Sullivan said that it’s possible that Google might not get it right because it’s sometimes difficult to parse the actual publication date.

So, it was said at the time that the publication dates of search results that used the date-based search operators were to be understood as more of an estimate.

But as is seen with a little digging around, some of what appears to be mistakes in the date range are actually correct. It’s just that the articles were subsequently updated.

Save Time With The Before And After Search Operators

I have to admit that I have forgotten about the before and after search operators. I’ve never seen anyone talk about them since the announcement of these search operators.

Nevertheless, searching with date restrictions is a useful way to search, and it’s a good idea to become reacquainted with these search operators.

Citation: Read the tweet by SearchLiaison that announced the before and after search operator.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Golden Dayz/Shutterstock

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Google On Traffic Diversity As A Ranking Factor

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Google answers the question of whether traffic diversity is a ranking factor for SEO

Google’s SearchLiaison tweeted encouragement to diversify traffic sources, being clear about the reason he was recommending it. Days later, someone followed up to ask if traffic diversity is a ranking factor, prompting SearchLiaison to reiterate that it is not.

What Was Said

The question of whether diversity of traffic was a ranking factor was elicited from a previous tweet in a discussion about whether a site owner should be focusing on off-site promotion.

Here’s the question from the original discussion that was tweeted:

“Can you please tell me if I’m doing right by focusing on my site and content – writing new articles to be found through search – or if I should be focusing on some off-site effort related to building a readership? It’s frustrating to see traffic go down the more effort I put in.”

SearchLiaison split the question into component parts and answered each one. When it came to the part about off-site promotion, SearchLiaison (who is Danny Sullivan), shared from his decades of experience as a journalist and publisher covering technology and search marketing.

I’m going to break down his answer so that it’s clearer what he meant

This is the part from the tweet that talks about off-site activities:

“As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”

What he is saying here is simple, don’t limit your thinking about what to do with your site to thinking about how to make it appeal to Google.

He next explains that sites that rank tend to be sites that are created to appeal to people.

SearchLiaison continued:

“Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.”

What he’s saying there is that you’ll know that you’re appealing to people if people are discussing your site in social media, if people are referring the site in social media and if other sites are citing it with links.

Other ways to know that a site is doing well is when when people engage in the comments section, send emails asking follow up questions, and send emails of thanks and share anecdotes of their success or satisfaction with a product or advice.

Consider this, fast fashion site Shein at one point didn’t rank for their chosen keyword phrases, I know because I checked out of curiosity. But they were at the time virally popular and making huge amounts of sales by gamifying site interaction and engagement, propelling them to become a global brand. A similar strategy propelled Zappos when they pioneered no-questions asked returns and cheerful customer service.

SearchLiaison continued:

“It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”

SearchLiaison explicitly said that building sites with diversified content is not a ranking factor.

He added this caveat to his tweet:

“This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things).”

Despite The Caveat…

A journalist tweeted this:

“Earlier this week, @searchliaison told people to diversify their traffic. Naturally, people started questioning whether that meant diversity of traffic was a ranking factor.

So, I asked @iPullRank what he thought.”

SearchLiaison of course answered that he explicitly said it’s not a ranking factor and linked to his original tweet that I quoted above.

He tweeted:

“I mean that’s not exactly what I myself said, but rather repeat all that I’ll just add the link to what I did say:”

The journalist responded:

“I would say this is calling for publishers to diversify their traffic since you’re saying the great sites do it. It’s the right advice to give.”

And SearchLiaison answered:

“It’s the part of “does it matter for rankings” that I was making clear wasn’t what I myself said. Yes, I think that’s a generally good thing, but it’s not the only thing or the magic thing.”

Not Everything Is About Ranking Factors

There is a longstanding practice by some SEOs to parse everything that Google publishes for clues to how Google’s algorithm works. This happened with the Search Quality Raters guidelines. Google is unintentionally complicit because it’s their policy to (in general) not confirm whether or not something is a ranking factor.

This habit of searching for “ranking factors” leads to misinformation. It takes more acuity to read research papers and patents to gain a general understanding of how information retrieval works but it’s more work to try to understand something than skimming a PDF for ranking papers.

The worst approach to understanding search is to invent hypotheses about how Google works and then pore through a document to confirm those guesses (and falling into the confirmation bias trap).

In the end, it may be more helpful to back off of exclusively optimizing for Google and focus at least equally as much in optimizing for people (which includes optimizing for traffic). I know it works because I’ve been doing it for years.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business for Local SEO

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The Complete Guide to Google My Business

What is Google My Business?

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that business owners can use to manage their online presence across Google Search and Google Maps.

This profile also puts out important business details, such as address, phone number, and operating hours, making it easily accessible to potential customers. 

Google My Business profile shown on Google MapsGoogle My Business profile shown on Google Maps

When you click on a business listing in the search results it will open a detailed sidebar on the right side of the screen, providing comprehensive information about the business. 

This includes popular times, which show when the business is busiest, a Q&A section where potential users can ask questions and receive responses from the business or other customers, and a photos and videos section that showcases products and services. Customer reviews and ratings are also displayed, which are crucial for building trust and credibility.

Business details on Google My Business profileBusiness details on Google My Business profile

Using Google My Business for Local SEO

Having an optimized Google Business Profile ensures that your business is visible, searchable, and can attract potential customers who are looking for your products and services.

  • Increased reliance on online discovery: More consumers are going online to search and find local businesses, making it crucial to have a GMB listing.
  • Be where your customers are searching: GMB ensures your business information is accurate and visible on Google Search and Maps, helping you stay competitive.
  • Connect with customers digitally: GMB allows customers to connect with your business through various channels, including messaging and reviews.
  • Build your online reputation: GMB makes it easy for customers to leave reviews, which can improve your credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Location targeting: GMB enables location-based targeting, showing your ads to people searching for businesses in your exact location.
  • Measurable results: GMB provides actionable analytics, allowing you to track your performance and optimize your listing.

How to Set Up Google My Business

If you already have a profile and need help claiming, verifying, and/or optimizing it, skip to the next sections.

If you’re creating a new Google My Business profile, here’s a step-by-step guide:

Access or Create your Google AccountAccess or Create your Google Account

Step 1: Access or Create your Google Account:

If you don’t already have a Google account, follow these steps to create one:

  • Visit the Google Account Sign-up Page: Go to the Google Account sign-up page and click on “Create an account.”
  • Enter Your Information: Fill in the required fields, including your name, email address, and password.
  • Verify Your Account: Google will send a verification email to your email address. Click on the link in the email to confirm your account.

Step 2:  Access Google My Business

Business name on Google My BusinessBusiness name on Google My Business

Step 3: Enter Your Business Name and Category

  • Type in your exact business name. Google will suggest existing businesses as you type
  • If your business is not listed, fully type out the name as it appears
  • Search for and select your primary business category

Adding business address to Google My Business profileAdding business address to Google My Business profile

Step 4: Provide Your Business Address

  • If you have a physical location where customers can visit, select “Yes” and enter your address.
  • If you are a service area business without a physical location, select “No” and enter your service area.

Adding contact information to Google My Business profileAdding contact information to Google My Business profile

Step 5: Add Your Contact Information

  • Enter your business phone number and website URL
  • You can also create a free website based on your GMB information

Complete Your ProfileComplete Your Profile

Step 6: Complete Your Profile

To complete your profile, add the following details:

  • Hours of Operation: Enter your business’s operating hours to help customers plan their visits.
  • Services: List the services your business offers to help customers understand what you do.
  • Description: Write a detailed description of your business to help customers understand your offerings.

Now that you know how to set up your Google My Business account, all that’s left is to verify it. 

Verification is essential for you to manage and update business information whenever you need to, and for Google to show your business profile to the right users and for the right search queries. 

If you are someone who wants to claim their business or is currently on the last step of setting up their GMB, this guide will walk you through the verification process to solidify your business’ online credibility and visibility.

How to Verify Google My Business

There are several ways you can verify your business, including:

  • Postcard Verification: Google will send a postcard to your business address with a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Phone Verification: Google will call your business phone number and provide a verification code. Enter the code on your GMB dashboard to verify.
  • Email Verification: If you have a business email address, you can use it to verify your listing.
  • Instant Verification: If you have a Google Analytics account linked to your business, you can use instant verification.

How to Claim & Verify an Existing Google My Business Profile

If your business has an existing Google My Business profile, and you want to claim it, then follow these steps:

Sign in to Google AccountSign in to Google Account

Step 1: Sign in to Google My Business

Access Google My Business: Go to the Google My Business website and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, create one by following the sign-up process.

Search for Your BusinessSearch for Your Business

Step 2: Search for Your Business

Enter your business name in the search bar to find your listing. If your business is already listed, you will see it in the search results.

Request access to existing Google My Business accountRequest access to existing Google My Business account

Step 3: Claim Your Listing

If your business is not already claimed, you will see a “Claim this business” button. Click on this button to start the claiming process.

Editing business information on Google My BusinessEditing business information on Google My Business

Step 4: Complete Your Profile

Once your listing is verified, you can complete your profile by adding essential business information such as:

  • Business Name: Ensure it matches your business name.
  • Address: Enter your business address accurately.
  • Phone Number: Enter your business phone number.
  • Hours of Operation: Specify your business hours.
  • Categories: Choose relevant categories that describe your business.
  • Description: Write a brief description of your business.

Step 5: Manage Your Listing

Regularly check and update your listing to ensure it remains accurate and up-to-date. Respond to customer reviews and use the insights provided by Google Analytics to improve your business.

Unverified Google My Business profileUnverified Google My Business profile

Step 6: Verification 

Verify your business through postcard, email, or phone numbers as stated above. 

Now that you have successfully set up and verified your Google My Business listing, it’s time to optimize it for maximum visibility and effectiveness. By doing this, you can improve your local search rankings, increase customer engagement, and drive more conversions.

How to Optimize Google My Business

Here are the tips that I usually do when I’m optimizing my GMB account: 

    1. Complete Your Profile: Start by ensuring every section applicable to your business is filled out with accurate and up-to-date information. Use your real business name without keyword stuffing to avoid suspension. Ensure your address and phone number are consistent with those on your website and other online directories, and add a link to your website and social media accounts.
    2. Optimize for Keywords: Integrate relevant keywords into your business description, services, and posts. However, avoid stuffing your GMB profile with keywords, as this can appear spammy and reduce readability.
    3. Add Backlinks: Encourage local websites, blogs, and business directories to link to your GMB profile. 
  1. Select Appropriate Categories: Choose the most relevant primary category for your business to help Google understand what your business is about. Additionally, add secondary categories that accurately describe your business’s offerings to capture more relevant search traffic.
  2. Encourage and Manage Reviews: Ask satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on your profile, as reviews significantly influence potential customers. Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, in a professional and timely manner. Addressing negative feedback shows that you value customer opinions and are willing to improve.
  3. Add High-Quality Photos and Videos: Use high-quality images for your profile and cover photos that represent your business well. Upload additional photos of your products, services, team, and premises. Adding short, engaging videos can give potential customers a virtual tour or highlight key services, enhancing their interest.

By following this comprehensive guide, you have successfully set up, verified, and optimized your GMB profile. Remember to continuously maintain and update your profile to ensure maximum impact and success.

Key Takeaway: 

With more and more people turning to Google for all their needs, creating, verifying, and optimizing your Google My Business profile is a must if you want your business to be found. 

Follow this guide to Google My Business, and you’re going to see increased online presence across Google Search and Google Maps in no time.

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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter Tools

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LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter Tools

LinkedIn is launching several new features for people who publish newsletters on its platform.

The professional networking site wants to make it easier for creators to grow their newsletter audiences and engage readers.

More People Publishing Newsletters On LinkedIn

The company says the number of LinkedIn members publishing newsletter articles has increased by 59% over the past year.

Engagement on these creator-hosted newsletters is also up 47%.

With this growing interest, LinkedIn is updating its newsletter tools.

A New Way To View & Comment

One of the main changes is an updated reading experience that displays comments alongside the newsletter articles.

This allows readers to view and participate in discussions more easily while consuming the content.

See an example of the new interface below.

Screenshot from: linkedin.com, June 2024.

Design Your Own Cover Images

You can now use Microsoft’s AI-powered Designer tool to create custom cover images for their newsletters.

The integration provides templates, size options, and suggestions to help design visually appealing covers.

More Subscriber Notifications

LinkedIn is improving the notifications sent to newsletter subscribers to drive more readership.

When a new issue is published, subscribers will receive email alerts and in-app messages. LinkedIn will also prompt your followers to subscribe.

Mention Other Profiles In Articles

You can now embed links to other LinkedIn profiles and pages directly into their newsletter articles.

This lets readers click through and learn more about the individuals or companies mentioned.

In the example below, you can see it’s as easy as adding a link.

1718346362 491 LinkedIn Rolls Out New Newsletter ToolsScreenshot from: linkedin.com, June 2024.

Preview Links Before Publishing

Lastly, LinkedIn allows you to access a staging link that previews the newsletter URL before hitting publish.

This can help you share and distribute their content more effectively.

Why SEJ Cares

As LinkedIn continues to lean into being a publishing platform for creators and thought leaders, updates that enhance the newsletter experience are noteworthy for digital marketers and industry professionals looking to build an audience.

The new tools are part of LinkedIn’s broader effort to court creators publishing original content on its platform amid rising demand for newsletters and knowledge-sharing.

How This Can Help You

If you publish a newsletter on LinkedIn, these new tools can help you design more visually appealing content, grow your subscriber base, interact with your audience through comments, and preview your content before going live.


Featured Image: Tada Images/Shutterstock

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