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Optimizing For The Human Mind With Machine Learning

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Optimizing For The Human Mind With Machine Learning


We’ve been talking with search industry pros and innovators about persistent challenges, trending opportunities, and the technologies people and companies are using to stay relevant in competitive search results.

One trend driving massive advancements in search technology is the shift from keywords to data that better represents the meaning of the query, and what’s known about it.

Keyword search has been driving content discovery since 1230 AD. That’s when French cardinal and biblical commentator Cardinal Hugh de St Cher completed the first known index in history.

Vector search marks a major shift from this traditional method of information retrieval to a future in which all of the complex data that makes up modern content assets can be put to work.

So what do you need to know about it right now?

We reached out to Edo Liberty, the former head of Amazon’s AI lab and now CEO of Pinecone, for a primer on vector search and why you may want to have the associated technologies on your radar.

We asked Liberty:

  • How will vector search redefine traditional keyword search?
  • How would you explain vector search to a 5-year-old?
  • What are some of the challenges that you faced using ML algorithms for Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers, and how did you overcome them?
  • What is Pinecone and what does it do?
  • What tips or advice do you have for SEO beginners who are just stepping into the world of ML and AI?

Let’s start with this – why is natural language processing (NLP) so important to the future of SEO, and how can marketers prepare for what’s next?

We’ve Burned The Ships Of Keyword Search

Edo Liberty: “Just as SEOs mastered the PageRank algorithm, they now need to know about NLP in order to succeed and beat the competition.

Unlike PageRank, however, the field of NLP is growing fast and has thousands of contributors.

It’s going to take more effort than following Matt Cutts (from Google) on Twitter and tracking SERP changes.

Thankfully, although NLP is a more complicated topic, it is not shrouded in mystery like PageRank is.

A lot of the work on NLP is being done in the open, with free and abundant research papers, open-source software, and no-cost online courses on NLP.

One thing is clear about NLP: It’s here to stay.

It’s far from perfect, but it’s improving fast, and the big tech companies have burned the ships of keyword search and there is no going back.”

Vector Search Enables Us To Search The Way We Speak

How will vector search redefine traditional keyword search?

Edo Liberty:Vector search doesn’t redefine keyword search; it replaces it whole-cloth.

Instead of working with keywords – and their synonyms and misspellings – vector search works with vector embeddings.

That’s a piece of data that represents the meaning of the search phrase along with other information known about the query or the user.

(To a human, the vector embedding is unrecognizable and just looks like a long array of numbers.)

This representation of the search phrase and the user is then used to sort through massive collections of embeddings that represent other content and user preferences to find the most relevant result.

From the user’s perspective, this means they can search the way they speak.

They no longer need to learn the quirks and syntaxes of search engines.

From the SEO’s perspective, this means they can truly focus on themes and topics without worrying about precise keywords.”

How Would You Explain Vector Search To A 5-year-old?

Edo Liberty: “Our article explaining vector search basics comes close.

The ELI5 version, as I’ve practiced on my own family, is this: If I say ‘Italian food,’ you might think of pizza or pasta.

You’ve learned that those things are related because you remember eating pizza at an Italian restaurant or learning that pasta is popular in Italy.

But a computer never learned that. So the phrase ‘Italian food’ means exactly that and doesn’t contain information to say it’s related to pasta or pizza.

So, when I ask a computer to search for an ‘Italian restaurant,’ it might leave out the pizza places.

Machine learning is a way of helping computers understand the meaning of what we say or type.

And vector search is a way for those computers to search through everything they know, based on meaning and not exact words.

So now, if I ask the computer to recommend an Italian place, it might suggest your favorite pizza place just like you would.

Organizations can finally focus on creating and organizing content for humans.

There are many thousands of scientists and engineers working tirelessly to make ML and NLP resemble the human mind.

Do you really want to go against that? The winning strategy for SEO is to optimize for the human mind.”

Overcoming Challenges In Machine Learning

What are some of the challenges that you faced using ML algorithms for Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers, and how did you overcome them?

Edo Liberty: “I can’t speak about specific projects or challenges from AWS. I can say more broadly, from my experience, I saw that ML algorithms are no longer the bottlenecks.

To be sure, they are far from perfect, and there’s a lot of work to be done, but that work is happening at breakneck speed.

The next challenge is in running those algorithms at the scale needed to support consumer products and enterprise applications.

Those representations I mentioned earlier, vector embeddings, are computationally costly to search through.

An index of just 1M items (vector embeddings) already requires specialized software along with careful tuning; an index of 100M items requires specialized software and infrastructure; an index of 1B or more items requires you to be Google or Amazon.

(As an aside, this is why I started Pinecone: To make it easy for engineering teams to add vector search to their applications.)”

What Is Pinecone?

What is Pinecone and what does it do?

Edo Liberty: Today, Pinecone makes it easy for engineers to build fast, fresh, and filtered vector search into their applications.

It gives engineering teams the search infrastructure needed to run vector search at scale, all packaged in a managed service with an easy API.

(We’ve dropped the version numbers because the releases come fast, and because as a managed service, users always get the latest version and don’t need to worry about updates.)

Working with algorithms is extremely fun and absolutely worth the challenges.

With vector search, we’re at the intersection of cutting-edge algorithms, database architectures, and serverless applications.

And, we get to see our customers apply this technology to products that are revolutionizing both consumer and enterprise applications like semantic search, recommendation systems, IT security, wearables, computer vision, and more.

Getting Started In ML & AI

What tips or advice do you have for SEO beginners who are just stepping into the worlds of ML and AI?

Edo Liberty: “Don’t feel intimidated. Even the brightest researchers in this field are ‘figuring things out.’

Learning about AI/ML beyond the surface-level articles will make you a better SEO professional, and there are plenty of free resources that help you do that.

For those interested in careers in this field, we are currently hiring across all teams: engineering, research, customer success, sales, marketing, and operations.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Courtesy of Pinecone





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SEO

Yelp Details Removal Of Paid Review Groups & Lead Generators

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Yelp Details Removal Of Paid Review Groups & Lead Generators

Yelp published its 2022 Trust and Safety Report detailing actions it took against lead generators, fake review groups and businesses incentivizing reviews.

Yelp Cracks Down on Paid Review Groups

The report details the proactive approach to chasing down online review groups and breaking them up.

Among the tactics Yelp used is identifying IP addresses used for fake positive reviews, as well as connecting users to groups that are arranging paid reviews.

Yelp’s Trust and Safety report revealed that it fights online review exchanges by identifying the groups on social media and working together with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to break them up.

In a 2021 blog post about their recommendation software, Yelp wrote that they monitor online groups and even conduct sting operations to catch the fake review rings.

Yelps newly released Trust and Safety report explains:

“Yelp strictly prohibits offering incentives or other compensation in exchange for writing, changing or removing a review.

To combat this on and off our platform, our User Operations team did the following in 2022:

– Issued 415+ warnings to businesses for engaging in compensated or incentivized review behaviors.

– As part of our broader Consumer Alerts program, we placed 88 Compensated Activity Alerts on business pages after receiving evidence someone offered cash or other incentives in exchange for posting, updating or removing a review.

We also placed 405 Suspicious Review Activity Alerts after our systems detected a large number of positive reviews coming from a single IP address, or reviews from users who may be connected to a group that coordinates incentivized reviews.

Made 1,100+ reports to third-party sites, such as Twitter (150 reports were made by Yelp), Facebook (130 reports), Instagram (110 reports) and LinkedIn (70 reports), to warn them of content from more than 900 suspicious groups, posts or individuals we found on their sites participating in online review exchanges.

Third-party platforms took action on content at issue in approximately 77% of our reports.”

Yelp Closes Thousands of Fraudulent Accounts

The Trust and Safety report reports that Yelp closed over 77,000 user accounts for terms of service violations and suspected deceptive and abusive actions.

They also rejected over 32,800 potential new business pages for being associated with spammy activities that violated Yelp’s policies.

An interesting revelation is how they came down hard on lead generation businesses whose business model is to create fake business listings and then sell leads to local businesses.

Yelp writes:

“Nearly 2,000 business pages removed for being associated with lead generators, violating Yelp’s policies.

‘Lead generators’ create fake business pages then take the customer leads generated and auction them to other contractors.

This behavior tricks people into paying exorbitant costs for services, targeting vulnerable consumers who are often allowing service providers into their home (locksmiths, movers, home cleaning, etc.).”

Yelp User Operations Team Content Removals

The report notes that 2% of all Yelp contributions were removed by their user operations  team in 2022. That includes reviews, photos, review up-voting, and other forms of contributions.

Yelp Trust and Safety

The integrity of reviews is important to a recommender ecosystem like Yelp. Yelp uses a recommendation software as their first line of defense against deceptive behavior. The software itself is dynamic in that it keeps tabs on the users and businesses as they engage with the platform.

Yelp writes:

“The recommendation software is entirely automated and applies the same objective rules to every business. The reviews that are recommended for any business can change over time as Yelp’s software learns more about the reviewers and the business.”

It also employs human moderators in their User Operations team to follow up and manually review reports generated by users, businesses or their automated systems.

Read Yelp’s Trust and Safety Report for 2022

Featured image by Shutterstock/II.studio



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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

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7 Steps to Grow Your Traffic & Sales

Content marketing has become one of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to get traffic to a website. When done right, the traffic keeps coming long after you stop actively promoting it.

If you own an e-commerce website and want to learn how to utilize blogging to grow your brand and increase your sales, this is the guide for you.

I’ve personally grown blogs to over 250,000 monthly visitors, and I’ve worked with dozens of clients in the e-commerce space to help them do the same. Here’s an overview of my seven-step process to starting and growing an e-commerce blog. 

But first…

Why start a blog on your e-commerce site?

Creating a blog has a whole host of benefits for e-commerce websites:

  • It can help you move visitors along your marketing funnel so they eventually buy.
  • You’re able to rank highly for keywords on Google that your product pages could never rank for but that are still important for building brand awareness and finding customers.
  • It can help you grow your email list.
  • You’re able to continue to get traffic without constantly spending money on ads.
  • It provides many opportunities to link to your product and category pages to help them rank better on the SERPs.

If you don’t know what some of these things mean, don’t worry—I’ll explain them along the way. But for now, let’s take a look at some e-commerce blogs that are working well right now so you can see the end goal.

Examples of successful e-commerce blogs

Three of my favorite examples of e-commerce websites using blogging are:

  1. Solo Stove
  2. Flatspot
  3. v-dog

Solo Stove comes in at the top of my list due to its excellent use of videos, photos, and helpful information on the blog. It also does search engine optimization (SEO) really well, bringing in an estimated 329,000 monthly visits from Google (data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer).

Overview of Solo Stove, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

In fact, it’s grown its brand to such a level of popularity that it even created search demand for keywords that include its brand name in them, then created blog posts to rank for those keywords:

Ahrefs' keyword report for Solo Stove

But that’s not all it did. Its blog posts also rank for other keywords in its marketing funnel, such as how to have a mosquito-free backyard or how to change your fire pit’s colors.

E-commerce blogging keyword examples

Then on its blog posts, it uses pictures of its fire pit:

Solo Stove blog post example

Ranking for these keywords does two things:

  1. It introduces Solo Stove’s brand to people who may eventually purchase a fire pit from it.
  2. It gives the brand the opportunity to promote its products to an audience who may not have even known it existed, such as the “mosquito free backyard” keyword.

Moving on, skater brand Flatspot also does blogging well, with a cool ~80,000 monthly visitors to its blog just from search engines.

Overview of Flatspot, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

One of its tactics is to piggie-back on the popularity of new shoe releases from major brands like Nike, then use that traffic to get readers to buy the shoes directly from it:

Flatspot promoting Nike SB shoes in blog post

Finally, let’s look at v-dog—a plant-powered kibble manufacturer that gets ~8,000 visits per month.

Overview of v-dog, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

My favorite post it’s done is its guide to making wet dog food at home, which ranks for the featured snippet for “how to make wet dog food”:

Google search results for "how to make wet dog food"

This guide directly promotes v-dog’s product to make wet dog food. So people who search the query will be introduced to its brand and potentially buy its product to make their own wet dog food at home.

And there you have it—three examples of blogging for e-commerce that’s working right now. With that, let’s talk about how you can start your own blog.

Seven steps to start and grow an e-commerce blog

In my 10+ years as a professional SEO and freelance writer, I’ve worked with over a dozen e-commerce stores to help them grow their website traffic. I’ve also run several of my own e-commerce websites.

In that time, I’ve distilled what works into an easy-to-follow seven-step process:

1. Do some keyword research

I never start a blog without first doing keyword research. Not only does this make coming up with blog topic ideas much easier, but it also ensures that every blog post you write has a chance to show up in Google search results and bring you free, recurring traffic.

While we wrote a complete guide to keyword research, here’s a quick and dirty strategy for finding keywords fast:

First, find a competitor who has a blog. Let’s say you’re selling dog food just like v-dog—if I search for “dog food” on Google, I can see some of my competition:

Google search results for "dog food"

At this point, I look for relevant competitors. For example, Chewy and American Kennel Club are good competitors for research. But I’ll skip sites like Amazon and Walmart, as they are just too broad to get relevant data from.

Next, plug the competitor’s URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and click on the Organic keywords report to see the keywords its website ranks for on Google:

Organic keywords report for chewy.com

In this example, it has over 700,000 keywords. That’s way too many to sort through. Let’s add some filters to make things easier:

  • First, set the KD (Keyword Difficulty) score to a maximum of 30 to find easier-to-rank-for keywords.
  • Then we can exclude brand name keywords using the “Keywords” dropdown, set it to “Doesn’t contain,” and type in the brand name.
  • If the website has /blog/ in its blog post URLs, you can also set a filter in the “URL” dropdown to “Contains” and type “blog” in the text field. In Chewy’s case, it doesn’t do that, but it does use a subdomain for its blog, which we can search specifically.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Ahrefs keyword filters

In the case of chewy.com, this only shaved it down to 619,000 keywords. That’s still a lot—let’s filter it down further. We can apply the following:

  • Minimum monthly search volume of 100
  • Only keywords in positions #1–10
  • Only show keywords containing “dog,” since my example website only sells dog food, not all animal food

Here’s what it looks like with these new filters applied:

Filtering down Ahrefs' Organic keywords report

Now I can find some more related keywords like “what to feed a dog with diarrhea” or “can dogs eat cheese.”

Data for keyword "what to feed a dog with diarrhea"

In addition to picking interesting keywords, you can also get an idea of how to become a topical authority on the topic of dog food by searching “dog food” in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Overview for "dog food," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This keyword is extremely difficult to rank on page #1 for. However, if we go to the Related terms report and set the KD to a max of 30, we can see keyword ideas that are still relevant but may be easier to rank high in the search results.

List of keywords related to dog food

Go through and click the gray + sign next to any keywords you may want to target to add them to your list of potential article ideas. 

2. Create templates for future blog posts

One of the first things I do when I create a new blog is to establish a repeatable template that I use for every post. Typically, it looks something like this:

Blog post template example

It has breadcrumb navigation to help with SEO and navigation, the article title and the date it was last updated, then a short intro with an image on the right to make the lines shorter (and easier to skim). Finally, I include a clickable table of contents to help with navigation, then get into the article.

Within the article itself, I will use headers (H2s) and subheaders (H3s) to make my content easier to skim and to help Google understand what each section is about.

You can make templates for every kind of post you plan on creating—such as list posts, ultimate guides, tutorials, etc.—and reuse them for every post you ever create. It’s a huge time-saver.

While you’re at it, you should also create a standard operating procedure (SOP) that you go through for every article. This could include writing guidelines, what to do with images, formatting, tone, etc.

3. Outline your article

I never dive into writing an article without outlining it first. An outline ensures the article is well structured and planned before you start writing, and it bakes SEO right into your writing process. It’s another big time-saver.

Typically, you want this outline to include:

  • Potential title or titles of the article
  • Target keyword
  • Brief description of the article angle
  • Links to competing articles on Google for research
  • Headers and subheaders, with brief descriptions of the section as needed

Here’s a look at part of an example outline I’ll either send to my writers or write myself:

Content outline example

I wrote a guide to outlining content, which you can follow here for the full step-by-step process.

4. Write, optimize, and publish your post

Next up, it’s time to write your article. As you write more articles, you’ll find what works for you—but you may find it easier to fill in the sections then go back and write the intro once the article is finished.

Here are a few writing tips to help you become a better writer:

  • Ditch the fluff – If a word isn’t needed to bring a point across, cut it.
  • Keep your paragraphs short – Two to three lines per paragraph is plenty, especially for mobile readers where the screen width is shorter.
  • Use active voice over passive voiceHere is a guide for that.
  • Make your content easy to skim – Include photos and videos and make use of headers and bulleted lists to share key points.

Once you’ve written your article, do some basic on-page SEO to help it rank higher in search results:

  • Ensure your article has one H1 tag – The title of the article.
  • Have an SEO-friendly URL – Include the keyword you’re targeting, but keep it short and easy to read.
  • Link to other pages on your site using proper anchor textHere’s a guide for that.
  • Ensure your images have alt text – This is the text Google uses to read what the image is about, as well as what is shown to readers if the image can’t render.

Finally, publish your post and give yourself a pat on the back.

5. Add product promotions, email opt-ins, and internal links

Before you promote your content, there are a few things you can do to squeeze more ROI from it—namely, you should add a way for people to either push them through the funnel toward purchasing a product or subscribe to your email list. I’ll give an example of each.

First, Solo Stove wrote an article titled “Ambiance Is A Girl’s Best Friend,” where it promotes its tiny Solo Stove Mesa as a way of improving a space’s ambiance: 

How to promote your products in a blog post

Beyond directly promoting your products in the articles, you can also add email opt-ins that give people a percentage off their orders. You may lose a little money on the initial order. But once you get someone’s email address, you can promote to them again and get multiple orders from them.

For example, Primary sells kids’ clothing and uses this email pop-up to promote money off its products after you spend a certain amount of time on its website:

Email opt-in pop-up offering a discount on first order

Just make sure your discount code only works once per unique IP address. You can learn more about how to do that here if you use Shopify.

Finally, when you publish an article, you should make it a point to add internal links to your new article from older articles. 

This won’t be as important for your first few because you won’t have a ton of articles. But as your blog grows, it’s an important part of the process to ensure your readers (and Google) can still find your articles and that they aren’t buried deep on your site.

Refer to our guide to internal linking to learn more about this step.

6. Promote your content

At this point, your content is live and optimized for both conversions and search engines. Now it’s time to get some eyeballs on it.

We have an entire guide to content promotion you should read, but here are some highlights:

  • Share the article on all of your social media channels
  • Send the article to your email list if you have one
  • Share your content in relevant communities (such as relevant Reddit forums)
  • Consider running paid ads to your article

There’s a lot more you can do to promote a piece, including reaching out to other blog owners. But I won’t cover all of that here.

The other important piece of promoting your content is getting other website owners to link to your new articles. This is called link building, and it’s a crucial part of SEO.

There are many ways to build links. Some of the most popular include:

Link building is an entire subject on its own. If you’re serious about blogging and getting search traffic, it’s a crucial skill to learn.

7. Scale your efforts

The final step in blogging for e-commerce is scaling up your efforts by creating repeatable processes for each step and hiring people to do the tasks you yourself don’t need to be doing.

You can hire freelance writers, outreach specialists, editors, and more. You can put together a full SEO team for your business.

If you’re not in a place to start hiring, there are still things you can do to squeeze more output from your time, such as creating the SOPs I mentioned earlier.

Slutgiltiga tankar

Blogging is one of the best ways to increase your e-commerce store’s traffic and sales. It costs less than traditional paid advertising and can continue to provide a return long after a post has been published.

This guide will hopefully help you start your e-commerce blog and publish your first post. But remember that success with blogging doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it takes three to six months on average to see any results from your SEO efforts. Keep learning and be patient.

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

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The 5-Step Formula To Forecasting Your SEO Campaign Results

Looking to launch a successful digital marketing campaign for your business?

How do you select the best SEO keywords to expand your brand’s reach?

What can you do to determine the most effective ways to allocate your marketing budget?

Facing these tough decisions can put you on your heels if you’re not equipped with the right information.

Luckily, there’s a new way to leverage your company’s data to estimate your ROI and take the guesswork out of your next campaign.

With a simple mathematical formula, you can predict the amount of traffic and revenue you’ll generate before even setting your strategy in motion – and you can do it all in just five steps.

Want to learn how?

Join our next webinar with Sabrina Hipps, VP of Partner Development, and Jeremy Rivera, Director of Content Analysis at CopyPress, to find out how to analyze specific keywords and forecast your SEO results.

Not too fond of math? Don’t worry – we’ll provide access to free tools and a downloadable calculator to help automate this process and save you time.

Key Takeaways From This Webinar: 

  • Learn how forecasting your SEO can help you build better campaigns and choose the right keywords.
  • Get step-by-step instructions to predict revenue and website traffic for your next SEO campaign.
  • Access a free handout, resources, and online tools that will save you time and supercharge your content strategy.

In this session, we’ll share real-life examples and provide guidance for the decision-makers within your organization to start getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

By better understanding the market potential of your product or service, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions and effectively maximize your ROI.

Sign up for this webinar and discover how you can secure a sufficient marketing budget and use SEO keywords to forecast the results of your future content campaigns.



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