SEO Predictions for 2016
2015 is winding down, and to get us ready and excited for the New Year, I wanted to share some predictions for upcoming SEO changes and trends to look out for in 2016! Here are a few things to look forward to this year:
Organic rankings will be affected by real-time algorithm updates:
According to Google’s Gary Illyes, the new Penguin update that is expected to be released early next year will actually be a real-time algorithm update. This means that the days of waiting months to recover from Penguin penalties are over, since links will be evaluated on an ongoing basis rather than in waves every now and then. In this new model, it seems like marketers will be able to immediately see the impacts (whether it be positive or negative impacts) of new links that are either created or disavowed.
What does this mean for you?
Continue to practice up-to-date, “earned” backlink strategies and conduct routine backlink audits in order to weed out and disavow any questionable links.
The hype around Mobile optimization is only going to increase:
2015 was a big year for mobile. Now that mobile searches actually outnumber desktop searches, it only makes sense for Google to continue to place an even bigger emphasis on mobile usability and optimization in 2016. Rather than mobile and desktop search being on a relatively even playing field in 2015, experts are speculating that mobile traffic will actually surpass desktop traffic in terms of importance next year.
What does this mean for you?
Mobile should no longer be an after-thought. If you are not already designing, writing, and thinking in a mobile perspective, you will fall even farther behind next year. Invest in upgrading your website to a responsive design, create content that is useful and friendly for mobile users, and make that content as easy as possible for mobile users to consume and share.
The lines between social and SEO could become even more blurred:
The impact of social media on SEO has been a long debated topic. This year, after an agreement with Google and Twitter, a huge number of tweets are now being indexed and are visible in organic search results. In 2016, it is expected that more and more social media posts will be indexed, and therefore, competing against websites for spots in the SERPs.
What does this mean for you?
Step up your social media game if you want to be able to compete. Focus on continuous, engaging social content across multiple networks, if possible.
2016 promises to be another big year for SEO, stay tuned!
The Recipe For A Successful SEO Cupcake (Strategy)
Two things that I love? SEO and baking.
Both SEO and baking involve walking the fine line between following instructions (or best practices) and improvising based on the ingredients (resources) you have at your disposal. So, when I came across this great blog from Unbounce comparing PPC campaign management to baking, I was inspired to write my very own SEO Cupcake Recipe.
The SEO Cupcake Recipe:
Step 1: Choose your ideal cupcake (AKA Define your SEO goals): Like every other marketing initiative, before developing your SEO strategy it’s important to first define your goals. What are you hoping to achieve from SEO? Whether your goal is to see a general increase in visibility or you have specific website traffic and conversion rate benchmarks to meet, think about your goals and how you will measure them over time before doing anything else. Your goals (or your idea of the perfect cupcake) will shape the rest of the strategy (or recipe).
Step 2: Mix the batter (AKA Choose your keywords) = Just like keywords are the foundation of any SEO strategy, the batter is the basis of any cupcake. Cupcake batter is made up of various ingredients. Meanwhile, a keyword strategy is made by combining several “ingredients”, like short-tail, long-tail, non-branded, and branded keywords that are relevant to visitors at various stages of the sales funnel. By mixing all of these together, you should end up with a well-balanced “batter” that will fit seamlessly into your perfect cupcake vision. If done correctly, all of the other ingredients, flavors, and frosting will compliment the batter and work together to become a delicious cupcake (or a successful SEO strategy).
Step 3: Add some flavor (AKA Create and maintain quality on-site content) = This is your chance to decide how your cupcake is going to taste. You can be as straight forward or as creative as you want. Whether you’re planning on a simple vanilla flavor (straight forward, professional sounding content) or something more fun like a smore’s inspired cupcake (informal content with a unique “voice”), your on-site content is your chance to shine. The quality of your content (flavor) is what sets your website (cupcake) apart from others, and entices people to visit (eat) it. This is a crucial step. You wouldn’t want to eat a cupcake that didn’t taste good, right? Well, you also wouldn’t want an SEO strategy that is based on low quality on-site content. In order to set yourself up for success, create fresh, unique content that seamlessly integrates your chosen keywords, and you’ll be on your way to a well-optimized website!
Step 4: Bake for 20 minutes (AKA Be patient): Both baking and SEO require some patience. You may be so tempted that you want to start eating the batter straight from the bowl, but it will be well worth it if you wait until the cupcakes are fully cooked first. Similarly, it may be tempting to cut corners when it comes to writing content, designing and building your website, etc. However, there are no shortcuts in SEO. It takes time and hard work, but it will be worth it in the long run to take your time and not skip steps!
Step 5: Fill your cupcakes (AKA Monitor your technical SEO factors): The behind-the-scenes “core” of SEO is an effective technical SEO strategy, so it is rightfully similar to the delicious hidden filling inside your cupcake. Technical SEO factors are crucial to monitor and maintain in order to ensure that search engines can easily crawl and index your website. Your “filling” should include a variety of ingredients, including: a robots.txt file, an xml sitemap, 301 redirects to fix 404s, canonical tags to avoid duplicate content, a mobile-friendly design, and a tool to help you track your technical SEO health over time.
Step 6: Frost and decorate (AKA Gain backlinks): Again, while it may be tempting at this point to quickly throw any frosting on top of your cupcakes and call it a day, it will be much more rewarding to cover it with carefully placed, quality frosting and decorations. When you look at a cupcake, the frosting and overall outer appearance is a big part of your initial judgment of how tasty it will be. Well, Google uses backlinks to your website as a way to judge how popular, authoritative, and relevant your website is. The more backlinks you receive from unique, quality, third party websites, the more off-site SEO value you will gain. And let’s be honest, the more frosting, the better! Your “frosting” should consist of: guest posting, manual outreach to other sites, and other strategies to help you naturally build your backlinks over time.
Step 7: Taste your cupcakes (AKA Figure out what worked and what didn’t): After a few months of monitoring your organic traffic, keyword rankings, and conversions, you can begin evaluating the success of your SEO strategy. Which parts of your recipe worked well? What can you do to adjust the recipe next time? SEO is not just a one-time project. Give yourself the freedom to make adjustments to your strategy over time. Don’t be afraid to improvise a little based on your resources (ingredients) or business goals; it’s okay to not always follow the recipe (best practices) to a tee. Do what you can, and do it well!
There you have it, the perfect SEO Cupcake Recipe. Think I missed any key ingredients or steps? Let us know!
How To Lose Your Organic Traffic in 10 Days (After A Site Launch)
So, you’re about to launch a brand new website. Congrats! However, if you make any of these common mistakes with your new website, you could potentially cause a big drop in your organic traffic. With over 200 ranking factors, Google takes more than just your website’s content into consideration. Technical issues, crawl errors, incorrect redirections, poor design, or outdated tactics are just a few of the factors that could lead to a drop in traffic from search post-launch.
10 common mistakes to avoid when launching a new site:
- Incorrect robots.txt file: If you’re not familiar with robots.txt files, they are used to help tell search engines which pages and sections of your site you want them to ignore. If you create it incorrectly and accidentally disallow them from crawling major pages of your site, you can hurt your organic visibility big time!
- No index tag: Meta=no index tags are placed on staging environments so that search engines can’t crawl the site before it’s live and ready. However, if this tag isn’t removed when the site is pushed live, you’d be blocking your entire new site from being indexed in organic search results.
- Not implementing redirections: When you were building your new site, did you omit pages from your old site? Did you make changes to the URL structure of some of your pages? If so, then these URL changes will result in 404 errors when the new site launches if they are not properly redirected. These have both SEO and usability repercussions and should be fixed ASAP!
- Implementing temporary redirects instead of 301s: Speaking of redirects, make sure that you implement 301 permanent redirects rather than temporary redirects. Unlike 301 redirects, temporary redirects don’t pass any SEO value from one URL to another.
- Changes in URL structure: Google considers pages that are closer to the root domain to be more important, and therefore have more SEO value. By changing your URL structure, you might accidentally hurt the SEO performance of your old pages as you carry them over to the new site. For example, if you had pages of your old site located at the root, ex. yourwebsite.com/page-name/, that were then moved farther away from the root during the URL re-structuring phase of your new site build, ex. www.yourwebsite.com/new-overview-page/page-name/, the SEO value of that page could be jeopardized.
- Spammy SEO tactics: If you’ve been using outdated or “spammy” SEO methods in order to drive traffic to your brand new site, like paying for backlinks, you could end up being penalized by Google. Be sure to also steer clear from sneaky hidden pages and text that is colored the same as the background.
- Content changes: Is your new website filled with thin, duplicate, or keyword-stuffed content? If so, it probably won’t perform well in search engines. Invest in continuous, quality content that offers value to your visitors.
- Not mobile friendly: If your new website isn’t “mobile friendly”, it won’t rank as well in mobile search results. Google officially announced this mobile algorithm update earlier this year, so make sure to plan your new site accordingly or else you’ll be a victim of “mobilegeddon”!
- “Orphan” pages: If some pages of your new site are difficult to find using your navigation or internal links structure and are seemingly “orphans”, Google may consider these to be spammy Doorway Pages. They will lose their SEO value and could potentially result in a larger-scale Google penalty.
- Poor UX: If your brand new site was built in a not-so-user-friendly way, users may react by staying on your site for only a short time or bouncing off your site completely and returning to the search results to find a different website. Over time, these “short clicks” and other usability metrics tell Google that your website isn’t satisfying the users for the queries that they are typing in.
Have you been affected by any of these mistakes when launching a new site? Can you think of any that we didn’t include in this list? We’d love to hear more about your experience!
Ready for Inbound ’15? We Are!
emagine is Inbound bound!
As strategists in such a dynamic industry, it’s crucial that we’re always staying on top of industry changes, best practices, and upcoming trends. And, with one of the most influential marketing and automation companies less than an hour away from us, it only makes sense for us to take part in HubSpot’s annual Inbound conference. This week, Alicia (the fearless leader of our Digital Marketing Department) and I will be shipping up to Boston for a few days to soak in as much inbound marketing knowledge as possible.
The seminars are all on a first come, first serve basis. However, we have a few speakers in mind that we definitely don’t want to miss! Here’s a quick look at a few of our wish-list sessions:
-The Future Of Search
-The 4 corners of conversion: Understanding The Intersection of Copy, Design, Interaction & Psychology
-The Relevance Imperative: B2B The Way It Should Be
-Social Selling: How To Connect With the Modern Buyer
-Good Content Vs. Good Enough Content: A Fight For Sore Eyes
-50 Actionable Tips For Launching A Successful Lead Gen Campaign
We are so excited to learn new tactics and hear stories from industry leaders, then share with the rest of our team, and of course, with our clients! One of the most important parts of our jobs as consultants is to stay ahead of the curve on industry changes and advise our clients on updated strategies. Our hope is that we take away invaluable knowledge to help us be better strategists, and overall a stronger digital marketing department for our clients. Of course, there will be a re-cap blog posted in the next couple weeks to summarize the sessions we attended along with the main takeaways from them!
[Image source: INBOUND]
Google Ranking Factors 2015: A Summary Of Moz’s Recent Correlation Report
As an SEO Strategist here at emagine, it’s not uncommon for clients to ask “Why is that site ranking above me in Google? Our page is optimized”. My usual answer is that Google uses hundreds of factors to determine its rankings. Literally, hundreds. So, it’s not always possible to know which of these factors are working together to make your site (or a competitor’s site for that matter) rank well in organic search results. While this can be frustrating for businesses, and SEO consultants, that’s actually what intrigues me so much about SEO. It’s always changing, and there are always more things to learn and improve upon. So, not surprisingly, one of my favorite things is Moz’s annual Search Engine Ranking Factor Study.
Moz, the long standing King and trusted resource of the SEO world, puts its unimaginable amount of SEO data to use by formulating a correlation study of the top Google ranking factors every year. Since Google’s algorithm, and therefore SEO best practices, are updated constantly, this type of data is an invaluable look at which factors are truly responsible for rankings today.
For those of you who are not giant SEO nerds and are therefore just looking for a brief summary of the data, here it is! Each factor was given a score from 1 to 10, 1 being the least influential for rankings and 10 being the most influential.
Key takeaways from Moz’s Recent Google Ranking Factors 2015 Study:
- Link factors, including the number and quality of backlinks to a page or domain and the anchor text attributed to those links, still remain as the biggest SEO ranking factor. While the quantity of backlinks has always been important, the quality of links has become increasingly more important in recent years. So, make sure that you’re not just building more links, but more relevant and high quality links. Domain level link factors landed an 8.22 out of 10, and page level link factors was slightly below that at 8.19.
- Coming in second place in the ranking factors study were on-page keyword and content factors, with a 7.87 rating. It’s no secret, content is invaluable for SEO success. Similar to links, it’s necessary for content to be high quality, unique, and useful to web visitors. Google’s goal is to provide searchers with results that will provide them valuable resources and answers to their questions. Having relevant and intriguing content on the site helps tell Google that your site should be viewed as a resource.
- Page level factors other than keywords and content quality were next on the list, at a 6.57 rating. These factors include things like structured data markup, page load speeds, readability, content length, and HTTPS certificates.
- Engagement and traffic data came up next at 6.55, very slightly below the keyword agnostic page level factors. What many people don’t know is that visitor traffic and usage signals such as click through rate, bounce rate, etc. are also considered by Google. So, if many users are going from search results to your page, then immediately back to search results, it can tell Google that your page is not meeting the needs of searchers for that query.
- Factors like brand mentions, exact match keyword domains, top level domain extensions, and social signals from likes, shares, and tweets were among the least influential ranking factors.
Here’s the full study, including all factors and correlation data. How many of these factors is your B2B optimizing for?
Why Your Domain Authority Dropped in June (And What To Do About It)
What is Domain Authority? And how should you use it?
Domain Authority is a metric created by Moz in order to help predict how well a site will rank organically in search engines. This number is based on a 100-point, logarithmic scale encompassing over 40 SEO factors and signals. Some of these factors include your linking root domains, total links, MozTrust, etc. in order to provide an accurate model that matches Google’s algorithm.
Two important things to note about this metric are: due to how it is calculated, DA can fluctuate often, and it is easier to improve your score from a 25 to 35 than it is from a 75 and 85. For those reasons, it is best to use Domain Authority as a competitive metric to track the strength of one site against another site over time. Without the comparison to add this context, DA fluctuations can be misleading.
What happened to Domain Authority last month?
If you have been tracking your Domain Authority as a measure of your SEO success and noticed a significant drop in June, you are not alone. Before you panic, there’s actually a valid reason why your site (and many others) had a dip in DA in June.
Moz’s latest Mozscape Index (all the URLs that Moz’s API crawls and catalogues) on June 9th included about 34 billion URLs less than usual. For reference, it still includes data from over 153 billion URLs. According to Moz’s Rand Fishkin, a large number of Chinese pages and subdomains were cut from this index that were causing processing issues. Basically, in order to improve the speed and efficiency of their results, they decided not to crawl those particular problem websites. And, since many URLs were excluded, the quality and importance of the ones that remain are greater in general. Rand explains, “DA, PA, and link metrics have maintained very similar correlations with Google rankings in this index, so if you’ve seen a large drop in either, it may be related to the removal of links that Google may not have been counting very highly. However, it’s also possible that you’ve lost DA/PA from links that Google did count and Moz should be, too.”
Does this mean DA will go back up with the new index?
Not necessarily. If you’ve been tracking your links and domain authority changes and noticed these metrics have dropped compared to last month, it’s most likely due to Moz removing links that they believed Google may not have been counting. However, since this happened for many websites and Domain Authority is best used as a comparison tool, don’t worry about your recent drop in DA unless your competitors or other companies in your niche did not experience similar declines. Domain Authority will always fluctuate as Google continuously updates their algorithm, and Moz retrains their model about once a year to adjust accordingly. Instead of looking at it like a “drop” in DA, consider it as a correction instead.
The best thing to do is to continue working on your overall SEO strength and compare your domain authority (and other metrics) to your competitors’ over time.
How To Find (and Remove) Bad Backlinks
While backlink building and removing is not the most exciting SEO topic, it is definitely a crucial and oftentimes complicated one. Many sites have purchased links in the past that are hurting them now, and unfortunately it seems much more difficult to remove them than it was to build them in the first place.
To help anyone who may be wondering if they should remove some of their low quality backlinks, we’ve put together this 6-step guide for finding and removing “spammy” backlinks:
1. Find potentially harmful links: Moz’s new Spam Analysis functionality makes it extremely easy to identify backlinks that Google may consider to be spammy. This tool crawls through your backlinks and assigns a Spam Score to each one, based on 17 different factors that are often correlated with spam sites. Since many sites may have some of these “spam flags” but still be perfectly legitimate websites, Moz suggests not worrying about sites that have a score of 6 or lower. You can also find a list of your backlinks in Google Webmaster Tools to help you build your list. In addition to these tools, if you know of any links your company has purchased in the past, add those to your list!
2. Manually check each link in question: Since removing links is a serious step, it’s important to manually check each link with a spam score of 7 or above to make sure that each link is actually coming from a site you want to remove. If the site is clearly spam, paid, very low quality, or completely irrelevant, consider removing it.
3. Reach out to webmasters of sites: Once you are sure of the links you want to remove, you need to start manually contacting each site and asking them to remove the backlink. While this may seem like an unnecessary and time consuming task, it’s important that you try to make the effort to remove these links rather than skipping right to the disavow tool. Google wants to see that you are actually trying to put effort in when it comes to removing your past link mistakes!
4. Reach out again: Some will have contact forms, some will have email addresses, either way: many may not respond at all. As a general rule of thumb, you should try at least 2 times to contact them yourself.
5. Document everything: Make note of which ones you were able to contact, when and how many times you contacted them, and if they responded. All of these notes will also be sent along to Google.
6. Disavow: After manually removing all that you can, the final step is to use Google’s Disavow Tool to take care of the rest. Note that this is a very serious and potentially damaging move, and needs to be used correctly. You only want to take this step if you are sure of your link problems, and have manually checked and contacted each one first. Also keep in mind that Google treats this as a “strong suggestion”. This is not an automatic pardon or removal of spammy backlinks, rather a way to tell Google that you do not want these backlinks to be considered as part of your overall backlink profile. If you are using Moz’s spam tool, they will export it in a file that is basically ready to upload directly to the Disavow Tool.
Have you had to remove backlinks? Let us know how it worked for you and which steps you took!
Google’s New Search Analytics Report: What You Need To Know
This month has been a busy one for Google. With changes to AdWords, new Google+ features, and of course, “mobilegeddon”, Google has been keeping digital marketers everywhere on their toes with new updates. Yet another update from the almighty Google this month was the removal of the old “Queries” report from Webmaster Tools and the introduction of the new “Search Analytics” report. Here’s what you need to know:
Why the change?
The Queries report used to focus on broad match search phrases, along with their average impressions, click through rate, and position in search. While it was a handy tool for a variety of reasons, some marketers, like those on emagine’s Digital Marketing team, didn’t fully trust the validity of the data provided. In order to provide users with more accurate data, Google has replaced the Queries report and stated that the new Search Analytics report will provide more precise data along with a variety of options to filter the data. Google announced that the updated report has taken users’ feedback into consideration in order to supply more in-depth information that was lacking in the Queries report. For example, this report now allows users to easily compare traffic metrics in different countries, date ranges, landing pages, etc.
How accurate is it?
Since this report is brand new, we haven’t had much time to test the data or dive too deeply into the new options yet. However, at first glance I’m not very impressed. Other than the new options to filter the data by mobile, location, and landing page, the data itself hasn’t changed much. The main data in the report: impressions, click through rate, and position of each query look to be the same. And, unless these metrics have been re-formulated to provide more accurate results, I’m not sure how much of an improvement this new report is from the old one.
Marketers would love to know how many clicks to their site a certain keyword is responsible for. Since that is no longer a possibility, this can an adequate next best thing, but needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Like every report, it’s important to understand the metrics and what they are really telling you. In this case, the Search Analytics report is telling us a lot of rounded numbers and averages.
Impressions: An “impression” is counted any time the site shows up in search results for each query. It’s important to understand that these aren’t exact keywords (since that data is no longer provided to us), just a rounded estimate of each broad match term. Also, the user may or may not have even scrolled past your result in the SERPs, but it would still be counted as an impression.
Clicks: In this new report, you can filter to look at the pages on your site with the top number of “clicks” from Google. Theoretically, shouldn’t the clicks from Google to a particular page of a site be the same as the number of entrances to that page from Google? In comparing the landing page data from Analytics to this click data in Webmaster Tools, the click data was showing significantly less “clicks” than the entrances from Google in Analytics.
Position: The position, or rank, included in this report is an average over time of the position of your topmost result for a particular query. Since it is an average, and again based on broad match queries, it is far less accurate when it comes to tracking exact ranking changes and progress compared to other tools.
How should you use it?
For marketers who do not use a paid tool, such as Moz, to track rankings then this report would help provide insight into what types of terms the site is ranking for. However, for those who already have an accurate tool for rankings, I suggest using the Search Analytics report for the following purposes:
- Verify that the terms showing up as top queries are similar to the keywords you are optimizing for
- Check for new terms that could be potentially added into the keyword strategy
- Search for long tail terms that could be used in blogs and other new content on-site
We’ll be trying out and testing this new tool more in depth over the next few months, and will keep you updated on our findings and opinions. Does your B2B utilize this data as part of your SEO reporting? We’d love to hear your opinion on the changes!
International SEO: Tips For Creating Your Strategy
Many B2Bs today are not just confined to the United States, and target customers from across the world. But, when it comes to SEO, how can you effectively optimize your website in order to improve your organic visibility in other countries? Here are some things to keep in mind when building and implementing your B2B’s international SEO strategy:
- It should be clear for users and Google to understand that a certain page is meant for visitors located in a particular country or speaking a specific language. Make sure that your site’s content, URLs, title tags, menu items, etc. are all translated to the appropriate language. Having a mix of English alongside a foreign language will confuse users as well as search engines.
- Use country or language specific URLs. Three main options for this are:
- Country or language specific sub-domains (fr.example.com) are ideal for targeting based on language rather than country (i.e. if you are targeting French speakers, not just people in France).
- Country code top-level domains (example.fr) are typically the best option if you want to target your site to users in a particular country.
- Sub-directories (example.com/fr/) are usually the easiest to implement and manage but the least effective from an SEO standpoint.
- Utilize Google Webmaster Tools to submit a unique xml sitemap for each site and set the country targeting preferences accordingly.
- Use page-level markup to indicate to search engine crawlers that there are alternate versions of a particular web page based on language variations. For example, hreflang tags and rel=”alternate” tags can be used to indicate that the French version of a page should be shown to visitors using Google in French.
- Make it easy for users to switch back and forth between the different versions of your website. That way, if they happen to land on the English version, they will intuitively be able to switch to the version most relevant to them.
- From grammar and usability to keyword choice, target your content as specifically as you can to your foreign audiences. While the easiest way to create foreign websites is to make exact copies of your English website that are just translated into different languages, you could end up selling yourself short in this scenario. By taking the time to do separate keyword research for the specific location or language, you may discover different ways of wording your content that would be more effective.
- Since the IP location of a domain is one of Google’s many ranking factors, consider hosting your foreign sites locally in the various locations.
- Don’t forget about off-site SEO factors. Are other websites in those countries linking to your site? Are people in those countries interacting with your content on social media?
Setting up and maintaining a successful international SEO strategy isn’t easy, but keeping these tactics in mind from the beginning can help put you on the path to success. Does your B2B target visitors from other countries? Let us know what strategies are working well for you!
Team Building Resolution Update: Team Color Run
Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post sharing one of our department’s New Year’s Resolutions: to make time for team-building activities. Our hope was that by taking some time to prioritize team-building activities, we’d grow to be an even more efficient, communicative, productive group.
Now that it’s been a few months we wanted to post an update on all of our progress, and we’re happy to report that we’ve been making big strides. We’ve already had a few successful friendly competitions. For example, our latest competition helped us motivate each other to pass our Google Analytics and Adwords Certifications tests with flying colors.
On a more exciting note, however, four members of our department have signed up to participate in the Providence Color Run this September! If you haven’t heard of it before, this event is basically a 5k race during which colored paint is thrown all over the participants as they run. Everyone comes to the race dressed in white, and then leaves the race covered in paint – sounds like the perfect team-building activity for our team of creative, competitive, digital marketing enthusiasts. Alicia, Hannah, Annamarie and I are all very excited for the race! We’re also not so secretly hoping that our Florida counterpart, Leah, will make a trip up north to join us. To help us prepare for the race, we’re planning on running together after work once a week (once the snow finally melts, that is).
This event is not only helping us bond as a team, but it’s also helping us all stay on track with our individual resolutions to create and maintain healthy habits. See, we’re being more efficient already!