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Google’s John Mueller confirmed that Google has not made use of rel=prev/next tags for some time. But should we still implement pagination?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why pagination is still important and how you should implement it.

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Resources Transcript

So recently, Google’s John Mueller tweeted that Google has not made use of rel=prev/next tags for some time. But my assessment is that the reason they did this is because the quality of the tagging web developers were using was probably poor on average.

This is actually a parallel to what happened with rel=author tags back in 2014, when Google discontinued support for those. Back at that time, we actually did a study on how well those were implemented by people at the time. We’ll share that in the show notes below.

This study shows that 71% of the sites with prominent readership made no attempt to implement authorship or implemented it incorrectly. Many of those who had implemented it didn’t understand exactly how to do it and they just got it wrong.

That said, what should we do to support paginating page sequences now? If you have prev/next tags, you could still use them on your page if you want. Google won’t use them. Bing might use them—we don’t actually know for sure. But if you are going to keep them on your pages, make sure they are implemented correctly. You do have to take the time to learn how to follow the specs carefully and get it right.

Putting aside the prev/next tags for a moment, let’s think about how you should implement pagination otherwise on your page. Our first preference is to implement that pagination in clean HTML tags that are visible in the source code for the pages on your site—something that is easy for the search engines to parse.

The second choice would be to implement it in a way that isn’t clinging to the source code, but you can actually see it in the DOM or the Document Object Model. That means that your links are going to be anchor tags with a valid href attribute, not span or button elements with attached JavaScript click events.

Paginated pages should also canonical to themselves—that’s a good reinforcing signal. These are the things that you need. The reason why this is still important is that pagination is something that still matters to users. If you’ve got 200 products in a particular category, you probably don’t want to show 200 products on one single page. Breaking that up into many pages is actually a very good way to make the content more parsable and readable and usable for users. This is really why pagination is still important. But make sure you get that pagination implemented the correct way as I’ve outlined in today’s video.

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More and more people are comfortable interacting with devices using their voice. How does that change the world of marketing?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares key insights from Google on how voice assistance is changing our world.

We Live in the Age of Voice Assistance (Here’s Why) - YouTube

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Eric: Mark, usually I’m the one talking about the rise of digital personal assistants and voice interactions with devices, but you had the opportunity to cover a keynote session on this topic at SMX West. Share with us what you learned.

Mark: We heard from Marco Lenoci, who’s the head of Google Product Partnership for the Google Assistant product, and he not only shared with us what Google Assistant can do now and what they’re working on for the future, but also the implications of the rise of voice assistance for search marketers.

Eric: I think one of the important things for people watching this show to be clear on is where we are with the volume of voice interactions with devices, which I call it rather than voice search, by the way, because it’s not all really search.

We’re not at the point where voice has taken over the world yet, and it’s important to understand that, but by 2020, it should be a significant percentage, which might be 5% or 10% of interactions with devices. That’s enough to matter to a lot of brands, and if you’re going to be ready for that, you have to get going on it now.

With that context, why don’t you go over some of the implications?

Mark: Okay, the things Marco shared with us. So, he gave us five key insights at the end of his talk, and that’s what I want to concentrate on.

I think one of the most important things is that we’re seeing that voice is about action. You said it before, it’s not all search, and that’s true.

In fact, Google data shows that there’s 40 times more action-oriented interactions in voice than in search. So, people using voice with devices are about doing things, getting things done. It’s not about finding the coffee, which is what you would be looking for on search, but ordering the coffee and expecting it to be ready when you arrive at the coffee shop. So, start to think about the actions your customers want to take: less passive discovery, more action to completion.

People also expect more conversations with their devices. In fact, Google data shows 200 times more conversations going on in voice assistance and voice-assisted devices than in search. So, this means we’re moving from keywords to something more dynamic. Keywords are still important, search is still so important, but in this world… Well, let me give you an example.

Doing a traditional search, you’d be searching for something like ‘weather’, and then your zip code, right? But now, we’d ask things to a voice-assisted device or a digital personal assistant like, “Do I need an umbrella today?”

We expect that device to understand, when we say, “Do I need an umbrella today?”, I’m asking a question about the weather. There’s also an expectation that the location is understood. Your device knows where you are, so the assistant should know where you are, and what time of day it is, and as I said, that ‘an umbrella’ implies, “Is it going to rain today?”

Marco told us that there are actually 5,000 ways users can ask for an alarm to be set on Google Assistant, just as an example.

Also, he told us that smart screens are changing everything, and by smart screens, we mean devices that interact by voice but still have a display of some type. Google says that nearly half of the people who are using voice also use touch input on a screen together with it.

So some things still need to be seen. We still live in a multi-modal world. That’s the way we interact as humans. That’s the way we expect these devices to interact.

The fourth insight is that daily routines matter. These devices are becoming more and more able to know things like the time of day, where I am, this is what I’d usually be doing that time of day. For example, this is the time I usually drive home, so do I want to hear my favorite podcast?

Developers need to be thinking in terms of day and time to be there when users need them most. The concept of micro-moments in marketing takes on a whole new context in this.

The fifth and final insight is that voice is universal. We already know how to do it. Keyboards and tapping are still not totally natural for humans. Voice is.

Eric: Yes, that’s really interesting, and some of the research that I dug up in my investigations into voice shows just how universal voice is. People don’t realize, for example, that a baby in a mother’s womb can recognize the mother’s voice as distinct from other voices. So, it’s actually something that’s innate.

Anyway, cool insights overall. What practical actions should we be taking as digital marketers?

Mark: Lenoci shared three takeaways.

The first is, show up. Be there. Be involved with this. Make sure your content, services, and apps are available on Google and across its various services, including developing things for Google Assistant, like we’ve been doing at Perficient Digital, and Amazon Alexa, and all these different things that we’re working with now.

The second is, speed up. Don’t just create experiences. Think about the micro-moments where you can assist. So, “I want to know, I want to play, I want to buy this, I want to go here,” being present at those moments. How can you make that easier and faster for your customers and prospects?

And the third takeaway is, wise up. Take advantage of the info coming out from Google and others who are involved in this marketplace about how to build for that world.

Eric: Thanks, Mark. And your suggestion about the focus on helping people in the moment, right now, is a really important one. That’s how these technologies get adapted by people or adopted by people, really, is when the technology makes it so much easier than the alternatives.

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What are the fundamental practices that create SEO success? 

 In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shares a case study that demonstrates the effectiveness of “blocking and tackling” SEO. 

On-Page and Off-Page SEO Working Together Equals Success: Here’s Why - YouTube

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Mark: Eric, have the most important fundamentals of effective SEO really changed much?  

Eric: You know, the basic hard work of technical SEO combined with a content and promotional strategy is really still fundamental to success. So, I’d say not really.  

Mark: How about an example of where those fundamentals paid off for a business?  

Eric: Sure, I am happy to do that. The example I’m going to use is an online travel company that we worked with that was looking to differentiate itself from big players. It’s actually a new entry in the market.  

A few years back they were trying to figure out how to carve out their own niche even though they were a late entrant. How they did that is with more authoritative local content and a really user-oriented experience around each marketplace.  

One of the fun things they did is they didn’t try to cover the whole globe or even the whole US. They targeted specific regions of the globe and went very, very deep and created awesome experiences around those marketplaces. That included things like partnerships with local tour guides and getting better content from those people.  

What they really illustrated very well is that it’s better to be excellent at a few things than mediocre at many. So, rather than thinking that you have to cover the entire marketplace, that focus that they brought was really, really great for them.  

They also structured their content in a way where they started small and scaled it over time. So, the local experts, as I mentioned, we’re driving the content creation and really putting out the kind of stuff you’d never get from a garden-variety travel writer.  

And, of course, they did the basic SEO fundamentals really well. They had good site audits repeated regularly. They continue to look at the right site structure, the right taxonomy. So, the basics of their SEO underpinnings were really sound.  

Because of the localized content, they were able to attract attention in local markets really well. That resulted for them in links from within the specific countries that they were recovering because they were writing about stuff that other people weren’t doing. 

Mark: Great, but did the plan produce any measurable results?  

Eric: You know, it really did. So, it had a really steady growth in organic traffic as you see here on the chart we’re showing right now.  

I think the basic SEO fundamentals really worked very, very well, but in this world today, some things are a little bit different. The level of commitment you need to your user experience and user value as a primary focus is probably more than we might’ve thought about 10 years ago. But the underpinnings— sound site architecture, creating great content, an effective outreach and promotion plan—to be honest, are the same as they ever were. 

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One of the age-old debates in SEO is whether or not it matters how much content you publish or how frequently. 

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shows evidence that having more content can be an advantage, but you must never sacrifice quality to get there. 

Publish Frequently (But with Quality) for SEO Wins! Here’s Why - YouTube

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Mark: Eric, here at Perficient Digital, we’ve developed advanced content marketing strategies for major brands that drive brand awareness and consumer interests, but we also use that content to gain big SEO wins for those businesses. Now, a question I hear a lot about that is, “Does it matter how frequently a company publishes content, at least for SEO purposes?”

Eric: Sure. It can make a difference, but it’s not the only factor.

Mark: What do you mean by that?

Eric: To answer that, let me tell you a tale of four sites, all in one single marketplace.

The chart that you’re looking at right now shows the number of content updates in a year for four companies in the same industry.

So, site one in this chart, even though the bar looks really, really tiny, is actually publishing three pieces of content a month, and site two is actually publishing 16 pieces of content a month, which most people would consider a lot. I certainly would. But, site three published almost 100 articles a month, while site four was publishing 500 articles per month.

Now, let’s look at the next chart.

This is a Searchmetrics search visibility chart over the past two years, and the green line is the brand that published five times more than the others, the biggest volume brand. It started out at last place. In fact, its site launched two years ago and by August 2018 had established itself as the dominant player in the market.

I believe that was solely on the back of the volume of content they were publishing, and their coverage of the marketplace with a great deal of depth and breadth.

Mark: That’s it then. That’s it, folks. The magic secret to SEO, outpublish your competitors. We’ll see you…

Eric: Not so fast. Let me tell you the rest of the story.

When you look at this chart, in September of 2018, the site that was publishing 500 articles a month suddenly sees a big drop in its SEO visibility.

So, it looks like that the September/October updates hit this site really hard. And like the rest of the updates that Google put out in 2018, there seemed to be this continual focus on content quality and how well you met user intent and those sorts of things.

Mark: So, they were cranking out a lot of content, but it wasn’t necessarily all that great?

Eric: Exactly right. So, I think what we see here is with the volume of content, they rode that wave up, but because it wasn’t good enough quality content, they kind of took the hit in the September/October updates, since Google continued to adjust their algorithms.

So, I think it’s really important to understand that hey, volume is great, content breadth and depth is great, but it better be good stuff.

Mark: Got you. So, what lesson can we take away from all this?

Eric: I think you have to have a lot of content on your site and really think about covering your market area in breadth and depth, if your goal is to have a strong role in the SEO results for Google.

But, if you don’t have the right level of quality, it will bite you in the end. So, now you have to set the balance between, “How do I get that coverage in depth and breadth, and really get a volume of stuff going out there so I get that coverage, but keep the quality really, really high?”

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Latest update April 4, 2019 — This is the latest edition of our study on the state of the mobile web. This update demonstrates the growth of the mobile web last year (2018) versus the desktop. I’ll also compare the latest data to usage levels in 2016 and 2017. The stats in this and our prior studies were pulled from SimilarWeb and reflect U.S. traffic across the web.

Where is the Mobile vs. Desktop Story Heading?
  1. In 2018, 58% of site visits were from mobile devices.
  2. Mobile devices made up 42% of total time spent online.
  3. Mobile Bounce Rate came in at 50%.

The details are in the charts below.

For reference, here are our prior years’ studies:

Changes to Our Data Collection Methodology for 2018

During 2018, SimilarWeb made some shifts in their data sources. For that reason, the charts below show the 2018 data separated from the 2016 and 2017 data. The new sources in 2018 have slightly lower mobile usage, but this does not reflect an actual drop in mobile usage—just a change in the data sources used.

Nonetheless, SimilarWeb has one of the largest data samples on the web, and was picked by Rand Fishkin as the best tool for getting data on web traffic. For that reason, we will continue to use SimilarWeb as the data source for this study on an annual basis.

Aggregated Stats: Desktop vs. Mobile

The most common stat that people talk about is the percentage of their visits that comes from mobile devices. Here is a look at the percentage of visits sites get from mobile vs. desktop for 2016, 2017, and 2018:

The data continues to show that for most sites, the majority of their traffic comes from mobile devices. This is a critical fact of life for all business and media web sites.

It’s also interesting to consider total time on site. Here is what we see across the three years:

Bear in mind, that’s the percentage of total aggregated time across all visits for mobile, compared with that of desktop. The total time users spend on sites when using desktop devices is still larger than the total time for mobile. This suggests that the time per visit must be longer, as we see here:

Next, let’s take a look at bounce rate. Here is what we saw for 2016, 2017, and 2018:

With the new data sources from SimilarWeb, the mobile bounce rate is back up a bit, but still higher than it was in 2016. As I said in last year’s study, I believe that mobile site experiences are improving, and users are getting more comfortable with it. However, desktop still has the lead over mobile as it relates to bounce rate, and that’s not likely to change. For one thing, the use cases for people on mobile devices often involve the need to look something up quickly while they are on the go.

Let’s now take a look at the total page views between desktop and mobile devices:

Because of the new data sources from SimilarWeb, we see a drop in the percentage of total page views from mobile devices vs desktop, but this number is still higher than it was in 2016.

To wrap this section up, let’s also take a look at page views per visitor:

The page views per visitor remain significantly higher on desktop than mobile. This is consistent with the differences in time on site and bounce rate data shown above.

Stats by Industry Category

As we did in the last two years’ studies, we also broke the data down by industry category, to determine which industries are the most mobile-centric. The variance between categories remains significant:

In 2016, the adult industry was the leader, with 73% of the visits coming from mobile devices. In spite of that, it was the biggest gainer this year, jumping up to 86% of all traffic coming from mobile. The other fascinating thing is that the finance category and arts & entertainment categories are the only industries that still see more traffic on desktop, by narrow 52% to 48% and 51% to 49% margins, respectively. By next year, these should also get most of their traffic from mobile.

Next up, let’s look at time on site by industry category:

Here we see that every industry has a longer time on site for desktop over mobile, except for books and literature. The latter is probably due to people reading on mobile devices such as tablets.

Let’s look at bounce rate next:

The desktop bounce rate is lower than the mobile bounce rate in every single industry, though the margin is quite small for these two categories:

  • Recreation and Hobbies
  • Books and Literature.

Last, but not least, let’s look at page views per visitor:

Page views per visitor remained higher in every industry for desktop than mobile.

Four Takeaway Recommendations

How can we use this data to inform our digital marketing strategy? Here are four of my top observations and ideas:

Mobile Experiences are Continuing to Improve: Mobile user interfaces are improving, and users are getting more accustomed to them. Being mobile friendly is important in all industries—it’s the largest source of traffic in nearly all of them.

This means designing your mobile site before you design the desktop site. Instead of coding your desktop site and then writing style sheets to shrink it into a smartphone form factor, design your mobile site first. Then you can figure out how to leverage the larger screen real estate available on a desktop platform as a second step.

Important note: I’m not saying this because desktop is dead; it’s not. It’s still very important, but it’s far easier to take a mobile UI to the desktop than take a desktop one to a smartphone.

Desktop Remains Very Important: Other industry data still suggests that more conversions continue to happen on desktop in most industries, so continuing to pay a lot of attention to your desktop site makes a great deal of sense. And, if you’re in an industry where 75% or more of your conversions come from desktop, you may even want to offer users on mobile devices the option to provide contact information, save shopping carts, or implement other functionality that allows them to defer the actual completion of a conversion to a later time (perhaps on a desktop).

The rationale is that users may not want to deal with complicated forms on a mobile device, and/or may not want to enter their credit card there. Following up with them later lets them come back on a desktop device and convert at a more convenient time.

If you’re open to this idea, I’d urge you to test it thoroughly first, to see which gets better results for you.

Compare Your Site’s Behavior to Industry Norms: If the average percentage of mobile visitors in your industry is 60%, and your site is at 35%, that may indicate a problem like a very slow mobile site. See how you compare to industry norms; if there is a large delta with your site, take the time to understand why.

Pay Attention to Site Speed: Consider implementing AMP. Here is our study on AMP, which thoroughly explains how effective AMP is in accelerating site speed, as well as our detailed guide to implementing AMP. AMP is not the only way to speed up your site, of course, but it’s an open source standardized way to do it, so it deserves consideration.

Wonder why page speed is so important? See our Page Speed Guide.

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When Google celebrated its 20th birthday in 2018, the tech giant took the opportunity to introduce several important updates and transitions to how it performs its most essential functions. The company announced that users could expect a fundamental shift “from text to a more visual way of finding information.”

If you’ve been keeping tabs on Google’s updates and changes, this announcement didn’t come as a surprise. Google has been working to improve and expand its image search capabilities, adding new features like visual search engine results pages (SERPs) and Google products that focus on images. Here are a few ways Google is prioritizing images.

  • Algorithm Updates. Some of Google’s newest algorithm updates emphasize images in search results. Google has also updated the Google Image algorithm recently– the new updated Google Images algorithm will prioritize pages that display searchable images more prominently and higher up on the page. Google will also prioritize images that come from authoritative websites. At a January 2019 Google NYC meetup, John Mueller also said that image search will be a “bigger topic” this year.

  • Thumbnail images. Over the last year, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of thumbnail images featured on SERPs, especially on mobile devices. With more than 50 percent of Google searches now coming from mobile devices, the company is betting that adding a visual element will make it easier for users to find the information they need more quickly.

  • Image-based searches. Imagine seeing the perfect pair of shoes in a movie or magazine page but having no way to translate that into a fruitful Google search. Searching for “blue high heels” won’t help, but what if you could just snap a photo and use the image itself? With new developments in AI, products like Google Lens may be able to help you figure out exactly where to buy the shoes (or couch, or car) of your dreams.

Google’s image-focused shift is aimed at increasing user accessibility and creating new ways to present content. Until now, search has been fundamentally text based; shifting to a more visual way of providing information opens the door to helping users who have language processing issues or other problems with reading text. The company is hoping to meet users where they are, inviting them to learn more about topics that are relevant to them. An image-focused way of finding information is one important component of forming that invitation.

For their part, content creators who want to benefit from Google’s visual initiatives will need to anchor their pages with unique, highly-relevant images. Companies that want to achieve and maintain high visibility on Google will benefit by devoting more attention to the images they use in online content.

The use (and usefulness) of images might change between businesses, so it can be useful to think about how to use images in your specific vertical. Some of those use cases might not be intuitive. Clear graphs and charts, product images, graphics, and more, can help illustrate concepts and values.

One of the best ways to appreciate this visual shift is to see it in action. Sites like Waypoint, Slate, and Bon Appetit all have very different audiences, but they are all incorporating fresh new ways to use visual features.

This evolution from words to images offers exciting opportunities for businesses to create compelling web pages that utilize both images and text. Creative images that connect clearly with the text on a page will make that page more interesting, but they can also help boost search result rankings and visibility.

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In 2018 Google seemed to be rewarding sites with depth and breadth of content more than ever. Does your site measure up?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why a user needs analysis can reveal content gaps that are hurting your SEO and show you how to perform such an analysis for your site.

Why Your SEO Should Include a User Needs Analysis: Here's Why - YouTube

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Mark: Eric, what is a user needs analysis?

Eric: Great question, Mark. So, the basic idea when the user needs analysis is to try to assess in detail what users are looking for on a site like yours. So, what are their real needs. 

This goes much deeper than researching the top keywords that people search on. The concept instead is to focus on developing a very broad and deep content experience on your site that meets a wide range of user needs.

Mark: Eric, I’ve heard you say in the past that much of this has to do with the Google algorithm updates in 2018. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Eric: Sure, happy to.

First of all, Google did many very important updates in 2018, beginning all the way back in March and throughout the year. One of the big areas they focused on was better understanding user intent. So, I have a classic example where looking at a digital camera search result in February versus what it looks like in October, we had a shift that had two digital camera review sites versus two e-tail sites, and by the end of the year was just four e-tail sites, massive change in the overall intent.

So, that’s one of the things that Google did. But they also changed a lot, in my opinion, on how they’re evaluating the breadth and depth of content. I saw many sites that saw huge upticks in traffic. And these were sites that were publishing a really significant volume of quality content. And then we saw some sites take a major beating. And these were sites that in our opinion lost because of the quality of their content.

Mark: Can you expand on the rationale behind this analysis?

Eric: Sure. Imagine that you have 100 users come to your site after entering a keyword at Google. Let’s for example say the keyword is “Digital Cameras.” If you asked them all to provide the top five to ten things they’re looking for, some might mention storage, others might discuss zoom capabilities, some might have a specific brand in mind.

Yet others may be more concerned with reviews or learning about photography even. Chances are that no two people will provide the exact same list. And if you summed up all the different choices people make, I bet you’re going to get about 500 different choices.

Mark: Probably.

Eric: The right idea from a planning point of view is to produce content that addresses a large array of those needs.

Mark: How do you perform the analysis that you’re talking about?

Eric: There are many good data sources to tap into.

First, model the personas of your target audience. Get a sense for who they are and how they think. So, a small business owner versus somebody in a large corporation in a marketing department versus consumer: they all have very different mindsets. Understand what your customer base is like.

Then talk to your product designers; figure out what was in their brain when they were making their decisions. Next talk to your customer service people and find out what the most common user questions are.

Also, just to get old fashioned about it from an SEO perspective, go to Google, type the phrase in, and look at Google Suggest and the People Also Ask results and see what you see there. Oh, and by the way, if you could do the survey I suggested at the beginning, do it.

Mark: What do you do with this analysis once you have it?

Eric: You’re going to use it to inform your content plan. You want to build out a map for your content, an editorial calendar that covers as large an array of all the identified needs as possible. Get related content created by true subject matter experts and make it really easy for people to find on your site. And of course, like in all good content marketing, make sure the world knows about it.

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In its 20 years as a company, Google has revolutionized the way we find information. The search engine giant is in the midst of rolling out even more changes – it’s moving from answers to journeys, shifting away from queries, and, now, the shift to visual searching.

Strings to Things to Concepts

One easy way to understand Google’s search technology evolution is through three main ideas: strings, things, and concepts. As we move into the concepts phase of internet search, it’s helpful for us to review the steps that came first.

1. Strings

When Google began, it was all about keywords. Those were the “strings”—the words (and sets of words) that helped Google provide users with the most relevant, high-quality information. We can’t overstate how revolutionary keyword technology was, but keyword-based search placed most of the responsibility on the user to find the right information. If you didn’t enter the right keywords, you wouldn’t see the search results you wanted to see.

2. Things

After a while, Google’s algorithms got smarter. With the launch of the Knowledge Graph in 2012, Google began to understand what people meant when they used fuzzy search criteria, and began to steer them toward the stronger searchable terms and relevant information. Put simply, it was a progression from basic keywords to semantically related keywords and ideas.

The Knowledge Graph enabled Google to aggregate millions of search queries to understand what users were actually interested in when they used certain search terms. This 2012 blog post laid out Google’s hopes for the future:

“We’ve always believed that the perfect search engine should understand exactly what you mean and give you back exactly what you want. And we can now sometimes help answer your next question before you’ve asked it, because the facts we show are informed by what other people have searched for.”

3. Concepts

In 2018, Google announced it would be focusing not just on words, but also on images and other visual content. With this shift, Google hopes to move from answering users’ questions to being their personal assistant. Instead of just responding to your searches, Google will pick up where you leave off, taking users on an information journey. One of the biggest changes since 2012 is that more than half of all Google searches are coming from mobile devices. The visual shift we’re seeing specifically targets those mobile users. In 2018 we also saw Google’s understanding of content and query intent reach a whole new level.

Good Content vs. Great Content

We know now that Google is moving in a more visual direction, focusing on the mobile experience and integrating images, videos, and other visual content. But what does this mean for SEO? The good news is that the fundamentals remain the same:

  • High-quality content
  • Relevancy
  • Authoritative perspective
  • Answering users’ questions useful

Google’s algorithms will only continue to sharpen their accuracy in finding the best, most relevant visual content. This is still about finding content that addresses user needs the best. This visual shift means that SEO experts will need to help content creators create and maintain relevancy. It will also be critical that content creators put out fresh content on a regular basis, as the algorithms will prefer sites that are frequently updated with highly query relevant text and visual information.

Google’s understanding of content appears to be exponential in nature, not linear. In other words, their algorithmic abilities tend to leap rather than crawl, and the next few years will see dramatic improvements in those abilities. This advanced understanding means good quality content won’t cut it anymore. Rather, sites that want to perform well in search rankings will need truly outstanding content written by experts. In some industries, this expert-level content is already necessary.

Next Steps for SEO

As Google paves the way for a drastically different search experience, here are a few concrete steps SEOs can take to stay relevant in search.

1. Understand the basics

This means having a thorough understanding of how to create high quality and relevant titles, H1 tags, and body content. For visual content, context is key. Stock photos likely will not cut it anymore; you’ll need images that are highly related to your specific content and unique on the web.

2. Consider the user’s journey

Create Content that includes visuals that are optimized for search. Include captions for your visual content that show how those images are a core component of your content. This will help your images/photos perform better in image searches and help users find the information they want quickly and easily.

3. Build visually

For higher visibility and accessibility, optimize your product images for Google Lens. Don’t rely on a user’s ability to type in specific search terms to find your product online. Google Lens shows users relevant images automatically, especially ones with direct links back to product pages. Google is also building its own AMP stories—AI-constructed visual experiences that immerse the user in text, video, and photos. With highly optimized visuals and text, Google may pull your authoritative content into one of these stories.

Differentiating between good and truly world class content used to be a person’s job. Now it’s the purview of intelligent and powerful algorithms. As we move into the future of search, SEO experts need to stay rooted in the basics of high-quality content, all while remembering that “content” is much more than just words on a page.

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Which keywords should get first priority in your SEO campaigns? Which will bring the quickest wins (and which will be the biggest challenges)?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains how a Ranking Content Quality Analysis can help you answer those questions and shows you how to perform one.

Ranking Content Quality Analysis (RCQA) Can Sharpen Your Keyword Research: Here’s Why - YouTube

Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published.

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Resources Transcript

Mark: So Eric, what is a ranking content quality analysis or RQCA?

Eric: Boy, that’s a mouthful.

So, the basic concept is to actually see what Google thinks of your site by going through the process of pulling all the keywords that you currently rank for and doing an Ngram analysis around the words in those keywords. That sounds like a mouthful too! But you might actually end up seeing something like this.

Mark: Okay. So why is that helpful?

Eric: It tells you what types of queries you’re most likely to rank for based on the words that you see in these queries here, and you can use this to prioritize your SEO campaign efforts going forward.

So, let’s say you have a sports site, and you want to rank for some specific college basketball related terms. I’m just making the example up here. If you’re currently ranking for many pro basketball related terms but not many college ones, achieving your goals might actually be pretty challenging.

Mark: How do you do that analysis?

Eric: You take your Ngram analysis below, and you look through that to see what phrases you rank for, and actually each of the individual words in those phrases.

In this particular example we’re showing right now, the analysis shows a high volume of keywords ranking with the word “green” in them. I’m obviously not doing a college basketball example. But note the far smaller number of instances that contain the word “blue” in them.

This suggests that it will take far more effort to rank for new blue-related terms–just because Google hasn’t quite bought that for your site yet–than it will be to rank for new green-related terms. And if you’re looking for easy wins then this can actually tell you where you should focus.

Mark: So does that mean you don’t pursue those blue-related terms at all?

Eric: No, not necessarily. It might be strategic and very important for you to consider chasing those terms anyway. But the big insight from an RQCA analysis is a better appreciation for how much work it will take you to win on those terms.

Mark: Thanks, Eric.

Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published.

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Can the way people talk about your brand online actually affect the things Google will rank you for?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explains how Google might use mentions of your brand in social media to discover more of what your brand is about.

Social Media Can Build Your Brand SEO: Here’s Why - YouTube

Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published.

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Resources Transcript

Eric: Mark, there’s little doubt that social media is a great way to increase awareness for your brand, but can that have an effect on your SEO?

Mark: It’s tough to say for sure, but there’s some good hints it might.

You did an onstage keynote with Gary Illyes of Google at Pubcon. I remember he said two ways that brand mentions might be used by Google.  

One of those was it could alert Google that the brand is an entity worth paying attention to. But it could also help Google know what you should rank for; maybe things that you’re not currently ranking for. If a lot of people are talking about you for that thing, maybe that’s something Google should be looking for.

Eric: Did you just say that mentions of your brand on social media can help you rank higher?

Mark: No, I didn’t say that. And the distinction is subtle but important. Let’s get the exact quote here from Gary Illyes.

The context in which you engage online and how people talk about you online, actually can impact what you rank for.

“What you rank for.” Notice that’s the word, not how high you rank. So Google may use the context of online mentions to discover things you should have a shot at ranking for that you currently don’t, as I said.

Eric: So, what can you do then as a brand to take advantage of this?

Mark: First, I would build a real audience of true brand fans. You want to cultivate the people who are going to talk about you in the ways that you want them to, the positive ways that will give Google those clues.

Then fan the flames of that audience. Create conversations. Keep them going. And then create and promote content that comprehensively covers what your brand is about. Give Google every possible clue who you are, what you should rank for.

Eric: Thanks, Mark. This is part two of a three-part series on social media and SEO. Watch for the other two episodes to learn more.

Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published.

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See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

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