Tag Archives: GOOGLE

SMX Advanced session: Mobile-First For The Advanced SEO

How can websites prepare for the mobile-first index? Columnist Greg Gifford recaps a session from SMX Advanced dealing with the impending rollout of Google's new index, which prioritizes mobile content over desktop. The post SMX Advanced session: Mobile-First For The Advanced SEO appeared first on...

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Why one e-commerce company is going all-in on AMP (Hint: conversions)

With significant conversion lifts over responsive design, Event Tickets Center has been pushing the AMP envelope. The post Why one e-commerce company is going all-in on AMP (Hint: conversions) appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Early performance results from Google’s update to close variants

What impact has Google's latest update to close variants had on paid search performance? Columnist Andy Taylor reviews the data. The post Early performance results from Google’s update to close variants appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Watch the SMX Advanced keynote: Google’s Jerry Dischler talks current, future SEM trends

We discussed audience, AMP, attribution and much more with Google's head of search ads. The post Watch the SMX Advanced keynote: Google’s Jerry Dischler talks current, future SEM trends appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Google featured snippets are an amazing opportunity for marketers to skyrocket above competitors on page one, increase page views, and boost conversions.

But what is a Google featured snippet? And does this SERP manipulation really work?

What exactly is a Google featured snippet?

Chances are, you have seen a Google featured snippet while searching Google. If you asked a question based query, Google will have eagerly answered it with a snippet. These featured snippets are the answers to users’ questions, showcased in a box in what’s known as “position zero” on page one.

For instance, let’s say you searched for, “How do I optimize my website?” Your question based query will be met with a snippet answering your question. In most cases, these are pulled from page one results, but snippet information can be pulled from page two, three, and maybe even farther down the SERP line.

Google Featured Snippets are indeed search friendly, and you will get answers without having to click any pages.

Featured snippet formats range from bullet points to numbers, but there are in fact a variety of snippets that Google will deem worthy and display.

Snippets may answer search-based queries in paragraph form, like so:

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

You may be wondering, Why is this important for my business, products, services, or blog? By obtaining position zero on Google page one, you rank above the #1 organic listing. The sheer real estate given to featured snippets is staggering.

They essentially dominate the results page, giving you and your brand maximum, above the fold, exposure. And all without dipping into your AdWords budget. What could be better?

Probably the most appealing aspect of snippets is that they are indifferent to industry powerhouse brands, and sites that normally dominate SERPs. Any brand, large or small, corporate to boutique, start up to conglomerate, can get a coveted position zero, page one spot.

The SEO value for your brand and business includes:

  • Snippets drive more traffic to your site.
  • Snippets boost brand visibility in Google SERPs.
  • Snippets increase trust and credibility.

All great things aside, it is essential to understand that getting a Google Featured Snippet can be like hunting for Bigfoot. You may get your content featured one day, but the next, it could simply be back to position three or four.

How do you get a Google featured snippet?

This question is becoming a focal point for many SEOs, marketers, content developers, and CEOs in nearly every industry. The most important aspect behind getting a featured snippet is quality content, formatted in a specific way.

You would assume that Google algorithms choose selected snippets based on first page search results. However, this is not always the case. SERP rank may actually have little to do with the decision.

Our research on featured snippets discovered that content can be pulled from any page, even as far back as page 80.

Taking page two or page three content to produce a snipp-able piece of content defies traditional Google ranking factors. This gives all a shimmer of hope, regardless of your page two ranking, or page eight, or those sites trapped in SERP purgatory.

It is all about authoritative content, and the format you choose to make that content snippable.

Here’s how you can get a Google featured snippet

Starting to optimize your content for featured snippets, or reworking previous content to get a snippet, requires a few formatting techniques.

Formatting

Formatting your featured snippets should  take into account. . .

  • Text
  • Tables
  • Numbered lists
  • Bullet points
  • Steps
  • Charts
  • Images

We’ll get into more details with each, but draw out your dusty old basic HTML techniques and use them when optimizing pages for featured snippets.

Word count

Making your steps, numbered and bulleted lists, or paragraphs concise and tight may make it easier for algorithms to determine whether your content is fit for the feature.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

You want to optimize to the tune of Google’s algorithms, and research has found that word count makes a big difference. “The most common length of content in Featured Snippets is between 40-50 words,” according to an analysis by SEMrush.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

 

FAQ content

Searches often type questions into Google, and expect to find exact answers.  When creating your editorial calendar, craft content in an FAQ format.  Develop entire articles around the questions that people will ask, and answer those questions in your content.

Instead of having all of your content in an FAQ page, create a page for each question, and then you can link them all together through an FAQ glossary that links to all the FAQ pages.

Craft your Q&A list utilizing a keyword research tool to identify related questions. You can also check keywords at the bottom of any SERP for snippet optimization.

Table, paragraph or list?

The type of snippet format you choose for your content may play a role in how Google’s algorithms choose snipp-able content. For instance, 29 percent of all snippets are tables.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

A featured snippet “Table” would look like . . .

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

This, however, doesn’t rule out a list or paragraph. In fact, paragraphs and lists seem to be trending as of late for Google featured snippets.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Even “Rules” can be applied to snippets . . .

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

And the standard numbered list . . .

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Use paragraph tags

Another formatting tactic you can use for Featured Snippets is to ensure the content, or answer, is in a paragraph (<p>) tag. The tag also needs to be below the search query header.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Headers play a role

To optimize your content for a Featured Snippet, your search query should be in an h1, h2, h3 header.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Don’t be afraid to add steps

For question based searches, Google might not pull through an entire paragraph for the snippet. By adding Step 1, Step 2, etc. for each subheading, h2, Google will work them chronologically.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Remember, when it comes to snippets, Google likes content that is logically formatted.

A quick case study on featured snippets

The below post on diamond girdles is a good example of a Google Featured Snippet that gets superior ranking with a position zero snippet, position one, and above all on page one.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

Even though the site ranks #1 organically for this keyword, there was a 16% increase in traffic ever since the featured snippet gained rankings.  By creating content optimized for the Who, What, When, Where, Why questions and using keywords that appear in Search Suggestions, this website has gained dozens of featured snippets that have increased traffic substantially, month over month.

How to optimize for Google’s featured snippets

What are you waiting for?

To get off to a powerful start, run an audit of keywords you rank for, and pluck the question based queries. Then, answer those questions using the above tips and tactics. Optimize for position zero and make Google work for you, and your bottom line!

Dear Google: 4 suggestions for fixing your massive problem with fake reviews

Columnist and local search expert Joy Hawkins notes that unless Google My Business gets serious about addressing fake reviews, it will suffer a loss of credibility. Here are her suggestions for tackling this ongoing issue. The post Dear Google: 4 suggestions for fixing your massive problem with...

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Setting up and testing AMP for WordPress: A quick 7-step guide

Looking to get started with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)? Columnist Stephanie LeVonne has put together this handy guide for WordPress users. The post Setting up and testing AMP for WordPress: A quick 7-step guide appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Why ‘good’ isn’t good enough in Google Shopping

Have you experienced high growth from your Google Shopping ads? You're not the only one. Columnist Andreas Reiffen looks at growth data for product listing ads and explains why even an 89% growth in revenue year over year may not be enough to outpace your competitors. The post Why...

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Progressive Web Apps versus Android Instant Apps: Which is better for marketers?

Much has been made of the fight between mobile apps and the mobile web, but the line between the two is no longer as clear-cut as it used to be.

Broadly speaking, a mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive website is less costly and time-consuming to develop than a native mobile app, and tends to attract a wider audience – it’s quick to access, with no downloading or storage required.

Native mobile apps, meanwhile, tend to offer a better user experience and see more engagement from a dedicated core of users who are loyal enough to download a company’s app and come back to it time and time again.

But in the last couple of years, two hot new contenders have been added to the mix which aim to combine some of the best features of the mobile web and the app world for a better all-round mobile experience. They are: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and Android Instant Apps.

Image via Google Developers

Both Progressive Web Apps and Android Instant Apps are Google initiatives that put a new spin on the traditional mobile app. Both aim to provide a faster-loading, slimmed-down mobile experience; so you can be forgiven for wondering what exactly the difference is between the two.

In this article I’ll sum up the key features of Progressive Web Apps and Instant Apps, look at the differences between the two, and examine which offers a better proposition for businesses who are considering investing in one or the other.

What are Progressive Web Apps?

Andy Favell recently wrote a great piece for Search Engine Watch about the latest developments with Progressive Web Apps in the wake of Google I/O. In it, he explained:

“Progressive Web Apps are a Google innovation designed to combine the best features of mobile apps and the mobile web: speed, app-like interaction, offline usage, and no need to download anything.”

Google’s Developer page about Progressive Web Apps describes PWAs as “user experiences that have the reach of the web and are reliable, fast and engaging”. While at base PWAs are mobile webpages, they are designed to act and feel like apps, with fast loading and offline usage.

This immediately eliminates one of the biggest drawbacks of the mobile web: that mobile web pages depend on an often-shaky data connection that can lead to a poor experience and long, frustrating load times.

Progressive Web Apps versus Android Instant Apps: Which is better for marketers?

Image via Google Developers

Progressive Web Apps can also be saved to a user’s home screen, so that they can be launched with the tap of an icon just like a regular app can.

Google encourages developers to build Progressive Web Apps to an established standard, which when met, will cause Chrome to prompt the user to add the PWA to their home screen.

Brands who have already jumped on the PWA bandwagon include Twitter (whose PWA, Twitter Lite, sees 1 million daily visits from users’ homepage icons), Forbes, Expedia, Alibaba, the Washington Post, and even former native app-only companies like Lyft.

PWAs already offer many traits that we associate with native apps, including push notifications, geolocation, access to device features like the camera and microphone, and as mentioned above, offline working and icons on the home screen.

At the same time, they give organizations access to the benefits of the mobile web including easy discoverability and shareability (just send a link), universal access regardless of device (no need to release a separate iOS or Android app – although PWAs don’t quite have full functionality on iOS yet; more on that later), and the ability to bookmark individual links.

This sounds like a very compelling proposition for companies who aren’t sure whether to invest in a mobile site or a mobile app, or who want to significantly improve the experience of their mobile site for users.

So why did Google, after already having developed Progressive Web Apps, go on to launch Android Instant Apps in 2016? What is the difference between the two?

What are Android Instant Apps?

Android Instant Apps are fully-fledged native Android apps that are designed to work in a very specific way. Like Progressive Web Apps (or any mobile site, for that matter) they can be shared via a link, which when opened will give the recipient access to a stripped-down version of the app.

So, in the example that Google used at I/O in 2016, one user could send another a link to the recipe section of the Buzzfeed Video app, who would then be able to open it and access the part of the app that was linked to – in this case, recipe videos – without downloading it.

Progressive Web Apps versus Android Instant Apps: Which is better for marketers?

Screencap via Android Developers on YouTube

If they wanted to access the rest of the app, they would need to then download the full version, but this could be done easily without performing an additional search in the Play store.

Android Instant Apps are designed to be effectively the same as using a regular Android app, to the point where users may not even notice that they are using the feature. The only indicator that they are accessing an Instant App is a simplified app interface.

Apart from Buzzfeed, brands known to be using Instant Apps include The New York Times Crossword, Periscope, Viki (a video streaming service for Asian TV and film), football app Onefootball and video hosting service Vimeo.

Gif of Android Instant apps from various brands displayed on smartphone screens

Some of the brands currently using Android Instant Apps, including Onefootball, Vimeo and The New York Times. Image via Android Developers Blog

Android Instant Apps set out to tackle many of the same problems as Progressive Web Apps: they are designed to launch quickly, provide a user-friendly interface, and avoid cumbersome and data-costly downloads.

The feature is designed as an upgrade to existing Android apps, rather than being an additional app that companies need to develop. This is good news for organizations who already have an Android app, and for those who do, upgrading probably seems like a no-brainer.

But for those who might not have an app yet, do Instant Apps make a persuasive enough case by themselves for developing an Android app? Or might they be better off putting their time into developing a Progressive Web App?

Progressive Web Apps versus Android Instant Apps

On an individual feature basis, here is how Progressive Web Apps and Android Instant Apps compare to one another:

Progressive Web Apps Android Instant Apps
App-like interface App-like interface
Offline usage Offline usage
Fast loading Fast loading
No need to download an app/visit the app store No need to download an app/visit the app store

✘ Unless you want to access the full version of the app

Shareable via a link Shareable via a link
Icon on the home screen Icon on the home screen
✘ Lacks integration with some smartphone features (e.g. flashlight, contacts, Bluetooth, NFC) All the features of a native app
✘ Not yet supported by every OS (PWAs can be used on iOS/Safari and Windows/Microsoft Edge but have no offline functionality or push notifications) ✘ Android only
Can be crawled by search engines ✘ Not discoverable by search engines
No need to develop a fully-fledged app

✘ But you do still need to develop a web app that meets Google’s standards

✘ Need to develop a fully-fledged Android app

Unless you already have one, in which case you can just upgrade

In that list, you may have seen some features which especially appeal to you, some which might be deal-breakers and have put you off one option or the other, or some “cons” which aren’t enough of a deal-breaker to put you off.

Point-for-point, however, the two look about equal. So in the interests of settling the debate: which one is the better option for marketers?

Which is better for marketers: Progressive Web Apps or Android Instant Apps?

Well… Sorry to let you down after you’ve made it this far, but the issue isn’t quite as clear-cut as I’ve framed it to be.

As with the “mobile app versus mobile web” debate, no one option is inherently better than the other (although one can be cheaper or quicker to develop than the other), because it all depends on the needs of your brand and what you want your mobile experience to deliver.

What PWAs and AIAs have done is mitigate some of the biggest drawbacks of the mobile web and mobile apps, respectively, so that it’s possible to almost have the best of both worlds no matter what you decide.

If you’re trying to decide between building a regular mobile site (whether mobile-optimized, mobile-friendly or mobile-first) or a PWA, a Progressive Web App is a no-brainer. And if you already have an Android app (or were going to build one), upgrading to an Instant App would bring a lot of additional benefits.

Progressive Web Apps versus Android Instant Apps: Which is better for marketers?

Image via Android Developers

The lack of iOS support for both is an obvious drawback, although in this respect PWAs just edge out, as Safari is reported to be considering support for Service Workers, the feature that enables PWAs’ offline usage and push notifications. (Chrome, Firefox and Opera all currently support Service Workers, and Microsoft Edge is in the process of developing support).

Ultimately, the best solution might be a combination of several. Google Developer Advocate Dan Dascalescu points out in his article ‘Why Progressive Web Apps vs. native is the wrong question to ask’ that “if you already have a product, you already have an app, a web presence, or both, and you should improve both. If you don’t have a product, then if you have the resources to build native Android + native iOS + web apps, and keep them in sync, go for it.”

If you don’t need Android-specific native features, he reasons, then you can cover your bases with the combination of a PWA and a native iOS app. Though in some cases, building a PWA can lead to increased adoption even on iOS; AliExpress, Alibaba’s answer to eBay, saw an 82% increase in conversion rate on iOS after launching a Progressive Web App.

Progressive Web Apps have been around and available to organizations a little longer than Android Instant Apps, so there are a few more use cases and examples of why they work than there are for Instant Apps. Over the next year or so, I predict that we’ll see wider adoption of Instant Apps, but only from those brands who had already developed Android native apps anyway.

Ultimately, for those companies for whom developing a native Android app makes sense, nothing has really changed. Companies who were undecided between investing in mobile web versus a native app may have more reasons to plump for mobile web now that Progressive Web Apps have come along – especially once PWAs have full support in Safari and Microsoft Edge.

I can see PWAs becoming the more widespread choice for organizations once they work across all devices, as they truly do combine the best features of mobile web and apps, while also being universally accessible. But they’re not going to eliminate the need for apps entirely.

The upshot of it all is that whether organizations adopt Progressive Web Apps or Android Instant Apps, users will get a better experience – and that benefits everyone.

 

This article was originally published on our sister site, ClickZ, and has been reproduced here for the enjoyment of our audience on Search Engine Watch.

SMX Advanced keynote: Google explains mobile-first, featured snippets data & more

Google's Gary Illyes sits down with Search Engine Land's founding editor, Danny Sullivan, for a keynote conversation covering a wide range of Google- and SEO-related topics. The post SMX Advanced keynote: Google explains mobile-first, featured snippets data & more appeared first on Search...

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