Friday, August 7, 2015

Google Now Only Showing 3 Local Results Instead Of 7

After much testing, Google has seem to officially drop the seven local results in the web search results and gone with a 3-pack block.

For all the queries I try that would generate, I am now seeing only 3 local listings with a link to show more. This is opposed to Google showing seven local listings with a link to more.

Here are some screen shots of the new three-pack:

Here is a screen shot I have from a few months ago with the old look:
Google Maps Local MAll Listings

It seems like many of the local players are upset that there isn't a more diverse set of local results, which is impacting their clients that fall below the 3rd listing in these local results.
I cannot tell you how many notifications I received about this in the past day or so.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Image of the top 7 ranking factors in 2015.

1. Link Quality.

Backlinks are everything in the world of SEO. 20 years in the industry has taught us that backlinks are consistently THE most important ranking factor. While their exact usage has changed over the years, we have noticed the trends and have recognized the best way to use them in 2015.

You see, not all links in 2015 are created equal. You can’t just accumulate tons of backlinks and expect good results. What you need are links that have high trust flow that will point to your page with authority and relevancy. You need links coming in from trustworthy sources that have good content and site health.

2. Link Metrics.

What makes a link bad or good? How do you determine such a thing? We discuss how you (or an SEO professional) must manually look at your backlink profile and weed out the links that are doing your site harm. Or at the very least, the links that aren’t doing your site any favors and providing good link juice. Basically, building good link metrics for your site means you’ve got to do a little pruning.

Your outbound and inbound links should point to and from places that have authority. The New York Times, popular blogging websites – these are all examples of links you’d want to keep. Even your own website is a must!

3. Site Architecture.

A site that isn’t organized well isn’t doing anyone any favors – not users, not search engines, and especially not your business. What you need to do is make sure your categories and subcategories are organized thematically.

Are your products grouped together in a way that makes sense? Are you making sure your customers don’t have to hunt around your site for the stuff they want? You need to ask yourself questions like, “what is the theme of this page?” Themes for sections and pages are great for SEO purposes and will make your site look cohesive and user-friendly.

4. Website Content.

What’s a better strategy for website content: Quality or quantity? In today’s SEO landscape, quality always wins. While it’s still important to have long-form content, and to post that content regularly, above all your content must provide value. This also means being aware of what people are searching for and incorporating LSI keywords into your content. As a result, your content will act as a strong foundation that supports all your other ranking factors.

The webinar goes into a bit more detail on how to get your content optimized to rank, but it all supports the same idea: Building quality content for your website is something you need to do.

5. Meta Information.

How you present your pages on the search results is another of our top ranking factors in 2015. Creating unique titles, meta descriptions, and headers will not only reinforce your content but will also make users more likely to click on your page. Just make sure you meet the correct character count requirements!

6. Site Health.

Having a healthy website is definitely among the top ranking factors in 2015. We discuss how page loading speed helps provide a good user experience (while also pointing out Google’s true reason behind wanting a fast site), as well as the importance of mobile-friendliness, XML sitemaps,
Robots.txt, and others. Essentially, we go over an SEO checklist that outlines the things you need for a healthy site that is worthy of Google’s attention.

7. Social Presence.

Are you engaging with your users? Do you make sure your brand is always front and center? It isn’t enough to just “have a blog” if you aren’t using it to make conversation with customers. How your business is seen on social media is becoming one of the fastest-growing ranking factors in 2015. Are users sharing your content? Commenting on your blog posts? They should be, and if they aren’t, you need an SEO service provider to whip your social into shape. A good social presence has other SEO advantages for your business, and we go over them more in depth in the webinar.

Click here to watch Webinar

Taken from

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

3 Simple Ways to Ensure Your SEO Strategy Isn’t Going Stale

We all have those moments when we find ourselves with more time on our hands than expected. Next time you've got a few of these moments, which are perfect times to knock out a few tasks that often get neglected when we focus on the day-to-day work, think about these three things to ensure your strategy isn't going stale:

1. Review

You know you should revisit these things, but never seem to have the time. This list may vary greatly depending on your typical workflow, but here are a few things that any SEO or digital marketer can take a look at when work slows down:
  • Review your key landing pages for grammar, tone and business opportunities. These pages contain content that doesn't frequently change; this type of content is meant to demonstrate the key competencies of your business, and should be kept fresh for both the search benefit and the benefit of your customers. Your content on key landing pages should play to the needs and trends of your customers, which have likely changed since the last time you made an update. If you focus on your customer needs, it will be easier to identify the direction your SEO strategy should take.

  • Target keywords and concepts for landing pages to ensure your strategy is still in line with your business goals. Once you've evaluated grammar, tone and customer benefit, ensure that your keyword strategy for these pages is in line with the type of searchers you want to attract to the page. It may be time to review your keyword research and realign your strategy based on new business goals. For example, if your company shifts its focus from selling one brand or product line to another, you'll want to ensure your content and keyword strategies reflect that shift as well.

  • If you don't regularly do a technical SEO audit on your site, consider conducting one. Regardless of the size of your business, it's always beneficial to review your site with a technical eye. These days, most sites don't intentionally try to practice black-hat tactics. Most technical SEO audits reveal hidden problems that send negative signals to search engines.

2. Reevaluate

Long-tail keyword strategies sometimes take a back-burner role in our SEO strategy because of the work that can be involved in capturing that type of traffic. If it's not something you focus on regularly, now is the time to revisit.
  • Complete your long-tail keyword research again or better yet, get help. Sometimes, it takes a fresh mind or a new set of eyes to dig into long-tail keyword research and come up with actionable next steps. Even if you're a one-person show at your company, enlist help from someone on your sales, UX or customer experience teams to brainstorm long-tail keyword opportunities with you. The biggest roadblock for long-tail keyword strategy can often be coming up with fresh ideas, and brainstorming is a task that anyone with some familiarity of your business and customer base can help with.

  • If you identify new opportunities regarding ideas that your company is truly a subject matter expert on, create a content plan. Keyword research without an action plan isn't a good use of your time. Keep notes as you do your research, and record both opportunities and areas where you do not think your company should focus and why. Once you do have a list of solid opportunities, make a list of how to pursue them. Whether it's updating existing content or creating new content, an action plan is your only shot at capturing traffic for those newly identified long-tail opportunities.

3. Receive

Talk to your sales team about business trends and customer feedback. Speaking with the people who interact closely with your customers, you'll identify pain points and opportunities to pursue in the months ahead.
  • This could indicate how the site should be restructured to account for more popular concepts and products. Sometimes, customer trends and needs unveil ways that your site should be restructured: a new navigation, renaming areas of your site, adding product categories. Chances are, these types of revelations will uncover projects that will take up more time than you have to burn, but it will help you prioritize for the months ahead.

  • You may identify user experience or content gaps that aren't currently addressed. Get feedback about the offline customer experience to help you figure out where there are gaps within your site's user experience or your content. If a common question comes up with customers time and time again, there is probably a way to address that on the website. Use these moments to plan for the months ahead, even if you can't execute a full solution today.
There's always something we can do to push our efforts as digital marketers and SEOs to the next level. Use your down time wisely and you'll keep yourself busy year-round.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Content Marketing in July 2015

It is summertime, and the living is easy — unless you are trying to juggle an effective content strategy along with vacations, bored kids, and a complete lack of motivation. (If you are one of those people who never struggles with motivation, then good on you. I, however, find it way too easy to get distracted by the internet. And nice weather.)


So, in honor of summer and my slightly lower than average level of motivation, this month’s content marketing roundup will focus on developing content that is more effective so you can spend less time working and more time relaxing.

Editor’s Note: The articles selected are completely objective and listed in no particular order. 

5 Obvious Content Marketing Strategies Most Companies Overlook

It is easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing over and over again. Content marketing is important, and we all know we need to be doing it. But, is what you are doing actually working? Or is it time to try a new strategy? If you are ready to try something new or just want to consider other strategies, then this is a perfect read.

This article by Neil Patel on Content Marketing Institute provides five strategies that will take your content marketing from a plain old blog post to good content that readers actually engage with. Who said nothing gets done in the summer?

Crowdsourcing 101: Propel Your Content Marketing Strategy Forward

The best way to get more done in less time is to get help! Once you have written your super awesome content, how are you going to make sure it actually gets in front of eyeballs?

In this article on SEMRush’s blog, Sergio Aicardi details how to get your audience to help you get your content more exposure through crowdsourcing. If you have a limited budget, or aren’t seeing the results you want from the content you are developing, try this simple way to do more with less.
Instead of spending money on ads or testing new strategies, turn to your audience and get help spreading your awesome content farther.

10 Step Content Marketing Performance Assessment

Figuring out what works is vital to developing a content strategy that actually does something — and the best way to figure out what works is to take a good, hard look at what you are doing now.

This article by Heidi Cohen lays out an easy to follow checklist so you can tell what is working and what is not.

Are you getting any traffic? Is that traffic actually converting? Is the money you are spending worth the money you are earning? Heide gives you a step-by-step assessment to help you figure out what is working and what isn’t.

5 Tools That’ll Make You an Amazing Headline Writer

Headlines are arguably the most important part of any piece of content you develop. In fact, some studies show headlines can change the way we think by creating a strong first impression. That being said, most marketers don’t have the time to spend hours brainstorming and testing strong headlines.
Luckily, there is a nifty list of tools to help you write better headlines. This article by Aaron Taube lists five tools that make writing those eye-catching headlines easier. The list includes tools for testing, analyzing, and even outsourcing.

 4 Questions to Help You Generate Epic Content Ideas

There are tons of articles out there about how to generate content ideas. In fact, there are actually generators that were developed solely to help content writers come up with good ideas — and with good reason. Having to come up with ideas over and over again gets draining.

Which is where this article by Chris Lucas comes in. He lists four questions you should be asking yourself before you create content and explains how these questions will help you develop epic content ideas.

Bonus Pick: Will Journalistic Robots Kill Content Marketing?

We’ve got smart homes that can control who comes into your house when you aren’t home, and smart cars that can drive themselves. Are robots that can write next? If you don’t love writing, you are out of luck — robot writers aren’t up to the task quite yet.

Final Thoughts

Are there any articles I missed that you think should be added to this month’s round-up? Please share in the comments section!

Featured Image: Illustration Created by Paulo Bobita
Author: Danielle Antosz

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Google : Should You Ask For Links?

A few weeks ago, link building was at the epicenter of controversy. Of course, that’s not so unusual.

The controversy was caused by a post on July 6th, when Google Portugal updated their webmaster blog.


This is what Google Translate returned:
Screenshot taken from Google Translate on July 27, 2015

In the conclusion of this post, the author Diogo Botelho of Google’s search quality team advises the audience not to buy, sell, or even ask for links.

Not even ASK for links.

For someone in my industry, this should be terrifying. But I’ve been around the block enough times to know it was too early to eulogize link building. I’ve seen this story play out a number of times just in the last couple of years.

The Backstory

The efficacy of link building has been sorely contested in the years since the search world was first introduced to Penguin. Rarely does a month go by without some sort of SEObituary, proclaiming the demise of link building.

These pronouncements aren’t COMPLETELY wrong – they’re more misguided than wrong.

There is a brand of manipulative link building that is in fact dead, or at least being read its last rites.
This variety of link building gained prominence before Penguin, and was designed strictly to game Google’s search algorithm. It was all done in the Machiavellian spirit of, “The ends justify the means.”

A disproportionately high volume of keyword rich anchor text links? Check. Irrelevant forum links? Check. Links using cloaking to redirect to surprising pages? Check, again. And then there are links hidden behind html. These links were meant to be crawled, but never seen. It was an era when it was easier to build links for robots, not for humans.

All of this led to (manipulative) ranking improvements before Penguin, but it unquestionably left the internet worse off.

Naturally, Google couldn’t let this abuse of search continue, and created the Penguin algorithm as a deterrent. It instantly proved to be successful. No, it hasn’t been perfect–I still see spam everyday–but there’s no question that such spam appears at a steadily decreasing volume.

Spammy, manipulative link building has been diminished, but link building still survives. And that’s our current dilemma. People still (understandably) confuse modern link building with spam links of the past.

So when the webmaster blog in Portugal initially went live, it gave the online marketers, SEOs, and site owners pause as it seemed Google was advising against any pursuit of links.
Of course not all of the reactions were negative. Many SEOs came to the defense of link building as well.

Link building is polarizing no matter where you turn, except for one entity:


Google Loves Links

Time and time again, Google has erred on the side of links, and said that link building is fine, as long as it is not manipulative.

Even John Mueller, who caused a stir recently about comments regarding link building, said last May that it’s okay to ask for links.

While head of the webspam team at Google, Matt Cutts said in an interview with Eric Enge:


While he defends quality link building here, Cutts definitely references spam tactics in this quote. But he’s not wrong that you should approach link acquisition from the website first, links second mindset. Building links is a monumentally grueling task if you start with a sub-par website. And that’s how it should be. If links start flowing to the sites that don’t deserve them, then we’re back to spammy square one.

But, if your site has a unique value, or adds to the overall user experience of the web, it’s not wrong to ask for links, and it shouldn’t be. Google, after all, is partially responsible for the link economy on the web today. For them to say that webmasters are robbed of the freedom to manually promote themselves for links would be hypocritical.

And that’s why they DON’T say anything, and when they do, they are usually compelled to walk it back:


The Portuguese post was updated within 48 hours of its original form. Using the same translation tool as before, here’s what it currently states:


“Do not…ask for links that violate our webmaster guidelines about links schemes.”
That’s much different then, “Do not ask for links.”

Ask for Links!

Google’s webmaster guidelines are fairly explicit about the kinds of links they don’t like. As an experienced link builder, I don’t like these links either. They soil the hard work and creativity everyone at my company and I employ to build quality, relevant links.

We can only acquire these links by asking (promoting) for them, though. It would be a utopia if we truly could get all the links we deserved without any promotion or marketing. If we could simply create great content and expect instant recognition, that would be paradise. But that’s not how the world or how the web works. In order to attract attention, it’s vital to market your service, message, and/or unique value intelligently.

Think about it: when a young dentist opens up an office in a crowded plaza, can that dentist expect people will walk in without any prior knowledge? No. That dentist is going to be forced to engage in promotional tactics (radio spots, newspaper listings, SEO). Does that promotion cheapen the dentist’s years of training and ability to fix your cavities? Of course not.

As long as you stay within the parameters of what’s ethical, there’s nothing wrong with manual promotion. And that’s in large part what link building is: manual promotion.

White hat, natural link building includes building a list of relevant, quality link prospects, and outreaching to those sites. The outreach has to be quality as well. It has to be personalized, and it has to explicitly state the value of a link to your site. Otherwise, webmasters aren’t going to be inclined to link to you.

Sure, link building is a digital marketing tactic often employed to boost rankings in organic search. If you view links as only a means of boosting rankings, that’s dangerous. It may work, but you’ll burn plenty of bridges along the way.

When link building is done as not only a means of improving search rankings, but as part of real marketing–which includes community engagement and brand building–link building is just another part of the marketing funnel. More people need to realize this; Google’s already ahead of them.

 By Jon Ball

Google to Lose Search Market Share? Microsoft Predicts Huge Gains for Bing after Windows 10

Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system has the potential to lead to significant gains in search market share for Bing, or so the company predicts in an announcement today.

The new operating system puts Bing at the forefront, which is a change the company says will lead to query volume gains from 10 to 15 percent as early as September.

Microsoft is framing this as good news for Bing advertisers, suggesting there will be “significant volume” in time for holiday campaigns.

If that ends up being the case, it could end up being a blow to Google’s search market share.
Gains are predicted to come from new users, as well as current users who will end up using Bing more frequently as a result of the changes in Windows 10.

“We’re estimating query volume gains from 10 to 15 percent as early as September — not only from new users, but from existing Bing users who will now use Bing more frequently.”

Windows 10 comes with a new desktop search bar that is powered by the company’s own search engine, Bing, and voice-activated assistant, Cortana.

In addition, the new Microsoft Edge browser comes built with new features that could lead to an increase in Bing searches.

For example, the ability to highlight text and conduct a search on the highlighted subject is a particularly useful addition that could prove to be popular among Windows users.

Bing search is also coming to more devices via the Cortana app on iOS and Android.

“With the Cortana app on iOS and Android, Bing will draw in new users, and continue to expand our overall search and mobile search share.”

Microsoft bringing its search assistant to other devices is the equivalent of Apple releasing a Siri app on Android, but in doing so the company hopes to attract new users to its search engine.

The Cortana app can fulfill more than just search queries — its cross-device functionality allows it to connect with Windows PCs to keep information like calendar appointments in sync across all devices.

Microsoft has high hopes for Bing, as it states the integration into more devices will lead to nothing but growth for the search engine.

“…we expect continued growth in Bing traffic into the foreseeable future.”

These are bold predictions considering Windows 10 just launched today. We’ll see when next quarter’s numbers come how much Microsoft’s new OS means to Bing’s growth.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Google: We Don't Give Advice On Algorithmic Penalties

Google's John Mueller in this mornings Google Hangout said at the 4:37 mark into the video that Google doesn't tend to give advice around algorithms.
Yes, for manual actions, they try to give specific advice. But when it comes to being hit by Panda or Penguin or any search quality algorithm, Google says they tend not to give advice.
He said in response to being asked for advice:
I don’t know if I can give you specific examples there. We tend not to do that for algorithms when they review the site. Unless it is something really obvious that we can point out. Where we can say well, your home page has hidden text or something like that. For technical reasons that might be something where we can give examples. With search quality algorithms that is usually where we can’t give any specific examples from our side.

Here is the video clip:

From experience watching Google help webmasters, this is accurate. Truth is, I think it is often very hard for Googler's like John Mueller to find an example of why a site may be hit by Panda. Often you see him struggle with it when he is asked about specific cases.

Forum discussion at Google+.

By SEO Edmonton