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Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

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Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

Review sentiment reflects the prevailing opinion shared by customers in reviews of a business’s products or services.

Whether the sentiment is positive or negative is thought by some to have an impact on a business’s search rankings.

There’s legitimate concern over those claims, as it would leave businesses vulnerable to negative SEO attacks if rankings could be lowered with bad reviews.

Conversely, there’s concern about competitors artificially inflating their rankings with fake positive reviews.

There’s no question review sentiment can influence consumer behavior and impact metrics like conversion rate.

But does it have any influence on Google’s search rankings?

Let’s look at the claims and evidence surrounding review sentiment as a ranking factor.

The Claim: Review Sentiment Is A Ranking Factor

Review sentiment gets brought up in discussions about Google ranking factors, with some claiming that a positive sentiment can boost rankings and a negative sentiment can lower rankings.

There are a number of reasons for these claims.

One of the most frequently cited pieces of “evidence” is the correlation between high ranking websites and businesses that have positive reviews.

Sentiment analysis happens to be a feature included in SEO software, which may lead to the conclusion that review sentiment has an impact on search rankings.

Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti published an article with more detail on where the claims around sentiment originate from and why they persist.

In addition to what’s mentioned in Montti’s article, Google’s Search Quality Rater guidelines play a role in keeping review sentiment a recurring topic amongst SEOs.

Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Google lends credence to the claim that review sentiment is a ranking factor in its Search Quality Rater guidelines.

Section 2.6 of the guidelines tells Google’s Quality Raters what to look for when assessing the reputation of a website or content creator.

There are a number of notes about checking review sites to understand more about a business’s reputation.

Here’s an example:

“Customer reviews can be helpful for assessing the reputation of a store or business. However, you should interpret these reviews with care, particularly if there are only a few. Be skeptical of both positive and negative user reviews. Anyone can write them, including the creator of the website or someone the store or business hires for this purpose.”

Some have drawn conclusions regarding review sentiment as a ranking factor based on the above.

However, Search Quality Raters have no direct impact on search rankings, and the guidelines they follow aren’t based on what Google’s algorithm uses as ranking factors.

Quality Raters gather feedback on Google’s search results to help ensure webpages displayed in the SERPs meet a certain quality threshold.

One of the ways webpage quality is measured is by examining the reputation of the website where it’s published.

Headlines related to this chapter of the Quality Rater guidelines circulated in 2017 after Google’s Gary Illyes spoke at a conference on the topic of reputation analysis.

Some in attendance misconstrued his statements and incorrectly reported Illyes said reputation can impact a website’s position in search results.

However, Illyes was only discussing how the Quality Rater guidelines work.

While customer reviews are a component of reputation research, the guidelines do suggest approaching them with a degree of skepticism.

Thankfully, Google has provided clarity on this subject and stated definitively whether review sentiment is a ranking factor.

The Evidence For Review Sentiment As A Ranking Factor

Studies may try to prove review sentiment is a ranking factor by showing a correlation between customer reviews and a website’s position in search results.

We’re only going to look at the confirmed evidence, and Google has stated repeatedly that review sentiment is not a ranking factor.

Google’s Gary Illyes swiftly denied the claims that began circulating online after his conference talk, which we referenced in the previous section.

Not only does Google not use sentiment as a ranking factor, its algorithms don’t even recognize sentiment.

Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed this in 2018.

Google can’t use sentiment for rankings if it has no concept of what the sentiment is.

That should be enough to end the speculation around review sentiment as a ranking factor, but theories continue to linger.

In 2021, Sullivan was asked whether anything had changed since he last said Google recognize sentiment.

He confirms nothing has changed.

Sentiment is still not recognized by Google’s algorithm.

Review Sentiment As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Review sentiment is confirmed to not be a ranking factor for organic search rankings, though we do acknowledge it is a factor for local search rankings.

This has always been the case, ever since Google’s inability to recognize sentiment was infamously exploited.

Back around 2010, a company was angering customers to the point that they would write bad reviews.

This was done deliberately because the links received from the reviews pushed the company’s website higher in search results.

Google didn’t recognize people linking to the company were saying negative things, Google only recognized the links.

Since then Google has gotten better at not rewarding websites that rip off customers, but Google’s indifference toward sentiment remains.

Review sentiment can directly impact other areas of online marketing, but search rankings are not one of them.


Featured Image: Robin Biong/Search Engine Journal




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Should Congress Investigate Big Tech Platforms?

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Should Congress Investigate Big Tech Platforms?

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a full committee hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Chew to discuss how the platform handles users’ data, its effect on kids, and its relationship with ByteDance, its Chinese parent company.

This hearing is part of an ongoing investigation to determine whether TikTok should be banned in the United States or forced to split from ByteDance.

A ban on TikTok would affect over 150 million Americans who use TikTok for education, entertainment, and income generation.

It would also affect the five million U.S. businesses using TikTok to reach customers.

Is TikTok The Only Risk To National Security?

According to a memo released by the Tech Oversight Project, TikTok is not the only tech platform that poses risks to national security, mental health, and children.

As Congress scrutinizes TikTok, the Tech Oversight Project also strongly urges an investigation of risks posed by tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Google.

These platforms have a documented history of serving content harmful to younger audiences and adversarial to U.S. interests. They have also failed on many occasions to protect users’ private data.

Many Big Tech companies have seen TikTok’s success and tried to emulate some of its features to encourage users to spend as much time within their platforms’ ecosystems as possible. Academics, activists, non-governmental organizations, and others have long raised concerns about these platforms’ risks.

To truly reduce Big Rech’s risks to our society, Congress must look beyond TikTok and hold other companies accountable for the same dangers they pose to national security, mental health, and private data.

Risks Posed By Big Tech Companies

The following are examples of the risks Big Tech companies pose to U.S. users.

Amazon

Amazon has made several controversial moves, including a partnership with a state propaganda agency to launch a China books portal and offering AWS services to Chinese companies, including a banned surveillance firm with ties to the military.

Apple

Independent research found that Apple collects detailed information about its users, even when users choose not to allow tracking by apps from the App Store. Over half of the top 200 suppliers for Apple operate factories in China.

Google

The FTC fined Google and YouTube $170 million for collecting children’s data without parental consent. YouTube also changed its algorithm to make it more addictive, increasing users’ time watching videos and consuming ads.

Meta

Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest the private data of over 50 million users. It also failed to notify over 530 million users of a data breach that resulted in users’ private data being stolen.

It also allowed Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The influence operation posed as an independent news organization with 13 accounts and two pages, pushing messages critical of right-wing voices and the center-left.

TikTok 

TikTok employees confirmed that its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is involved in decision-making and has access to TikTok’s user data. While testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Vanessa Pappas, TikTok COO, would not confirm whether ByteDance would give TikTok user data to the Chinese government.

Conclusion

While the dangers posed by TikTok are undeniable, it’s clear that Congress should also address the risks posed throughout the tech industry. By holding all major offenders accountable, we can create a safe, secure, and responsible digital landscape for everyone.


Featured Image: Koshiro K/Shutterstock



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The 29 Best WordPress Plugins (Organized by Category)

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WordPress plugins make your life easier by allowing you to add features to your website without learning to code or hire a developer.

However, over 60,000 WordPress plugins are available, and more are released every day. Plus, installing too many plugins can cause slow website loading speeds, so you want to avoid adding too many of these plugins.

To help you limit your installed plugins to only the most worthy, I’ve compiled this list of the 29 best WordPress plugins categorized by what they’re good for. 

This list comes from my more than 12 years of experience building WordPress websites and working closely with my WordPress developer.

Best WordPress plugins for website design

First up, we have some plugins to help you design and add specific functionalities to your WordPress website.

Elementor

Elementor drag-and-drop page builder example

Cost: Free ($59/year for premium)

Useful for:

  • Building a website theme with drag-and-drop editing 
  • Easily creating custom landing pages

Elementor is awesome for anyone who wants a custom-looking website without learning how to code or being limited to a pre-built theme. But it also has pre-built themes you can customize to streamline the process.

Be aware that using any kind of drag-and-drop editor like this will slow down your site.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce product display blocks

Cost: Free

Useful for: Turning your WordPress website into an e-commerce store

WooCommerce is the best plugin to start an e-commerce business on your WordPress website. It allows you to easily create product pages and collections.

You can combine it with WooCommerce Payments to easily collect customer payment information.

Advanced Custom Fields Pro

Advanced Custom Fields Pro WordPress UI

Cost: $49/year for a single site

Useful for: Creating custom widgets to use anywhere on your site 

If you know how to code, Advanced Custom Fields Pro allows you to take full control over your WordPress edit screens and custom field data.

WPCode

WPCode user interface explanation

Cost: Free ($49–$399/year for premium)

Useful for: Inserting code into your headers and footers

Formerly called Insert Headers and Footers, WPCode is the easiest way for non-developers to add code snippets anywhere on their website. 

For example, you may have to add a code snippet to your website’s header to connect it with Google Analytics or to add the Facebook Remarketing Pixel.

WPForms

WPForms form editor UI

Cost: $49.50/year

Useful for:

  • Creating forms for contact pages, newsletter sign-ups, and more
  • Building surveys for your site visitors

WPForms is a drag-and-drop WordPress form editor. It’s super intuitive and easy to use.

TranslatePress

TranslatePress language translation plugin

Cost: €89/year (~USD 95)

Useful for: Translating your website into other languages

TranslatePress makes it easy to create translated versions of your website in other languages. It also automatically adds the hreflang tags for each language, so it’s also good for SEO. 

Formilla

Formilla live chat WordPress plugin

Cost: Free (varying premium plans starting at $19.99/month)

Useful for: Adding a live chat feature to your site

Formilla is a live chat plugin for WordPress. You can offer live chat support or use it to answer visitors’ questions automatically using a bot—although that may annoy them.

Best WordPress plugins for website management & security

Next up, we’ve got a whole suite of plugins that help you make your website more secure and easier to manage. WordPress sites are often vulnerable to hacking, so these are important.

Wordfence

Wordfence dashboard

Cost: Free ($119/year for premium)

Useful for: Keeping your website safe from hackers and malware

Wordfence adds a robust firewall and malware scanner to protect your site from hackers and malicious software. You can also use it to add two-factor login authentication, have rate limiting, and run security diagnostics on your site—to name a few of the features. 

UpdraftPlus

Cost: Free ($119/year for premium)

Useful for: Backing up your WordPress website

It’s important to back up your website every so often to avoid losing your content in the event of a plugin clash, hack, or even accidental deletion. UpdraftPlus makes this easy for you.

Wordable

Cost: Free ($50/month for premium)

Useful for: Uploading content from Google Docs to WordPress at the click of a button

Wordable makes it easy to upload content from Google Docs to your WordPress website (including images, formatting, etc., without any extra hidden code). It’s saved me a lot of time and money not needing to do it myself or having my virtual assistant to do it.

PublishPress

PublishPress role capabilities dashboard

Cost: $129–$399/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Managing a team of writers and editors on your website

PublishPress makes it easy to manage multiple writers and editors on your site, with the ability to manage their permissions of what they can do and see. It also includes an editorial calendar, new blocks for the Gutenberg editor, and more.

MemberPress

Membership site built using MemberPress WordPress plugin

Cost: $179.50–$399.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Creating a membership website

MemberPress makes it easy to turn your WordPress website into a paid membership site, allowing you to build and sell courses and forums and put them behind a paywall.

Uncanny Automator

Cost: $149–$399/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Automating tasks on your website

Uncanny Automator is like Zapier but for WordPress. It can automate tasks like sharing a post to social media or in a newsletter when it’s published, track data in a spreadsheet whenever a product is purchased, and a million other things. Its only limit is your own creativity.

WP Simple Pay

WordPress payment forms using WP Simple Pay

Cost: $49.50–$299.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Adding a simple Stripe payment processor to your site

WP Simple Pay makes it easy to accept Stripe payments on your website. This is great if you only sell a few products or services and want to avoid the trouble of setting up the WooCommerce plugin and connecting it with a payment processor and your bank.

WP Mail SMTP

Cost: $49–$399/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Improving email deliverability

WP Mail SMTP allows you to set up SMTP and PHP mail servers to improve your email deliverability whenever you send customers or visitors an email from your site.

Best WordPress plugins for site speed optimization

A quick-loading site is vital for audience retention, conversions, and SEO. To help you speed up your WordPress site, you can consider using these plugins.

NitroPack

Cost: $17.50–$146.67/month (depending on tier)

Useful for: An all-in-one tool to speed up your website

NitroPack is my favorite all-in-one speed enhancer, with smart caching, image optimization, a built-in CDN, and more—all without needing developer experience. However, it’s not cheap. If you need a more affordable option, look at the next two plugins.

WP Rocket

Cost: $59–$299/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Adding website caching

WP Rocket adds caching to your WordPress website, allowing you to improve your loading speeds and Core Web Vitals score. However, it doesn’t have image optimization or a CDN, so it’s missing features compared to NitroPack. That’s where the next plugin comes in.

Autoptimize

Cost: Free

Useful for: Adding website speed optimization features like image compression

Autoptimize fills in the gaps left by WP Rocket. It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, inject CSS in the page head by default, optimize and lazy-load images, and much more. However, it does require some learning and tweaking, so it’s not very beginner-friendly.

Best WordPress plugins for marketing

Traffic is what makes your website valuable. Here are some of the best WordPress plugins to help you promote your site.

PushEngage

Cost: Free ($9–$49/month for premium)

Useful for: Adding push notifications to your website

PushEngage is the best push notification plugin I’ve found. It lets you easily advertise push notification services to your visitors and sends the notifications in a way that is well designed and easy to use. 

Keep in mind that push notifications can be extremely annoying to visitors if you’re not cautious about them.

RafflePress

Cost: $39.50–$499.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Running viral raffles and giveaways

RafflePress makes running raffles and giveaways on your site easy by giving visitors single-click options to earn entries. They can follow, subscribe, like, and comment just by clicking each button on your giveaway and get extra entries for each task they complete.

OptinMonster

OptinMonster form editor

Cost: $9–$49/month (depending on tier)

Useful for: Creating beautiful opt-in forms and gamified wheels

OptinMonster is a form-builder plugin that helps you optimize conversions to grow your email list. It also has gamified wheels, which I’ve never used. But it seems like a fun thing to test for e-commerce websites.

Thrive Quiz Builder

Cost: $99/year (or $299/year for the entire Thrive Suite)

Useful for: Creating quizzes on your site that are easily shareable

Thrive Quiz Builder makes it easy to, well, build quizzes. You can use it to make one of those viral Facebook quizzes moms love to take and share their results. 

Smash Balloon

Cost: $49–$299/year (depending on which feeds you want)

Useful for: Adding social media feeds to your website

Smash Balloon makes displaying feeds from your social media profiles on your WordPress website easy. This is helpful if you want to showcase your photography or video services or rely heavily on social media for sponsorships. 

Best WordPress plugins for SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important part of growing your website. In my experience, the following plugins are the best WordPress SEO plugins.

Yoast SEO/Rank Math/SEOPress

Rank Math blog post SEO settings

Cost: Free (various paid options)

Useful for:

  • Basic on-page SEO
  • Creating a robots.txt file and sitemap
  • Easily editing metadata 

These types of plugins are essential for a WordPress website. They allow you to edit important SEO options on your pages and make implementing SEO on your site much easier and more streamlined.

Of these three, my personal favorite is Rank Math. I have used Yoast SEO and SEOPress, but I like the team behind Rank Math the most and find the plugin to be easy to use with a solid UI. They’re all great, however, and do pretty much the same things. Just pick one.

Ahrefs’ WordPress SEO Plugin

Ahrefs' WordPress SEO plugin dashboard

Cost: Free

Useful for: Suggesting ways to better optimize your content to rank higher in search results

Our SEO plugin makes it easy to automate content audits, monitor backlinks, and grow organic traffic to your WordPress website. It’s free, so try it out.

MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights analytics overview dashboard

Cost: $99.50–$399.50/year (depending on tier)

Useful for: Gathering helpful insights into your site traffic 

MonsterInsights is a WordPress analytics plugin that shows you insights into how much traffic you’re getting, which pages people are visiting, and what they’re doing. It also provides e-commerce insights like goal conversions and also integrates with Google Analytics. 

Best WordPress plugins for affiliate marketing

Last but not least, the following plugins are excellent to help you make more money from affiliate marketing.

Lasso

Cost: $39–$299/month (depending on how many sites you want it for)

Useful for: 

  • Tracking, managing, and automating your affiliate links
  • Creating product display boxes and comparison tables
  • Getting suggestions for new affiliate programs

Lasso gets my favorite plugin of the year award. It makes tracking, managing, and automating your affiliate links easy. Plus, you can create conversion-optimized product display boxes and tables, get suggestions for affiliate programs for products you’re mentioning but not affiliated with, and more.

AffiliateWP

AffiliateWP dashboard

Cost: $39–$299/month (depending on how many sites you want it for)

Useful for: Adding an affiliate program to your website

AffiliateWP allows you to create and manage your own affiliate program so you can have affiliates promote your products for you.

AdSanity

Cost: $59–$179/year ($499 for lifetime access)

Useful for: Managing ads on your WordPress website

AdSanity makes it easy to manage ads on your site and add them using widgets, shortcodes, or template tags. It also gives you publishing options to create start and end dates, analytics reporting to see your ads’ effectiveness, and more. 

Final thoughts

There are a lot of WordPress plugins out there. Many are unnecessary, and having too many can add code bloat and drastically slow down your website.

Hopefully, you’ve found the right plugins in this list to install only the ones you really need and avoid others you don’t. 

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TikTok Updated Community Guidelines To Include AI Content

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TikTok Updated Community Guidelines To Include AI Content

TikTok has updated its Community Guidelines, which will go into effect on April 21, 2023.

The updated guidelines introduce TikTok’s Community Principles, which guide content moderation to uphold human rights and international legal frameworks.

TikTok worked with over 100 organizations globally to strengthen its rules to address new threats and reduce potential user harm.

Key changes to Community Guidelines apply to synthetic media, tribes, and civic and election integrity.

AI-Generated Content

TikTok defines “synthetic media” as content created or modified by AI. While AI and related technologies allow creators to express themselves in many new ways, they can also blur the line between fact and fiction for viewers.

Creators must label synthetic or altered media as such to mitigate the potential risks of spreading misinformation.

To reduce potential harm, synthetic media featuring real private individuals is prohibited. Private individuals include anyone under 18 and adults who are not public figures. The use of public figures over 18 – government officials, politicians, business leaders, and celebrities – is permitted, but with restrictions.

Creators must not use synthetic media to violate policies against hate speech, sexual exploitation, and severe harassment. They must also clearly disclose synthetic media and manipulated content that depict realistic scenes with fake people, places, or events.

Public figures cannot be used in synthetic audio or video for political or commercial endorsements to mislead users about financial or political issues.

You can, however, use synthetic media in artistic and educational content.

Protection Of Tribes

TikTok policies already include rules meant to protect people and groups with specific attributes from hateful behavior, hate speech, and hateful ideologies.

With new guidelines, the platform added Tribes to the list of protected attributes, including ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

While TikTok allows critical content on public figures, as defined above, it prohibits language that harasses, humiliates, threatens, or doxxes everyone.

Users can consult resources and tools provided by TikTok to identify bullying behavior and configure their settings to prevent it from affecting them further.

Civil And Election Integrity

Noting that elections are essential to community dialogue and upholding societal values, TikTok recently emphasized its alleged efforts to encourage topical discussions while maintaining unity.

To achieve this goal, paid political promotion, advertising, and fundraising by politicians or parties are prohibited. This policy applies to traditional ads and compensated creator content.

TikTok claims to support informed civic idea exchanges to promote constructive conversations without allowing misinformation about voting processes and election outcomes. Content that includes unverified claims about election results will not be eligible to appear in the For You Feed.

Before these changes go into effect next month, moderators will receive additional training on enforcing them effectively.

Will Recent Changes Prevent More TikTok Bans?

TikTok’s refreshed Community Guidelines and explanation of Community Principles appear to attempt greater transparency and foster a safe, inclusive, and authentic environment for all users.

TikTok plans to continue investing in safety measures to encourage creativity and connection within its global community of one billion users globally.

TikTok’s latest changes to improve transparency, reduce harm, and provide higher-quality content for users may be part of efforts to prevent the app from being banned in the U.S.

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a full committee hearing with TikTok CEO Shou Chew on how congress can protect the data privacy of U.S. users and children from online harm.

Organizations like the Tech Oversight Project have also expressed concerns about risks that big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Meta pose.


Featured Image: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock



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