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

How Do You Rank on Google?

Google's algorithms are better-focused than ever, according to a new study from Searchmetrics.

In its fourth annual Google ranking factors study, the enterprise platform looked at the top 30 search results for 10,000 keywords and 300,000 websites on Google. According to Marcus Tober, founder and chief technology officer at Searchmetrics, the findings simply confirm the current trends.

"Understanding user intention and creating unique, relevant content is more vital than ever before," Tober says. "It is also visible that backlinks are continuing to decrease in relevance. Looking ahead, as the proportion of search queries from mobile  devices continues to grow, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on the rankings."

Some factors Searchmetrics saw positively affecting the rankings include mobile-friendliness; social signals, such as Facebook likes and Tweets; and backlinks, though the latter will likely decrease in importance. The study focuses on three other main areas:  

1. Technical

Technical factors are still most important when it comes to ranking in Google. Compared with last year, the search volume of domain names has increased strongly. While brands often rank higher because of their inherent visibility, brand searches, with or without extra keywords, also influence non-branded searches.

Other positive ranking factors include a domain's SEO visibility; the frequency of H2 tags, in addition to H1 and meta description; a strong-but-short URL, which is worth thousands of keywords; and site speed. In addition, HTTPS encryption, which Searchmetrics included in its analysis for the first time, also impacts sites positively, though it's not necessary for sites that don't deal in sensitive data.

On the other hand, Keyword domains are no longer the strong ranking factor they once were. In 2014, 9 percent of the URLs in the top 30 included a keyword in their domain, a number that decreased to 6 percent this year. The proportion of pages using Flash is also significantly lower in the first two SERPs on both desktop and mobile.

2. User Experience

The internal link structure is important for both the crawlability of the Google bot and the user experience - CTR, bounce rate and time spent on site are three factors in ranking, after all. Last year, there were 131 internal links within the top 10 rankings; this year, there are 150. The same is true for optimization, which also includes factors such as responsive design, font size, and interactive elements. Bulleted lists also seem to be ranking factors, as they appear in half of the second-ranked sites and 40 percent in the top 30.

However, while the number of images helps rankings, the number of ranking sites with integrated videos has fallen from 2014. As of last summer, Google only plays video thumbnails in the SERPs; the dominance of YouTube also makes it difficult to rank. Searchmetrics also found that a large number of ads hurts ranking. Pages other than the first two search result spots, which are generally a brand page and Wikipedia, have an AdSense percentage of more than 10.

3. Content

While the content from the top 30 ranked pages has become more extensive - the word count for the top 10 pages averages 1,285, 25 percent higher than last year - less complex and more holistic, with more sites using proof terms and relevant terms.

Just as with the technical aspect of websites, keywords have become less important within content as well. Searchmetrics found that the percentage of pages that have the keyword they want to rank for as an external link's anchor has fallen, especially toward the top of the rankings. However, keywords are much more important within internal links.

The full study can be found here.

By SEO Edmonton

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How Your Content Strategy Should Affect Your SEO Expectations

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I could get them a No. 1 Google ranking for a specific non-branded, hyper-competitive keyword, I would be rich. If I had a dollar for the number of times the people asking me that question actually had the content to warrant such a listing, I would be poor.

Many digital marketing folks, especially in enterprise B2B companies, don't quite understand the relationship between content and SEO. It's long been said in SEO circles that content is king.
However, some SEO folks would argue that links or social engagement is king, and that content is the primary driver of links and social success. There are valid arguments on all sides of that meaningless debate, but the point that often gets lost is that creating the best user experience for the vast majority of people searching for a specific keyword is probably what's going to get you ranked consistently for that keyword.

A content strategy that supports that bigger vision is typically different than the customer-focused strategies most B2B companies use. Many people over the years have told me, "Our company is the market leader for this term! We should be No. 1!" That is often true for products or services that are relevant to the keyword phrase they are targeting. It is true that brand recognition - and certainly the links that typically accompany successful brands - make it more likely that a company will rank well for relevant terms, but the fact remains that brand authority is not always enough to guarantee a top ranking for a particular keyword.

I would argue that that is less likely to be the case in the future, as search algorithms become more sophisticated at measuring user satisfaction and engagement. Links are still a pretty good reflection of quality so they carry a lot of weight in most search engine algorithms, particularly Google. However, there is no doubt that the ever-increasing weight of other signals designed to reward good user experience will ensure that going forward, if you don't deliver the content that people want, your company won't be found for that keyword.

I'm sure many people reading this will say, "Hey, Catfish, this is old news." But I would argue that it is still one of the biggest issues facing companies, especially B2B companies, today, as they spend a lot of money on SEO in hopes of attaining top 10 listings for their target keywords. I often see companies primarily producing marketing content that they think will help sell their products and then expecting that content to rank on the first page of Google for their primary keyword. If you look at it from the big picture, there are very few companies producing marketing content so compelling for the average user - who is searching on a general, non-brand keyword - that it truly deserves to be called one of the top three resources on the Internet for that term.

Take the phrase "Database management," for example. Most B2B companies targeting this phrase have content that speaks to their service offerings, their products, their competitive differentiators and possibly, some thought leadership content that speaks to current events or where they see the future of database management going. They may even have a definition page called something along the lines of, "What is Database Management?" specifically to target that phrase, not complement any other content. All of these things are a good start to ranking highly for the term "database management,: but oftentimes, those content segments still serve a relatively limited audience, given the number of different personas who are using that search term.

If you are truly trying to create a site that's a top three resource for a term like "database management," you will need to become an authoritative hub for all things database management. This means that the page that will most likely be ranking for this keyword will be less about selling products or services and more about meeting the needs of the average user doing the query. It means that this page will typically be a top level navigation page with links to deep content around all things database management. A content strategy like this certainly includes links to your product and service pages, but it also includes links to your thought leadership content; your definition page; your take on the state of the industry, recent industry events that will affect the entire industry, and common problems facing folks in the industry that your offering helps solve. You should also include answers to common questions that people - all kinds, not just your target customers - have with the term.

It will certainly be the top level node in some of the most comprehensive information on the subject that can be found anywhere on the Internet. It will also be easy to use with careful thought into the user journeys of all potential visitors. It will load quickly and be mobile friendly. In short, the content emphasis shifts slightly away from marketing and selling, and more to education, thought leadership and the engagement of as many different personas who might be using this keyword query as possible. In other words, it should truly be one of the best resources online for the entire audience of folks who typically do searches for this keyword phrase.

Most companies would do better to focus on casting a wide net on longer tail, more specific keyword phrases that are part of larger conversations around topics that contain many keywords. SEO success should be measured in traffic and conversions, as opposed to rankings for vanity keywords, which often convert at a lower rate because of how generic they are. Chasing these kinds of fat head keywords makes sense for some, but certainly not most, brands.

Of course, explaining this strategy to a CMO can be tricky when the company has prioritized ranking for certain keywords as part of their KPI set. In those cases, don't tell folks they shouldn't focus on rankings for specific keywords for their primary SEO success KPIs. Instead, you can paint the picture of what deserving to rank for such a keyword entails and what the commitment would have to be, in order to have a realistic expectation of being successful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Value of Links

  As an emerging industry, SEO is a field ripe for new college graduates, individuals looking to enhance their career skills, and those with a background in computer science, marketing, advertising, journalism, and other parallel careers. Everyday more and more people pour into the search industry.

In 2014 LinkedIn put SEO at number five for the hottest skills to get hired. Many jump at the opportunity to learn SEO, especially in conjunction with other skills. SEO is also a very practical skill to learn – search accounts for such a large percentage of Internet traffic that anyone with a website needs to learn SEO best practices if they take their site and traffic seriously.

The first thing a new SEO must learn is how Google operates. This means learning the value of links in search.

Google began by using links as the core of its search algorithm, which powers its results. This use of links made Google better than any other search engine available at the time. Google’s recognition of the value of links is what propelled its initial success.

But there’s a problem with the way many SEOs learn about Google and links. Learning that links are valuable because of search colors their perspective, and makes them see links as important only to SEO.

This valuation of links for search, and search alone, is putting the cart before the horse. Despite Google’s influence online, they do not yet control the shape of the Web.

  Links aren’t valuable because of Google; Google is valuable because of its use of links.

Perhaps this is overstating it – there’s no doubt that links serve a critical function in search engine optimization. All search engines use links as a signal of relevance, authority, and trust. Even Yandex has reversed its position, adding links back into the algorithm for the narrow segment it were previously removed (commercial terms for the Moscow locality).

But to think, as many new SEOs do, that the sole reason links are valuable is because of search, is flat wrong.

Links served a critical function long before Google existed, and will continue to have value online whether or not Google chooses to use links in its algorithm.

Links are critical to the function of the Web, marketing, SEO, websites, and humans.

Links Are a Fundamental Element of the World Wide Web

An oft-overlooked fact is that the Web as we know it couldn’t exist without links.
Links piece together the Web – it’s why we call it a "web" in the first place. Links are the strands that connect all the millions of pieces (websites) together.
There are essentially three ways to navigate the Web:
  1. Type the exact page URL into your browser’s address bar.
  2. Bookmark a page so you can return again.
  3. Follow a link from one page to another.
Method one — typing the full URL path — is next to impossible for anything beyond the homepage of a domain you’re extremely familiar with. and are the classic examples. Once there, you would use links to navigate to specific pages.

Method two — bookmarks — only work if you’ve previously visited a page. Even then, bookmarks become extremely unwieldy if you bookmark every page you wish to visit again.

Method three — links — is by far the most common method of navigating the Web.

Links are also critical to navigating the various pages of a website. Facebook would be an impossible mess without strong site architecture and UX, both of which are dependent upon links.

Links Are Critical to Discovering New Sites

Exploration of the Web is also wholly reliant upon links.
Here’s how I explore the Web:
  1. Search:  I use search to find specific sites containing specific information. Search returns a list of links (along with to pages they believe relevant to my query. Trust is implicit in search, and relevance is determined by the searcher based upon the title, meta description, brand/site familiarity.

  2. Social:  Social media allows me to see what sites, pages, and content my friends recommend via links shared. I trust the links based upon how much I trust my friends, and click based upon the context surrounding the link.

  3. Sites I Trust: is a perfect example of a site I trust which I use to further explore the Web. Reddit users submit links to various subreddits — essentially subcategory pages — they think other Redditors will like. Redditors then upvote or downvote that link, establishing trust.Reddit is essentially an aggregation of other Web pages (their tagline is “the front page of the Internet") that Redditors think interesting, entertaining, or otherwise worth visiting. Link trust is based upon the trust of the community.
Every single one of these methods of exploring the w=Web is wholly reliant upon links.
Without links, the Internet would be entirely unnavigable. The Web runs on links.

Links Are Extremely Valuable in Marketing

All links are a type of exposure. Whenever you encounter a link on a website, another human is effectively saying, "I believe this page is worth your time, or is something you need to see."
That’s a strong vote of confidence.

This confidence is inherently understood as trust. If a website links to another website, it’s understood as a willing association. Of course context matters, and helps guide trust – but more often than not that link is an expression of value.

People who trust a website will transfer this trust to the linked website. There’s an implication of authority and respect with a link.

And since awareness is the main goal of all marketing, links play a critical role in much of online marketing. Yes, links matter to SEO. But links also matter beyond SEO.

Links build exposure, branding, relationships, authority, engagement, and even traffic outside of search.

Links literally direct visitors from another website. Anytime you have a backlink on another website, there’s an opportunity for exposure and traffic.

A link is a citation, mention, and direct navigation all rolled into one.

There is no parallel in offline marketing. There’s nothing in traditional marketing that makes arriving at a business as easy as the click of a mouse.

Links Remain Critical to Search Visibility

Since Google first used links as the core of its algorithm, and subsequently cornered the search market, links have been vital to SEO success.

This remains true today, despite the introduction of hundreds of other signals. Links remain critical to improve your organic search traffic.

Every SEO has witnessed the power of links in improving search visibility. Serious studies from both Moz and Searchmetrics confirm this. It’s well understood that links are a primary ranking factor.

Furthermore, Google continues to stand behind links as a signal in search.
There can be no doubt about the efficacy of links in search.

Shouldn’t the Value of Links Be Obvious?

With links playing such a critical role on the Web, it seems the value of links should be obvious.
Yet if you stop a random person on the street and ask them why links are valuable, they’ll likely stumble through an explanation. Clients often wonder about the value of links, needing further education. Even other marketers don’t always respect the value of links online.

Marketers are a jaded bunch. SEOs perhaps the worst of the lot. We’ve experienced and seen the manipulation that can and does happen time over time, until we forget that not everything is manipulation.

Furthermore, there’s a strong tendency in the SEO industry to forget the power of links beyond search. We can have extreme tunnel vision regarding search. We become convinced Google controls the fate of the Web, and are quick to think the sky is falling.

As SEOs we like to continually look to the future and question what we know. We’re constantly challenging one another. But this can be taken too far.

Will links continue to remain critical to search? Not according to some.
Which is why it’s so important to understand the value of a link – not just for search, but for the Web as a whole.

When you look at the Web from a search-only perspective, which is entirely too tempting as an SEO, you actually blind yourself to the Web as it is, and the value of links.

Links aren’t valuable because Google’s made them so; links are valuable in and of themselves. In fact, the reverse argument is more correct – Google’s valuable because is realized the value of links.

By SEO Edmonton

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Google Warning : Googlebot Cannot Access CSS & JavaScript

Google is now sending out a rush of new warnings via Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools to notify webmasters that GoogleBot cannot access their CSS and JS (JavaScript) files on their web sites.

Michael Gray first notified me directly via Twitter and I planned on covering it tomorrow, but it seems Google is sending these warnings out at a rapid pace. Tons of webmasters are concerned after receiving these warnings.
Here is a picture:
Google Warning: Googlebot Cannot Access CSS & JS

Google has been telling webmasters to not block CSS & JavaScript for years and years. Here is Matt Cutts in 2012 telling webmasters not to block it. The webmaster guidelines were updated to say not to block them. The new fetch and render tool warns you when you block CSS and JavaScript. We also know, Google renders the page as a user would see it these days, so blocking CSS/JS can impact that big time.

It seems like Google is sending these notices out in mass quantity now. The message reads:

Google systems have recently detected an issue with your homepage that affects how well our algorithms render and index your content. Specifically, Googlebot cannot access your JavaScript and/or CSS files because of restrictions in your robots.txt file. These files help Google understand that your website works properly so blocking access to these assets can result in suboptimal rankings.

This is not a penalty notification, but a warning that if Google cannot see your whole site, it may result in poorer rankings.

If you get this message, talk to your developers and discuss what you can do, if you need to do anything. Use the fetch and render tool to diagnosis the issue deeper as well.

Many WordPress sites are getting this notification because their /wp-includes/ folder is blocked by robots.txt. Plus there are many popular CMS solutions that block their include files by default.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

By SEO Edmonton

Google : How to Protect Your Site from Getting Hacked

Google continued its #NoHacked campaign today with some tips on how to prevent sites from getting hacked.

This past year saw a 180% increase in the number of sites getting hacked, Google says, and in order to ensure your site isn’t targeted the company recommends taking the following precautions.

Password Security

By now it’s practically common knowledge that a strong password contains a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols — but Google says there’s more to it than that.

Length is also a factor, the longer the password is the harder it is to guess. It’s also recommended to avoid using the same password across multiple services.

In addition, Google recommends turning on 2-factor authentication, which can significantly strengthen your account’s security.

Software Updates

Keep your site’s software up to date, Google says, because outdated software is one of the most common ways a hacker can take control of your site.

This includes keeping your web server software patched and your CMS’s plugins and add-ons updated.

Hosting Provider

If you use a hosting provider, Google recommends you contact them to see if they offer on-demand support for dealing with issues related to hacked sites.

If you manage your own server, Google says you better be prepared to deal with any complex security issues that might arise.

Google Services

Google offers a number of services that notify you if your site is compromised. Signing up for Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is one of the most obvious recommendations since it’s Google’s direct connection to site owners.

In addition, Google suggests setting up Google Alerts to notify you of suspicious results for your site:
“For example, if you run a site selling pet accessories called, you can set up an alert for [ cheap software] to alert you if any hacked content about cheap software suddenly starts appearing on your site.”

Setting up alerts for spammy terms following the method described above is also recommended.

Author: Matt Southern
By SEO Edmonton

How Google’s New Mobile Ad Units Will Increase Your Mobile Conversions

On May 5th during the long-awaited Google AdWords LiveStream at SMX, Google’s VP of Product Management Jerry Dischler took the stage to reveal some exciting and mix-reviewed innovations the team has released (or plans to release) with hopes of improving the search experience for users and advertisers.

One of the most exciting updates? The new mobile ad units! Google revealed that mobile searches have finally surpassed desktop, so naturally they’ve been pushing mobile optimization for advertisers through product innovations.

But, there’s one headache inducing problem with mobile advertising – we kind of suck at it! I apologize for being blunt, but truly converting mobile visitors has proved to be a challenge for advertisers across multiple industries.

Just check out the graph below from a WordStream study proving that mobile conversions fall far behind conversions occurring on desktops and tablets:



The biggest problem is that advertisers are treating their mobile ads the same as their desktop ads, when in reality mobile behavior is vastly different. Mobile searchers are on-the-go, multi-tasking, commuting, and easily distracted creatures. In contrast, desktop searchers are more civil, focused, and inclined to conduct research.

Think about it. When you’re cooking pasta while browsing your phone for new sandals and you notice the water boiling over, are you going to ignore it and proceed with your shopping? Absolutely not. Advertisers need to realize mobile searchers are not different people, but people in a different state of mind.

So, what has Google done to address this?

They’ve introduced new mobile ad formats for four of the largest industries advertising on Google including travel, finance, automotive, and shopping. Naturally, non-included industry advertisers felt discouraged upon these announcements. Luckily, Jerry confirmed at SMX Advanced in Seattle that Google intends to scale these new mobile ad units for multiple industries in the coming months.

“When session lengths are compressed as they are on mobile, we need to drive people to answers more quickly,” Dischler said. “On mobile, people also expect more rich content. So we’re going to build products that work well on mobile first. For each vertical, we’d like to create a template that will lead to an answer.” So take a breather, Google has not forgotten about you!
Now let’s take a look into some of the most innovative features these new ad formats have to offer.

#1: Mobile Ads are Becoming More Visually Interactive

Google recently announced carousel ads, which are a set of images that you can scroll through (similar to a catalog) directly on the SERPs. They’re engaging, interactive, scream ‘mobile-friendly!’ due to the touch-screen element, and allow the searcher to browse before clicking, which is beneficial for both the searcher and the advertiser.

Currently, this feature is for automotive advertisers only. Around 50% of searchers in the automotive industry occur on Google, so they’ve decided to prioritize these formats for this visual and research-heavy industry first.

I suspect that these formats will become available for advertisers in various industries because, let’s face it, imagery is important to both the user and advertiser, so Google withdrawing the ability so see images within ads on the SERPs could lead to fewer mobile clicks and more frustrated spenders.

#2: Easily Compare & Read Product Reviews on the SERPs

Do you remember the last time you bought a car? You hopped online, did a search including the ‘must-have’ terms to find an affordable and practical vehicle, and hit “Buy now”, right?

Not exactly. You likely spent months comparing models, conducting research, reading reviews, etc.
Google understands how people shop. Searchers want to make informed decisions before purchasing. Whether it be booking a hotel room or signing up for a new credit card, a searcher is never going to choose the first thing they see. They also understand that, on mobile, the chances of visiting a bunch of websites to get additional information on various brands are pretty much nonexistent. Mobile searchers don’t have the patience, time, or attention span for this kind of investigation.

This is why Google introduced Google Compare in March to help shoppers compare car insurance directly through the SERPs. “Whether you’re a national insurance provider or one local to California, people searching  for car insurance on their phone or computer can find you along with an apples-to-apples comparison of other providers – all in as little as 5 minutes,” says the Google AdWords blog. “You can highlight what makes your business unique, whether that’s an ‘A’ rating in customer service or better discounts for safe drivers.”

During the Livestream, Dischler announced Google Compare will be coming for mortgage providers and credit card companies, which leads to the suspicion that Google Compare is going to be available to compare several other products across a range of industries in the future. With the new hotel ad formats, searchers are also easily able to compare hotel locations, reviews, and rates side-by-side.

In addition to the ability to compare products on the SERPs, Google is also integrating more review information into ads. Approximately 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations according to BrightLocal, so Google is making it easier for mobile searchers to see reviews directly on the SERPs.

#3: Revamp of Dynamic Search Ads to Make Your Life Easier

Dynamic search ads previously just inserted a search query into the headline of your ad in the hopes of boosting relevancy and CTRs. Although this capability worked wonders for some advertisers, others (like eBay) misused the functionality leading to embarrassing results.

The problem with targeting searchers with keywords is that 15% of Google searches are completely unique and have never been searched for before, therefore chasing mobile specific keywords is a fool’s game. Luckily, Google has made huge strides with a complete revamp of Dynamic Search Ads providing a much higher level of transparency and lower level of keyword management.

So, how do these new DKIs work exactly? Google’s web crawling technology scrapes through the content of your site, and then organizes your site into categories, which then match to relevant queries and ads and direct to the most relevant landing page. Why I already love these new DKIs: it gives the searcher a clean, easy, and relevant experience, and takes the daunting task of keyword management and set-up out of the equation for the advertiser.

Also, you don’t need to break a sweat about Google running the show because you will still have the ability to make adjustments on categories, targeted searches, ad text, etc.

#4: The Ability to Buy, Book, & Act Directly Through the SERPs

Mobile searchers are far too busy to visit a bunch of websites. They want to hop on Google, get an answer or complete an action, without having to go through a site full of hurdles and pages to get the end result. With additional hurdles on mobile comes a lack of motivation from searchers. “Eh, I guess I don’t really need that,” or “I’ll do it later,” the searcher thinks, and then sayonara to that on-the-brink conversion.

This is why new mobile ad formats are going to allow searchers to do more, faster. Google recently confirmed that the buy button is real, making it easier for shoppers to buy on-the-go. They’ve also revealed the ability to complete other actions more easily, like booking a hotel or flight with the click of a button, on the relevant check-out page. This will be a huge advantage for advertisers to keep the motivation of mobile searchers high and increase conversions.

I’m thrilled about these new mobile ad formats and am confident that mobile conversion increase potential is set high for advertisers.

What are your thoughts on these new mobile ad formats?

Author: Margot da Cunha
By SEO Edmonton

7 Reasons Your SEO Campaign Will Fail and What You Can Do About It

Most SEO campaigns are destined for failure because expectations are too high, budgets are too low, decisions are made based on assumptions instead of data and customer expectations are misunderstood.

Whether you're managing a campaign yourself, or you've hired an SEO professional, ask these 7 questions to determine if your campaign is on the right track.

1. Have You Set Realistic Goals?

Setting unrealistic goals for your SEO campaign, such as dominating Google and Bing for every product or service you offer right out of the gate, will most always result in failure. Instead, set realistic objectives for your campaign and achieve success incrementally. For example, most businesses offer multiple products or services. If your business falls into this category, it can be daunting to achieve top rankings for everything you offer. With an incremental strategy, you can optimize for one product or service, and after you've achieved success, move onto the next product or service and so on.

Also, keep in mind that a successful SEO strategy can be perceived as unsuccessful only because the goals are so completely unrealistic.

2. Do You Have a Realistic Timeframe and Budget?

This is a big one. Most businesses do not have realistic timeframes or budgets for their SEO campaigns. They want results immediately, and at the same time, are only willing to make a minimal investment. Consult with an SEO professional and determine what a realistic timeframe and budget would be for your type of business. The more competitive your industry, the greater timeframe and larger budget you should expect. If you go into an SEO campaign with a short timeframe and unwillingness to make the necessary investment, it will most likely fail because you are not giving your SEO professional the necessary time to test and make adjustments needed for a successful long-term campaign.

3. Have You Chosen the Right Keywords?

Optimizing for the wrong keywords is common and often the cause of an SEO campaign's failure. Ideally, you've hired an agency or professional to manage your campaign and they've chosen the right keywords after performing extensive keyword research. However, if you've selected your own keywords based on what you "think" your customers are searching, without verifying with real data, it's highly probable that your campaign is not using the right keywords.
Analyze keyword data using a reputable keyword research tool and see what keywords your (successful) competitors are using, to make sure you're optimizing for the right keywords.

4. Is Your Campaign Delivering the Right Traffic?

If you have failed to select the right keywords, then you're either not delivering enough traffic to your site, or not delivering the right traffic or a combination of both. A quick sniff test to determine if your campaign is delivering the right traffic is to look at your site's bounce rate for organic search traffic. If you see a high bounce rate for organic search visitors, then what they're searching for is not consistent with what they're finding on your website. It's important to distinguish the bounce rate for organic visitors from other visitor types (i.e., direct visits, referral visits, etc.) so you can make informed decisions based on your organic search traffic specifically. If you have a high bounce rate for all visitor types, this means you may have a larger issue to address, such as your website.

5. Do You Have a Professional Website?

A successful SEO campaign starts with a professional website that engages visitors upon arrival. Visitor engagement is crucial to a campaign's success, because engagement ultimately results in conversions, which is how most businesses measure a campaign's success. The lack of a professional website discredits your brand and therefore reduces engagement and conversions.
Here are some questions to ask when evaluating your website:
1. Is it outdated?
2. Is it professionally designed?
3. Does it have an intuitive navigation structure?
4. Is it user-friendly across desktop, tablet and smartphone devices?
5. Do you receive positive or negative feedback about it from existing customers?

6. Are You Writing Content That Your Customers Care About?

Lack of visitor engagement and a resulting lack of conversions can also be attributed to providing content that fails to answer prospective customers' questions. Do not write content simply to appeal to search engines. Have a content strategy in place that answers questions and addresses concerns your customers typically have. Prospective customers will appreciate this and are much more likely to become paying customers as a result.

7. Are You Tracking Data and Making Improvements?

Tracking data and making improvements as needed is crucial to a successful long-term SEO strategy. This can often result in small tweaks that help improve the campaign over time or significant adjustments such as revamping an entire content strategy or even redesigning a website.
It's a mistake to simply measure the results of an SEO strategy based on one data point, such as rankings or phone calls. You should look at all of the data collectively and understand how the rankings are contributing to traffic and how that traffic is contributing to conversions. If you look at all of the data points as a system working together, it's easier to find and fix deficiencies. For example, if rankings and traffic are good, but conversions are lacking, this could be due to poor keyword choices, a poorly designed website or some other factor that could change the entire complexion of the campaign if addressed.


Most SEO campaigns are destined for failure, but yours doesn't have to be. If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you now know where your campaign is lacking and where to focus on making changes.

By SEO Edmonton

Google’s Overhaul Of Dynamic Search Ads Now Live Globally With Category Targeting

Google announced this spring during the livestreamed Inside AdWords event that
Dynamic Search Ads was getting a reboot. Tuesday, the overhauled interface
became available to all advertisers globally.

With Dynamic Search Ads (DSA), Google automatically generates text ads for inclusion in an auction based on your site content as opposed to the keywords you input into a campaign. Google creates the headline, ad copy and chooses the landing page based on a crawl of your site.

The idea is that DSA can be used to cover your bases for keywords that aren’t already in your campaigns. These may be unique or low-volume queries or location-oriented searches that use “near me” or “nearby”, which according to Google Trends data have doubled in the past year.

What’s New

DSA has always relied on crawling and indexing site content, what’s new is that it now also creates categories of your site content for ad targeting. When selecting the option to “Use categories recommended for your website” (see screenshot above), you’ll see the way Google categorized the products on your site. In the example above, there is a Furniture category which is then sub-categorized by “dining room furniture”, “bedroom furniture”, etc.

While you do lose some control compared to selecting specific product pages, targeting by category can save set-up time or expand on DSA targeting you’re already doing.

For each suggested category, Google provides samples of the types of search queries it will target, text ad examples and landing pages. Bid recommendations are based on the performance of keywords in your other campaigns that target similar queries.

Below is an overview video from Google explaining how it all works:

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bye Bye Google+

Google has finally announced the Google+ news that everyone has been waiting for: Your Google+ profile will no longer be your identity in all Google products. This change will be trickling out “in the coming months,” and the first product to enjoy the change will be the one that was most negatively affected by Google’s Google+ obsession: YouTube.

Bradley Horowitz, Google’s vice president of streams, photos, and sharing, says the changes are a response to user feedback (much like LinkedIn did this weekend): “We’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use.” No shit.

The move means you’ll soon be able to use your standard Google account to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel, and so on. Unlike your public Google+ profile, your Google account is not searchable or followable.

In fact, if you already created a Google+ profile (read: Google conned you into doing it) but don’t plan to use Google+, the company says it will “offer better options for managing and removing” your public profile. Horowitz says the changes are meant to strike a balance between the select few who actually like using Google+ and everyone else whom Google forced to sign up for its social network.


The YouTube team has shared how these changes will affect comments and channels on the video site. In short: Google+ will slowly but surely be going away.

Starting today, the comments you make on YouTube will no longer appear on Google+. The same applies the other way: Nothing you post on Google+ will appear on YouTube.

That said, YouTube says its creator community did like Google+’s moderation options on channels, such as reviewing comments before they’re posted, blocking certain words, and auto-approving comments from certain fans. These features will remain, just sans Google+.

In related news, YouTube has been improving the ranking system that reduces the visibility of junk comments. The Google-owned company says the rate of dislikes on comments “has dropped by more than 35 percent across YouTube.”

In the “coming weeks,” YouTube will no longer require a Google+ profile when you want to upload, comment, or create a channel. That means if you want to remove your Google+ profile, you’ll be able to do so “in the coming months.”

That said, Google does offer a warning to YouTube users: Do not delete your Google+ account now “or you’ll delete your YouTube channel (no bueno).” In other words, the changes are finally coming, but you still have to be patient or Google+ will still screw you.


Horowitz made a point to emphasize, once again, that Google+ isn’t going away. Instead, he reiterated that the company will be offering “a more focused Google+ experience.”

In other words, Google+ has a core set of users that really do enjoy using the service. “Google+ is quickly becoming a place where people engage around their shared interests, with the content and people who inspire them,” Horowitz said.

More specifically, Google plans to continue to offer new features in Google+ and move “features that aren’t essential to an interest-based social experience” into existing products.

In May, Google launched Google+ Collections, a way to share videos, links, and photos on different category boards. Later that month, the company also introduced Google Photos, and moved many elements of Google+ Photos into that new app. Next, Google will be bringing location sharing into Hangouts and other apps, “where it really belongs.”

Google has been talking about these changes for months. In March, Google’s senior vice president Sundar Pichai hinted at splitting Google+ apart.

Today is just another part of the plan. It’s just that Google is finally executing the best part.

Update: Horowitz has posted his thoughts on Google+, describing in more detail what the move which he describes as a pivot. Again, this has been in the works for a while. You’ll still hear about Google+ going forward, but increasingly Google’s social strategy, for better or for worse, will be a three-pronged push: Streams, Photos, and Sharing.

Here’s the post in full:

It’s been a little more than a quarter since I took on leadership of a newly formed team, which we’ve christened SPS: Streams, Photos, and Sharing.
 In that short time, I’ve had some time to reflect on the products we’ve built over the last few years, and also the opportunity to oversee the launch of our new Google Photos product. I’ve concluded that it’s time for a “pivot”… or more precisely time to talk more openly about a pivot that’s been underway for some time (and in fact is reflected in the name of the new team). We’re going to continue focusing Google+ on helping users connect around the interest they love, and retire it as the mechanism by which people share and engage within other Google products.

Four years ago when we conceived of the “Google+ Project”, we made it clear that our goals were always two-fold: Google+ aspired to be both a “platform layer that unified Google’s sharing models”, and a product / stream / app in its own right.

This was a well-intentioned goal, but as realized it led to some product experiences that users sometimes found confusing. For instance, and perhaps most controversially, integration with YouTube implied that leaving a comment on YouTube (something users had obviously been doing successfully for years) suddenly and unexpectedly required “joining Google+.”

We decided it’s time to fix this, not only in YouTube, but across a user’s entire experience at Google. We want to formally retire the notion that a Google+ membership is required for anything at Google… other than using Google+ itself.

Some of the consequences of this shift in thinking have already been deployed. Others we’re rolling out as fast as possible (e.g. the changes to YouTube we referenced today). And many more will roll out over the rest of the year.

What does this mean for Google+ the product? Relieved of the notion of integrating with every other product at Google, Google+ can now focus on doing what it’s already doing quite well: helping millions of users around the world connect around the interest they love. Aspects of the product that don’t serve this agenda have been, or will be, retired. But you’ll also see a slew of improvements that make this use case shine (like the recent launch of Collections –

It’s been incredibly gratifying to see how this strategy has played out as realized in the recent Google Photos launch, a product which in many ways embodies and telegraphs the changes discussed above. Google Photos not only doesn’t require a Google+ account, but as much of the functionality as possible doesn’t even require an account at all. It was important to me that when we launched Google Photos, we stressed the product implements sharing by any means a user prefers… without compromise or agenda. This is the right thing for users and the feedback and usage has been extremely validating.

I’m excited to share this strategy with the world, excited about what it means for Google+, and most of all for all of Google’s users.

By SEO Edmonton