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Talking Google MUM & Enterprise Culture With Conductor’s CEO

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Talking Google MUM & Enterprise Culture With Conductor's CEO


We’re constantly hearing about new updates to Google’s algorithm, and some are more impactful than others. It can be difficult to separate the buzz from actionable insight.

This past year, Google’s unveiling of MUM created quite a stir, and it’s no wonder. Google itself says MUM is 1000x more powerful than BERT.

But what does that mean in real terms for your enterprise SEO strategy?

And what other underutilized facets of enterprise SEO can brands look to capitalize on in the months ahead?

I was fortunate to grab some time with Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor, recently to discuss MUM and other upcoming enterprise SEO opportunities.

Besmertnik has been in the enterprise space a long time, first co-founding Conductor as a marketing services firm in 2006.

In 2010, Conductor began its evolution into the enterprise technology brand we know today with the launch of its SaaS product, Searchlight.

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Today, Searchlight is a cloud-based content and SEO platform used by over 450 enterprise brands to improve organic search performance.

And Besmertnik is a busy man, what with having rebuilt his company after WeWork acquired it and then collapsed, as well as recently closing a $150 million round of funding for Conductor.

Below, he shares his insights on how enterprise marketers can prepare for MUM, where new opportunities exist, and what Conductor has been up to lately.

1. Getting Ready for MUM

Miranda Miller: “Google’s introduction to MUM caused a lot of buzz in the industry this past year. What should enterprise marketers do now to prepare for MUM and other search updates?” ​

Seth Besmertnik: “There are four things marketers can do to prepare.”

When building content, consider the searcher’s journey and intent.

“MUM is all about the interest and intent behind the inquiry.

With MUM, we are able to process huge amounts of data and relate it to connected topics in seconds, in comparison to the weeks it used to take.

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Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes and assess related questions and topics they may have when starting their search journey or when preparing to buy.

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This is no longer about exact keywords – we have to anticipate needs and think holistically about what the searcher is pursuing.”

Drive a multimedia SEO approach.

“As MUM seeks to grow visual search, video, and Lens, having a multimedia content strategy is vital to stay relevant in search results.

Think about optimizing your entire digital presence – including images, videos, and audio files – and not just your website to boost your brand.

Strengthen your written content and have descriptive tags so Google can best recognize and interpret your information.”

Evaluate the new language features.

“MUM can analyze search content in over 75 languages, breaking down language barriers and bridging the gap between your content and new markets.

To maximize this opportunity if you are working in multiple markets, incorporate multilingual SEO as part of your content strategy by focusing on location-based priorities and local interests.”

Focus on tried-and-true SEO best practices.

“User experience is at the heart of MUM.

The better Google can evaluate your site and get relevant results to users, the more opportunities your content will have to rank.

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Ensure your site is optimized, healthy, and using ethical, white-hat techniques.

Don’t underestimate the power of reliable authoritative, high-quality written content like blogs and articles, as MUM will rely on these to deliver the most relevant content to users.”

2. Discovering Untapped Enterprise Opportunities

Miranda Miller: “Which facets of enterprise SEO are underutilized and present the best opportunities for brands?” ​

Seth Besmertnik: “If you have a local component to your business, local SEO is a great area of opportunity this year. Sometimes we err on casting too wide of a net, while local SEO can have lower competition and higher conversion.

Searchers expect fast, specific, and relevant content. Be what they are looking for. Find local keywords to target and revamp your page to serve these search terms.

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Create specific content for each region that you conduct business.

Right now, we are also seeing a growing demand for real-time site auditing, monitoring, and alerts.

Marketers want to know what’s going on with their sites at any given moment – and not risk finding out about an issue weeks or months too late.

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We want to have the most up-to-date information now. Thankfully, recent technologies lean into that to deliver insights quickly.”

3. How AI Is Changing Search

Miranda Miller: “What are some of the more unique or exciting ways you’re seeing AI being used in SEO and marketing?”

Seth Besmertnik: “MUM has been such an exciting advancement for search because of the sheer volume of data it can process in seconds. Its impact has already been demonstrated through improved searches for vaccine information.

This is just the beginning of the transformation of how critical and timely information is exchanged; it’s truly exciting.

Another interesting AI improvement to the search experience is Passage Ranking, where Google delves into your content, identifies a question or specific point in your query, and retrieves a highlighted passage for review.

Passage ranking makes search faster as you are presented with highlighted answers quickly, and no longer have to hunt for content on a page.”

4. Optimizing Your Company Culture

Miranda Miller: “The Conductor Foundation has long been an extension of your organization, and I see that you created an Ethics Committee internally a few years ago, as well.

What tips do you have for leaders looking to improve their company culture?”

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Seth Besmertnik: “I have three tips for leaders to consider as they aim to improve company culture.”

Make space for everyone to be heard.

“When we initially explored what our Customer Policy would be, we invited all Conductors to raise their hands to join the discussion.

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From there, we hosted small group talks led by a facilitator to maximize the chances for people to truly express their thoughts and be heard, and to ensure that no one voice dominated the conversation.”

Optimize for diversity of thought.

“When we broke out into smaller discussions, we didn’t want echo chambers.

We surveyed people to understand their sentiments.

Using those results, we balanced each group with a mix of people with diverse viewpoints to foster healthy and effective dialogue.”

Don’t boil the ocean.

“Start small and understand that building a strong ethical culture is a continuous and evolving process.

Our initial Customer Policy is just a starting point, and we have made that clear to our organization.

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Use surveys and employee feedback channels to determine which issues are most important to your employees – and then start working with them to address those priorities.”

5. What’s Next For Conductor?

Miranda Miller: “Conductor recently raised $150M in your first round of funding, making you an independent startup once again.

What can you tell us about your company’s goals and what your users should expect of Conductor in the year ahead?”

Seth Besmertnik: “This is a major milestone for our entire industry, not just Conductor.

For much of the last decade, SEO has been both underfunded by the investment community and in marketing budgets.

Things are changing. Companies realize there is no more important marketing investment than getting found organically in unpaid channels like Google and YouTube and, as such, investors are following.

This funding will enable Conductor to keep the pedal to the metal on innovation and develop new products. It will create opportunities for us to pursue M&A and bring a better platform to our customers.

And, most importantly, it will enable Conductor to pursue our mission of empowering brands to transform their wisdom into marketing that helps people.”

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Featured Image: Courtesy of Conductor





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A Complete Google Search Console Guide For SEO Pros

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A Complete Google Search Console Guide For SEO Pros

Google search console provides data necessary to monitor website performance in search and improve search rankings, information that is exclusively available through Search Console.

This makes it indispensable for online business and publishers that are keen to maximize success.

Taking control of your search presence is easier to do when using the free tools and reports.

What Is Google Search Console?

Google Search Console is a free web service hosted by Google that provides a way for publishers and search marketing professionals to monitor their overall site health and performance relative to Google search.

It offers an overview of metrics related to search performance and user experience to help publishers improve their sites and generate more traffic.

Search Console also provides a way for Google to communicate when it discovers security issues (like hacking vulnerabilities) and if the search quality team has imposed a manual action penalty.

Important features:

  • Monitor indexing and crawling.
  • Identify and fix errors.
  • Overview of search performance.
  • Request indexing of updated pages.
  • Review internal and external links.

It’s not necessary to use Search Console to rank better nor is it a ranking factor.

However, the usefulness of the Search Console makes it indispensable for helping improve search performance and bringing more traffic to a website.

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How To Get Started

The first step to using Search Console is to verify site ownership.

Google provides several different ways to accomplish site verification, depending on if you’re verifying a website, a domain, a Google site, or a Blogger-hosted site.

Domains registered with Google domains are automatically verified by adding them to Search Console.

The majority of users will verify their sites using one of four methods:

  1. HTML file upload.
  2. Meta tag
  3. Google Analytics tracking code.
  4. Google Tag Manager.

Some site hosting platforms limit what can be uploaded and require a specific way to verify site owners.

But, that’s becoming less of an issue as many hosted site services have an easy-to-follow verification process, which will be covered below.

How To Verify Site Ownership

There are two standard ways to verify site ownership with a regular website, like a standard WordPress site.

  1. HTML file upload.
  2. Meta tag.

When verifying a site using either of these two methods, you’ll be choosing the URL-prefix properties process.

Let’s stop here and acknowledge that the phrase “URL-prefix properties” means absolutely nothing to anyone but the Googler who came up with that phrase.

Don’t let that make you feel like you’re about to enter a labyrinth blindfolded. Verifying a site with Google is easy.

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HTML File Upload Method

Step 1: Go to the Search Console and open the Property Selector dropdown that’s visible in the top left-hand corner on any Search Console page.

Screenshot by author, May 2022

Step 2: In the pop-up labeled Select Property Type, enter the URL of the site then click the Continue button.

Step 2Screenshot by author, May 2022

Step 3: Select the HTML file upload method and download the HTML file.

Step 4: Upload the HTML file to the root of your website.

Root means https://example.com/. So, if the downloaded file is called verification.html, then the uploaded file should be located at https://example.com/verification.html.

Step 5: Finish the verification process by clicking Verify back in the Search Console.

Verification of a standard website with its own domain in website platforms like Wix and Weebly is similar to the above steps, except that you’ll be adding a meta description tag to your Wix site.

Duda has a simple approach that uses a Search Console App that easily verifies the site and gets its users started.

Troubleshooting With GSC

Ranking in search results depends on Google’s ability to crawl and index webpages.

The Search Console URL Inspection Tool warns of any issues with crawling and indexing before it becomes a major problem and pages start dropping from the search results.

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URL Inspection Tool

The URL inspection tool shows whether a URL is indexed and is eligible to be shown in a search result.

For each submitted URL a user can:

  • Request indexing for a recently updated webpage.
  • View how Google discovered the webpage (sitemaps and referring internal pages).
  • View the last crawl date for a URL.
  • Check if Google is using a declared canonical URL or is using another one.
  • Check mobile usability status.
  • Check enhancements like breadcrumbs.
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Coverage

The coverage section shows Discovery (how Google discovered the URL), Crawl (shows whether Google successfully crawled the URL and if not, provides a reason why), and Enhancements (provides the status of structured data).

The coverage section can be reached from the left-hand menu:

CoverageScreenshot by author, May 2022

Coverage Error Reports

While these reports are labeled as errors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong. Sometimes it just means that indexing can be improved.

For example, in the following screenshot, Google is showing a 403 Forbidden server response to nearly 6,000 URLs.

The 403 error response means that the server is telling Googlebot that it is forbidden from crawling these URLs.

Coverage report showing 403 server error responsesScreenshot by author, May 2022

The above errors are happening because Googlebot is blocked from crawling the member pages of a web forum.

Every member of the forum has a member page that has a list of their latest posts and other statistics.

The report provides a list of URLs that are generating the error.

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Clicking on one of the listed URLs reveals a menu on the right that provides the option to inspect the affected URL.

There’s also a contextual menu to the right of the URL itself in the form of a magnifying glass icon that also provides the option to Inspect URL.

Inspect URLScreenshot by author, May 2022

Clicking on the Inspect URL reveals how the page was discovered.

It also shows the following data points:

  • Last crawl.
  • Crawled as.
  • Crawl allowed?
  • Page fetch (if failed, provides the server error code).
  • Indexing allowed?

There is also information about the canonical used by Google:

  • User-declared canonical.
  • Google-selected canonical.

For the forum website in the above example, the important diagnostic information is located in the Discovery section.

This section tells us which pages are the ones that are showing links to member profiles to Googlebot.

With this information, the publisher can now code a PHP statement that will make the links to the member pages disappear when a search engine bot comes crawling.

Another way to fix the problem is to write a new entry to the robots.txt to stop Google from attempting to crawl these pages.

By making this 403 error go away, we free up crawling resources for Googlebot to index the rest of the website.

Google Search Console’s coverage report makes it possible to diagnose Googlebot crawling issues and fix them.

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Fixing 404 Errors

The coverage report can also alert a publisher to 404 and 500 series error responses, as well as communicate that everything is just fine.

A 404 server response is called an error only because the browser or crawler’s request for a webpage was made in error because the page does not exist.

It doesn’t mean that your site is in error.

If another site (or an internal link) links to a page that doesn’t exist, the coverage report will show a 404 response.

Clicking on one of the affected URLs and selecting the Inspect URL tool will reveal what pages (or sitemaps) are referring to the non-existent page.

From there you can decide if the link is broken and needs to be fixed (in the case of an internal link) or redirected to the correct page (in the case of an external link from another website).

Or, it could be that the webpage never existed and whoever is linking to that page made a mistake.

If the page doesn’t exist anymore or it never existed at all, then it’s fine to show a 404 response.

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Taking Advantage Of GSC Features

The Performance Report

The top part of the Search Console Performance Report provides multiple insights on how a site performs in search, including in search features like featured snippets.

There are four search types that can be explored in the Performance Report:

  1. Web.
  2. Image.
  3. Video.
  4. News.

Search Console shows the web search type by default.

Change which search type is displayed by clicking the Search Type button:

Default search typeScreenshot by author, May 2022

A menu pop-up will display allowing you to change which kind of search type to view:

Search Types MenuScreenshot by author, May 2022

A useful feature is the ability to compare the performance of two search types within the graph.

Four metrics are prominently displayed at the top of the Performance Report:

  1. Total Clicks.
  2. Total Impressions.
  3. Average CTR (click-through rate).
  4. Average position.
Screenshot of Top Section of the Performance PageScreenshot by author, May 2022

By default, the Total Clicks and Total Impressions metrics are selected.

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By clicking within the tabs dedicated to each metric, one can choose to see those metrics displayed on the bar chart.

Impressions

Impressions are the number of times a website appeared in the search results. As long as a user doesn’t have to click a link to see the URL, it counts as an impression.

Additionally, if a URL is ranked at the bottom of the page and the user doesn’t scroll to that section of the search results, it still counts as an impression.

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High impressions are great because it means that Google is showing the site in the search results.

But, the meaning of the impressions metric is made meaningful by the Clicks and the Average Position metrics.

Clicks

The clicks metric shows how often users clicked from the search results to the website. A high number of clicks in addition to a high number of impressions is good.

A low number of clicks and a high number of impressions is less good but not bad. It means that the site may need improvements to gain more traffic.

The clicks metric is more meaningful when considered with the Average CTR and Average Position metrics.

Average CTR

The average CTR is a percentage representing how often users clicked from the search results to the website.

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A low CTR means that something needs improvement in order to increase visits from the search results.

A higher CTR means the site is performing well.

This metric gains more meaning when considered together with the Average Position metric.

Average Position

Average Position shows the average position in search results the website tends to appear in.

An average in positions one to 10 is great.

An average position in the twenties (20 – 29) means that the site is appearing on page two or three of the search results. This isn’t too bad. It simply means that the site needs additional work to give it that extra boost into the top 10.

Average positions lower than 30 could (in general) mean that the site may benefit from significant improvements.

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Or, it could be that the site ranks for a large number of keyword phrases that rank low and a few very good keywords that rank exceptionally high.

In either case, it may mean taking a closer look at the content. It may be an indication of a content gap on the website, where the content that ranks for certain keywords isn’t strong enough and may need a dedicated page devoted to that keyword phrase to rank better.

All four metrics (Impressions, Clicks, Average CTR, and Average Position), when viewed together, present a meaningful overview of how the website is performing.

The big takeaway about the Performance Report is that it is a starting point for quickly understanding website performance in search.

It’s like a mirror that reflects back how well or poorly the site is doing.

Performance Report Dimensions

Scrolling down to the second part of the Performance page reveals several of what’s called Dimensions of a website’s performance data.

There are six dimensions:

1. Queries: Shows the top search queries and the number of clicks and impressions associated with each keyword phrase.

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2. Pages: Shows the top-performing web pages (plus clicks and impressions).

3. Countries: Top countries (plus clicks and impressions).

4. Devices: Shows the top devices, segmented into mobile, desktop, and tablet.

5. Search Appearance: This shows the different kinds of rich results that the site was displayed in. It also tells if Google displayed the site using Web Light results and video results, plus the associated clicks and impressions data. Web Light results are results that are optimized for very slow devices.

6. Dates: The dates tab organizes the clicks and impressions by date. The clicks and impressions can be sorted in descending or ascending order.

Keywords

The keywords are displayed in the Queries as one of the dimensions of the Performance Report (as noted above). The queries report shows the top 1,000 search queries that resulted in traffic.

Of particular interest are the low-performing queries.

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Some of those queries display low quantities of traffic because they are rare, what is known as long-tail traffic.

But, others are search queries that result from webpages that could need improvement, perhaps it could be in need of more internal links, or it could be a sign that the keyword phrase deserves its own webpage.

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It’s always a good idea to review the low-performing keywords because some of them may be quick wins that, when the issue is addressed, can result in significantly increased traffic.

Links

Search Console offers a list of all links pointing to the website.

However, it’s important to point out that the links report does not represent links that are helping the site rank.

It simply reports all links pointing to the website.

This means that the list includes links that are not helping the site rank. That explains why the report may show links that have a nofollow link attribute on them.

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The Links report is accessible  from the bottom of the left-hand menu:

Links reportScreenshot by author, May 2022

The Links report has two columns: External Links and Internal Links.

External Links are the links from outside the website that points to the website.

Internal Links are links that originate within the website and link to somewhere else within the website.

The External links column has three reports:

  1. Top linked pages.
  2. Top linking sites.
  3. Top linking text.

The Internal Links report lists the Top Linked Pages.

Each report (top linked pages, top linking sites, etc.) has a link to more results that can be clicked to view and expand the report for each type.

For example, the expanded report for Top Linked Pages shows Top Target pages, which are the pages from the site that are linked to the most.

Clicking a URL will change the report to display all the external domains that link to that one page.

The report shows the domain of the external site but not the exact page that links to the site.

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Sitemaps

A sitemap is generally an XML file that is a list of URLs that helps search engines discover the webpages and other forms of content on a website.

Sitemaps are especially helpful for large sites, sites that are difficult to crawl if the site has new content added on a frequent basis.

Crawling and indexing are not guaranteed. Things like page quality, overall site quality, and links can have an impact on whether a site is crawled and pages indexed.

Sitemaps simply make it easy for search engines to discover those pages and that’s all.

Creating a sitemap is easy because more are automatically generated by the CMS, plugins, or the website platform where the site is hosted.

Some hosted website platforms generate a sitemap for every site hosted on its service and automatically update the sitemap when the website changes.

Search Console offers a sitemap report and provides a way for publishers to upload a sitemap.

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To access this function click on the link located on the left-side menu.

sitemaps

The sitemap section will report on any errors with the sitemap.

Search Console can be used to remove a sitemap from the reports. It’s important to actually remove the sitemap however from the website itself otherwise Google may remember it and visit it again.

Once submitted and processed, the Coverage report will populate a sitemap section that will help troubleshoot any problems associated with URLs submitted through the sitemaps.

Search Console Page Experience Report

The page experience report offers data related to the user experience on the website relative to site speed.

Search Console displays information on Core Web Vitals and Mobile Usability.

This is a good starting place for getting an overall summary of site speed performance.

Rich Result Status Reports

Search Console offers feedback on rich results through the Performance Report. It’s one of the six dimensions listed below the graph that’s displayed at the top of the page, listed as Search Appearance.

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Selecting the Search Appearance tabs reveals clicks and impressions data for the different kinds of rich results shown in the search results.

This report communicates how important rich results traffic is to the website and can help pinpoint the reason for specific website traffic trends.

The Search Appearance report can help diagnose issues related to structured data.

For example, a downturn in rich results traffic could be a signal that Google changed structured data requirements and that the structured data needs to be updated.

It’s a starting point for diagnosing a change in rich results traffic patterns.

Search Console Is Good For SEO

In addition to the above benefits of Search Console, publishers and SEOs can also upload link disavow reports, resolve penalties (manual actions), and security events like site hackings, all of which contribute to a better search presence.

It is a valuable service that every web publisher concerned about search visibility should take advantage of.

More Resources:

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Featured Image: bunny pixar/Shutterstock



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