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SEO in 2015

+Moz​ has a handy guide out to what really matters for Search Engine Optimization in 2015 (and beyond), and as some of us have been saying for a while, User Experience factors are now at or near the top of the list.

Responsive design (or at least mobile friendliness), usefulness (i.e. helping the Searcher find what they were looking for, even if they didn't know exactly what they were looking for), readability, and other factors relating to the experience your site delivers to its visitors are more important than ever, while factors like keywords are losing some of their importance at the same time.

There's a lot more to it, of course, and reading the whole thing is well worth it, but don't fixate on technical factors of SEO until you've got the UX down pat. To put it another way, design your site with the user first in your mind, not the Search Engines.

What is the Future of SEO?

At +On Track Tips | Wiser Sites, we're big fans of +Moz, and one of our favorite things they do is publish a biennial survey of SEO Experts on what the future of Search Engine Optimization holds.

Their 2015 edition does not disappoint, being chockablock with useful tips and insights, and the big conclusion to be drawn from this one is:

User Experience is God!

The Search Engines are getting more mature.  No longer tricked by keyword stuffing and other shady 'hack-tics', they're becoming more interested in what the user sees once they click through to your site.

Does your site look beautiful across devices, or are you still languishing in the desktop-only era of design?  Does it offer real value by giving the Searcher the products, services, and answers they were looking for in the first place?  Can people with bad eyesight read it, or do only people with 20/20 vision enjoy looking at it without squinting?

Giving your users a great experience should be the religion of every business owner.  There are other ranking factors, to be sure, hundreds in fact, but none of them will matter much if your site visitors leave unsatisfied.

~ +Eli Fennell, SEO, +On Track Tips | Wiser Sites

#SEOTips   #Ranking

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Google Posts Opens To New Business and Organization Types

Google Posts (aka Posts with Google, aka Posts on Google... they really need to settle on a definite name), which first debuted last year for candidates for the U.S. Presidential Primaries and General Election, has been steadily expanding to additional types of users, businesses, and organizations. Their latest update opens the feature to Sports Teams and Leagues, Museums, Musicians, and Movies.

The quasi-social feature, which allows select verified users, businesses, and organizations to post content directly to relevant Google Search Results, plays a role similar to the embedded Tweets Google shows in some Search Results courtesy of the deal between the two companies, but are in some ways more powerful and useful.

They also take the place once seemingly promised to Google+ Posts in Search Results before Google started de-emphasising Google+ as the social heart of their ecosystem.

#SEO #GooglePosts

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Google 'Fixes' AMP URL 'Sharing Problem'

The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, spearheaded and supported by Google as well as dozens of web companies and online publishers, encourages publishers to create special, 'lightweight' format content pages that can be cached and quickly loaded on mobile devices ( It competes with Facebook's proprietary Instant Articles.

While users and publishers have had numerous complaints about the format, the biggest and most common complaint is that, when an AMP article is shared, its URL appears as the URL of the cache version, often a Google URL. This is more confusing than a serious problem per se, but Google has been under pressure to fix it.

They've now taken the first step in this direction. AMP pages will now make it easy to view and share the original URL from the page header. While this seems less a solution than a hack or workaround (since the browser address bar will still display the cache URL), it is at least a passable solution for people who care about it.

#Google #AMP

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Google My Business Testing Messaging Feature

Google My Business has begun inviting select businesses to test a new Search feature allowing businesses to chat with customers directly from Search results.

The feature works with the business's SMS number or, interestingly, via Allo, the company's new AI infused chat client.

#SEO #Messaging

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Google To Penalize Obtrusive Mobile Ads & Remove 'Mobile Friendly' Label

Everyone hates interstitial ads and obtrusive banner ads, i.e. ads that hide or cover up most or all of the content of your web page. Everyone hates them. EVERYONE. Especially when browsing on a Mobile device.

That includes Google, apparently, and now they're going to do something about it: starting next year, Google will apply an algorithmic ranking penalty in mobile Search results for web pages that use interstitial and obtrusive ads. Previously, Google only penalized app interstitials specifically.

Such sites may appear lower on SERP's starting in January of next year (2017). This will not affect interstitials used for specific purposes such as tracking cookie disclaimers or age checks. Nor will it affect unobtrusive banner ads, or vignette ads which only appear only when users navigate between pages on the same websites but not when navigating directly to web pages from Search Engines, Social Networks, etc...

In addition, Google will no longer display the Mobile Friendly tag on appropriate web links in Mobile Search results, as nearly all results in Mobile Search now meet this criteria. The algorithmic penalty for non Mobile Friendly web pages will, nonetheless, remain in effect.

#GoogleUpdates #SEO

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Google Ads Tag Goes Green (Literally)

Google is testing a new green Ads Tag for Search ads. This should solve the common complaint that the previous yellow Ads Tag wasn't sufficiently visible... but it won't surprise anyone if there are still similar complaints.

#SEM #AdWords

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Fewer Than 1-in-4 SEO Professionals Are Using AMP
A new survey by SEO PowerSuite reveals some insights about how SEO professionals are using and preparing for the new Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard being pushed by Google and partners.
While most SEO's are aware of AMP, to-date only 23% have begun to implement AMP on sites they manage, despite an overwhelming awareness that failure to adopt the standard is likely to lead to reduced Mobile Search ranking and traffic.
This is, therefore, a good time for forward-thinking SEO's to become Early Adopters, in order to benefit from the inevitable Early Mover Advantage.
#MobileSearch #AMP #SEO #SEOTips

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Are Exact Match Keywords 'Dead' For SEO? Nope.

Some folks in the world of SEO are ready to bury optimization for specific keywords, asserting that topical relevance and authority are all that matters and Google doesn't care which synonymous keywords you use.

The linked study strongly suggests they are flat-out wrong about that, though there is a trend towards Search Engines understanding meaning and intent beyond exact matching keyword Searches. So, the lesson here as usual is: don't trust reports of anything in the world of SEO or online marketing being 'dead' without data.

Google is getting cleverer all the time, to be sure, but Search Engines aren't clever enough just yet to let you focus purely on relevant and authoritative content, without worrying about the more tedious specifics of Search Engine Optimization proper.

via +Mark Traphagen

Is it really time to move past keywords? Sam Nemzer designed this experiment to see what the SERPs can tell us.

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Google Posts: A New 'Social' Search Experiment

Google has unveiled, and is beginning to display, a new type of 'social' advertising that lives on Google Search itself. Called 'Google Posts', the feature is being made available to U.S. Presidential candidates according to the landing page for the new feature.

Currently, it appears that the feature is free for the eligible candidates, though one can easily see how this could become a form of paid Search advertising in the future. And although the feature doesn't bill itself as social, it would be impossible to miss the fact that this is awfully, awfully similar to +Post Ads, or that these posts appear in the same spots where embedded Tweets might otherwise appear, or that they're shareable to social networks.

I've often remarked that it was peculiar that more brands haven't used +Post Ads, given that until recently (when Tweets were added to AdWords), they were the only social option for Search advertising on Google, but the general perception that too few people use Google+ has dragged down what would arguably have succeeded otherwise. Google Posts will either prove that Google can succeed as a social advertising platform even without a market leading social network of their own, or prove that they can't.

#SEO #SEM #SocialMediaMarketig #Election2016 #GooglePosts

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New Study of TOP SEO Ranking Factors

Backlinko recently analyzed 1 Million Google Search results to determine the top Ranking Factors for Search Engine Optimization. Their results highlight key areas for optimization:

1) Backlinks

Backlinks remain, in their study, the #1 factor correlated with high Search Ranking. Overall link authority appears to be the most important factor, but ranking is influenced by a combination of link quality and link quantity. Exact match anchor text also correlates significantly with high ranking.

2) Topical Relevance and Depth

High ranking was correlated with the depth of content on a topical basis. Short content tends not to rank as highly as long content, but at the same time, long content on one topic performs better than long content covering a variety of topics in less depth.

3) Site Speed Matters

Site speed correlates significantly with high Google Search ranking.

4) Low Bounce Rates

Sites with low bounce rates rank significantly higher than sites with a high bounce rate.

5) Image(s)

The use of at least one image correlates significantly with high ranking, though it does not appear to matter beyond the use of at least one image (i.e. two images or three images or ten doesn't do better than one, but one or more do better than none at all).

It must be noted that these are correlations, and don't necessarily prove causation. Low bounce rates, for example, could be related to other factors such as backlink profile (bounce rates can sometimes be a measure of engagement, and highly engaging content is more likely to attract links).

That said, the logical takeaway is that Google continues to place higher value on content, links, and site quality with each passing year, but that despite extremely punitive Webspam Penalties like Penguin, Google still values link quantity and exact match anchor text to some degree.

Link building has almost become a dirty word in some marketing circles nowadays, but non-spammy link building remains a valuable part of ranking in Search, and may not always be best served by focusing exclusively on 'high quality' links. (+Eric Enge does an excellent job describing a non-spammy approach to link building in, "Is Link Building Dead?" -

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