Once upon a time, my life revolved around my high-school boyfriend.
Looking back, I want to hug insecure and super-needy Heather. I was so focused on if my boyfriend liked my hot spiral perm or my tubular neon pants, I didn’t focus on what worked for me.
I unknowingly cut myself off from so many options because I was so laser-focused on grabbing another person’s attention.
I tell this story because the latest Google news is giving me some 1980s-level high-school flashbacks.
Here’s the thing…
I know getting in Google’s good graces is like landing the hot person in high school. It’s tempting to do anything you can to get noticed and “beat out your competition.”
And once you DO have their attention — well, you do everything you can to keep yourself number one.
Often, this means casting aside the real priority (what works for YOUR site and YOUR readers) — and instead focusing on the ever-changing whims of a mercurial partner.
It’s exhausting. And long-term, it doesn’t work. And it cuts you off from other options that could help your site traffic grow.
I’m not saying you can’t have a healthy Google relationship. On the contrary, you can have it all — great Google positions and a well-rounded marketing campaign that includes email, social, and PR.
But that means you can’t exclusively focus on Google’s whims at the expense of your readers.
You don’t need to shove a bunch of keywords in your URLs.
You don’t need to delete older articles because they’ll “hurt your SEO.”
You don’t need to follow a funky Title formula “for Google.”
In fact, Google representatives have stated site owners should create high-quality content that gives readers good information. Not follow some sort of weird formula or “updated hack for 2021.”
If you find yourself racking your brain for the next Google hack, why not try something different that your readers will love (and may even boost your conversions).
Some ideas are:
- You could comb through your existing email nurture series and see how you could make it better. Or, if you don’t have an email nurture series, this is a great time to create one!
- You could review your sales landing pages and see how you could squeeze out a conversion rate boost.
- You could write thought-leadership content that you could repurpose (and yes, get Google rankings.) But more importantly, the content would position your company as a leading resource — and provide tremendous value.
- You could finally go all-in on ONE social platform rather than splitting your efforts and doing a haphazard job.
The point is, there’s always something you can do that has nothing to do with Google — and still has everything to do with your readers (and your bottom-line.)
You just have to remember that there are other marketing tactic fish in the sea.
(And no, I’m not posting a photo of my old-school spiral perm. That photo is locked away in a very special folder, far away from my other images.)
What do you think?
Are you way too into Google? Maybe it’s time for you to see other marketing platforms. Leave a comment and let me know.
Source: Heather Lloyd-Martin
YouTube CEO Defends Removal Of Dislike Counts
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki defends the removal of dislike counts on videos in her annual letter outlining the company’s priorities for the year.
Many may be disappointed to hear that revisiting the decision to remove dislikes is not in YouTube’s plans for the year, as Wojcicki stands firm in her belief that it’s best for the platform going forward.
This is quite a contrast from how a YouTube co-founder feels about the decision, saying it was a bad move.
Wojcicki repeats much of what we’ve heard before from YouTube spokespeople, saying dislikes were removed because they were sometimes a reflection of viewers’ opinion of the channel and not the video itself.
“We heard from many of you about the removal of public dislike counts on YouTube, and I know this decision was controversial. Some of you mentioned dislikes helped you decide what videos to watch.
However, people dislike videos for many reasons, including some that have nothing to do with the video, which means it’s not always an accurate way to select videos to watch.
That’s why dislikes were never shown on the home page, search results, or Up Next screens where users were most likely to choose a video.”
Further, Wojcicki repeats the standard company verbiage that it was best to remove dislikes sitewide due to select channels being targets of “dislike attacks.”
“We also saw the dislike count harming parts of our ecosystem through dislike attacks as people actively worked to drive up the number of dislikes on a creator’s videos.”
Removing dislikes allegedly has no impact on viewership, Wojcicki says.
However, that doesn’t take into account the impact to user experience.
“So we experimented with removing the dislike count across millions of videos over many months. Every way we looked at it, we did not see a meaningful difference in viewership, regardless of whether or not there was a public dislike count. And importantly, it reduced dislike attacks.”
The dislike button remains on the site and channels can find their dislike counts in YouTube Studio.
Dislikes will continue to be factored into YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, impacting the videos that are suggested to users on the home page.
Other Highlights From YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s Annual Letter
In Wojcicki’s letter we learn:
- YouTube Shorts has reached 5 trillion all time views.
- The number of channels making more than $10,000 a year is up 40% year over year.
- YouTube Channel Memberships and paid digital goods were purchased or renewed more than 110 million times in 2021.
YouTube’s key priorities for the year include YouTube Shorts, helping creators make more money, and improving the shopping experience.
In the coming months YouTube will expand on Shorts by introducing more ways to remix content.
YouTube will continue to allow creators to make money on Shorts through the Shorts Fund, which is now available in more than 100 countries.
The Shorts fund isn’t exclusive to creators in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). Over 40% of creators who received payment from the Shorts fund last year weren’t in the YPP.
This year, YouTube will test new ways for Shorts creators to build branded content through BrandConnect, a program that matches creators with brands.
Wojcicki highlights the following recent updates to content monetization, which will continue to be priorities this year:
- Pre-publish checks: Allows creators to find out if there’s a problem with copyright or ad-suitability before hitting publish.
- Updates to advertiser-friendly guidelines: Allows additional content to be monetized.
- More details about policy violations: The company is hiring more people to provide creators with specifics about policy violations, like timestamps of where a violation occurred.
YouTube will continue to work on a product tagging pilot program that gives viewers the chance to browse, learn about, and shop products featured in videos.
The company is in the early phases of testing how shopping can be integrated with Shorts.
Also in testing is a livestream shopping in the US, South Korea, and Brazil.
This year, YouTube will bring shopping to more creators and brands by partnering with commerce platforms like Shopify.
Source: YouTube Official Blog
Featured Image: Wachiwit/Shutterstock
Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor’s Links As Manipulated?
This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Arvin from Vancouver, Canada, who wrote:
“One of our competitors has gotten tons of backlinks from unrelated posts including forums like that of apache.org (and many other .edu sites, too). Even after updates like Penguin, why are they considered relevant backlinks by Google?”
Let me begin by saying, Arvin, that we are a sports-loving family.
I currently have four kids on seven teams.
I love the lessons that sports teach my kids.
And one of the big lessons I work to instill in my kids is never to blame the referees for a loss.
I’ve never seen any sporting event where, if one of the teams did something better, the referee’s call would never factor into the outcome.
This lesson translates well to SEO.
Focusing on your competitor’s SEO instead of improving your own is a frustrating waste of time.
But, as an SEO, it is important to understand the factors that are affecting the rankings of each keyword.
Like Anyone Could Ever Know
Unless you work at Google, you can never be certain about why one site is ranking over another.
We can run sophisticated mathematical models to try to understand the algorithm.
But the bottom line is we can’t ever know for sure.
In fact, I’m not even sure the folks that work at Google could unequivocally tell you why one site ranks over another.
The algorithm is so complex that no one person could ever decipher it completely.
How Do You Know The Links Are Relevant?
There is no way to know if the links that your competitor has built are being counted by Google.
Google knows a lot more than our tools tell us it knows.
None of the many backlink analysis tools available on the market today can tell you if Google is counting a link or isn’t.
These tools use data gleaned from their own analysis to determine if a link is relevant or if it is toxic.
Meanwhile, one piece of content or simple link from a strategic site could be boosting the site’s rankings.
Concentrate On Your Competitor’s Strengths
When you look at the “bad” things your competitors are doing, you may miss a tactic that could put you over the top for that keyword you just can’t get to rank.
Instead of looking at all the things you think they are getting away with, look at what they are doing that is legitimate that you aren’t doing.
Frequently, when a prospect comes to me screaming about the travesty of an “inferior” company is ranking above them, the real reason for the ranking usually has nothing to do with the perceived injustice.
But usually when we find the real reason – or at least what I think is the real reason – we uncover a technique that this prospect should double down on.
It could be that your competitor has more robust content around a specific subject.
It could be that your competitor is utilizing technical SEO techniques better than you are.
It could be a thousand things.
Bottom line – when doing competitive analysis, concentrate on discovering things your competitors are doing better than you are.
Look for techniques you can modify for your own use rather than concentrating on how your client is cheating.
Especially if you don’t plan to cheat yourself.
And I recommend you don’t.
Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
Featured image: VectorMine/Shutterstock
5 Key On-Page Optimizations For Local SEO
When trying to capture those “near me” results, these are definitely beneficial.
However on-page optimization also plays a significant factor in the signals that are sent to the search engines to influence your local rankings.
On-page SEO helps you rank higher in organic results and in MapPack results, as well.
Here are five on-page optimization tips to help boost your local visibility in search.
1. Make Sure Your NAP Is Consistent
NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number.
These three simple pieces of information can make or break your local SEO strategy.
Make sure you have these bits of information displayed prominently on your site. A footer is a great place to house your NAP since it will appear on every page.
Linking it to your Google Map is even better.
You can also display your NAP on service area pages and on your contact page in the body.
Consistency matters. It’s important that this key business information is the same anywhere potential customers find you online – and anywhere Google may be using it for comparison to ensure its accuracy.
This helps crawlers and bots to connect the dots between your Google Business Profile, website, and other local citations through the web.
Don’t get lost in minute details such as abbreviations over spelling out street names. It doesn’t really matter as long as you choose one and stick with it.
2. Spruce Up Your On-page Content
Your site content is an opportunity to show both your customers and the search engines that you are the authority in your area for the service you provide.
Include specific details such as landmarks and street names, in addition to the services you provide in this area. Make it clear why the customer would need your service in that specific area.
The more you sound like you belong there, the better the user experience for your customer.
Think as your customer thinks.
If you were looking for your service near you, what terms would you use?
Would you include your local metro, city, or even neighborhood?
The answers to these questions will help you determine the type of content you need and which keywords to include in this content.
These keywords will help you target both combination searches [dentist in Chicago] and GPS-based searches [dentist] while sitting in Chicago.
This is where the “near me” searches come into play.
Google matches the location of the user (using IP or geolocation) with sites that service the area near the user to provide these search results.
You can optimize these keywords on overall service pages or on targeted pages created specifically for the service and the targeted service area.
Using the dentist example, let’s say you offer teeth whitening services throughout the Chicago and Southern Wisconsin areas.
In addition to your main teeth whitening page, you may have individual pages for teeth whitening in Chicago, Evanston, Milwaukee, and Racine.
Each of those pages should be hyper-targeted and optimized for that specific location.
Don’t be shy here; this may be the landing page for many of those location-based searches.
Really tell your customer why they should trust you enough to click on either the next page or your CTA.
Don’t forget to do your research.
Customers who live in an area will know the common jargon and things that are native to the area.
If you come in with half-baked information, they won’t trust that you are authentic and truly care about their local area.
3. Optimize Header Tags
If you haven’t explored this subject yet, be sure to check out this resource on best practices in using header tags.
By creating local-based service pages, you have just created additional real estate to create highly targeted header tags including local-based keywords + your services.
Having great header tags gives both the visitors to your site and the crawlers a basic idea of the overall structure of the page and what to expect as they read through the content.
Be careful not to just stuff keywords into the header tags as this will be unnatural to both your visitors and the crawlers.
Keep it relevant.
4. Internal Linking
Use the power of internal linking throughout the site to educate both your customer and the search engines that you are available to serve customers in that local area.
As you are adding city names to your on-page content, you can use them as an anchor link to the service area pages.
You can also get a bit creative and create widgets, lists, and blocks that house multiple links to your service areas on top-level pages for a bit of SEO boosts.
This could be in the form of a “metro areas we service” block that includes the name of the metro, an image of the area, and a short excerpt.
The text would then link to the location page.
5. Local Business Schema
Schema markup can help give the search engines a better understanding of your site.
The local business schema type includes important and relevant information such as addresses, reviews, hours of operation, social media accounts, service area geo-shapes, and departments in your code that may not necessarily live in your on-page content.
This tells the bots and crawlers all about who you are, what you do, where you do it, and why others trust you without cramming it all on a page.
This also gives you a bit more control of the information you are putting out there instead of relying on the search engines to figure out different resources around the internet.
How Will I Know If This Is Working?
Once you have everything optimized and ready to go, you will want to know if this is really having an impact on your local SEO strategy.
There are many tools out there however we will take a quick look at a few.
Local Search Results Tools
There is nothing like looking at the SERPs directly unless you can look at the SERPs in a simulated environment that mimics the local area that you are targeting.
With these tools, you even have the option to view Google Maps, select options such as desktop and mobile, and get as granular as the zip code level.
Geo-Grid Local Ranking Tools
Geo-grid local ranking tools like Local Falcon and Local Viking are a bit more visual and monitor the map results within a selected area.
These tools are great because you can actually schedule periodic scans that will capture a snapshot of your results and keep a history of how well your site has performed locally on the maps throughout time.
Since these scans are also keyword-based, it’s also an effective way to monitor optimizations within your content and title tags.
Google Business Profile Analytics
There’s nothing like getting information directly from the horse’s mouth.
When making optimizations, if successful, you should see a boost in your Google Business Profile metrics, whether those are click-throughs to your site, calls, or requests for driving directions.
As your visibility increases, you should naturally see an increase in traffic.
Remember when optimizing for on-page local SEO, keep it simple and relevant to your business.
Once customers see that you are providing what they are looking for in the location that they desire, the rest is natural.
It is your job to make sure that you are providing them with the right information.
Even with the rapid changes within the local SEO space, a solid on-page strategy is a winner for both you and your customers.
Featured Image: MaDedee/Shutterstock
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