Tag Archives: GOOGLE

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Facebook kills off news: Publishers panic, try to remember how to do SEO

By now you’ve no doubt heard the news that’s been shaking up the internet since late last week.

But in case you just came back online after a week-long internet blackout, here’s what’s happening: on Thursday 11th January, Facebook announced a major change to the way posts are ranked in News Feed.

In order to promote more “meaningful” interaction with friends and family, Facebook said that it would “prioritize posts from friends and family over public content … including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses”.

In general, brands have not tended to rely on Facebook for traffic since it dramatically reduced the organic reach of branded content a little over three years ago, forcing brands to pay for reach or go elsewhere for traffic. However, publishers have long been the exception to that rule, with Facebook acting as a huge – and vital – source of referral traffic to publishers’ websites.

This has led many publishers to plan their strategy and output directly around Facebook (see: the much-derided media “pivot to video”, which was driven in large part by Facebook). But Facebook’s announcement of Thursday has put paid to all of that – or at least, put a big dent in the potential traffic that publishers can earn from its platform.

Deprived of referral traffic from Facebook, will publishers be turning en masse back to SEO to restore their fortunes? Let’s look at some of the broader industry shifts underpinning this change, and what it means for the importance of search for publishers.

Trading places: Google is back on top for referral traffic

The truth is that Facebook’s referral traffic to publishers has been in decline for some time now. According to data from digital analytics company Parse.ly, the percentage of external traffic that Facebook provides to publishers decreased from 40% to 26% between January 2017 and January 2018, while Google’s rose from 34% to 44% over the same period.

This means that in a direct reversal of 2015, when Facebook rocked the industry by overtaking Google as a source of referral traffic for publishers, Google is now back in the number one spot. And this all happened before Facebook’s News Feed announcement even took place.

Publishers have also been seeing more traffic from Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) than Facebook equivalent Instant Articles, another situation that reversed itself over the last year. According to Parse.ly, publisher traffic from AMP increased from 4.72% in January 2017 to 11.78% in November 2017, while Instant Articles declined from 10.31% of publisher traffic in January down to 8.54% in November.

Facebook kills off news: Publishers panic, try to remember how to do SEO

When Facebook overtook Google for referral traffic back in 2015, this seemed to herald the dawn – or perhaps the zenith – of a new age of social sharing and publishing, in which social media was the new search.

At a Content Marketing Association Digital Breakfast in June 2016, veteran digital journalist Adam Tinworth remarked that social networks had taken over the search engine’s traditional role of “finding something to read” online. As a result, Google and other search engines moved into more of an “answer engine” role, moving away from search towards a single, definitive answer to users’ queries.

So with Google back on top for referral traffic, are we seeing a return to the status quo?

The Google-Facebook merry-go-round

In fact, Google and Facebook’s continual back-and-forth is the status quo. They have been chasing each other around in circles for years now, each taking it in turns to try their hand at the other’s specialist area.

Google experimented with social networking; Facebook became the go-to place to find content. Both launched lightning-fast takes on the mobile web – Accelerated Mobile Pages and Instant Articles – in 2015 with a global roll-out in 2016. Now, Facebook is returning to its “roots” of showing you what your family and friends are up to, while the latest updates to Google’s smart assistant indicate that Google is moving back into surfacing content.

Facebook kills off news: Publishers panic, try to remember how to do SEO

Google and Facebook: Destined to chase each other in circles for eternity
(Image by monstreh, available via CC0)

In other words, this is just the most recent step in a dance that has been going on for more than 10 years. Facebook might have ceded some ground to Google in the realm of referral traffic to publishers, partly in a bid to rid itself of the fake news scandal that has dogged it since mid to late 2016.

However, the two continue to vie for dominance in countless other areas, such as artificial intelligence, smart home hubs, digital assistants, and advertising. Facebook continues to drive its investment in online video, encroaching on Google-owned YouTube’s territory, while Google recently announced a new foray into social publishing with Google Stamp.

At the height of the fake news controversy, Google and Facebook’s names frequently appeared side-by-side, with both companies accused of peddling false information to their users and perpetrating the “filter bubble” that allows fake news to thrive.

As a result, some have speculated that Google might now follow in Facebook’s footsteps and take steps to distance itself from publishers.

However, Google is already taking action – or at least appearing to take action – against fake news on its search engine by implementing ‘fact-checking’ labels, partnering with the International Fact-Checking Network to combat misinformation, and purging questionable overseas websites that mask their country of origin from Google News.

Unless there is another significant wave of backlash over fake news to force Google’s hand, it seems likely that Google will take the “win” over Facebook and avoid jeopardizing its relationship with publishers – particularly given its recent moves to become more publisher-friendly by supporting paywalled content.

Meanwhile, publishers need to work out how to reconfigure their online strategy with Facebook much less in the picture. Will we be seeing a newfound reliance on SEO and search marketing?

Publishers: time to learn from SEO

Publishers are about to find themselves in the very same position that brand marketers found themselves at the end of 2014, when Facebook announced that it was killing off organic reach for brand Pages. Just like publisher referral traffic now, brand Page reach had been in steady decline for some time, and the Facebook announcement only confirmed what many already suspected was coming.

At the time, brands were forced to abandon a marketing model that relied on free promotion from Facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of Likes, and instead pay for advertising or go elsewhere for their traffic. Sound familiar?

The situation with publishers is therefore nothing new, but is still a huge blow for media organizations who have developed a “social-first” strategy over the years and rely on Facebook as a primary source of traffic.

Following the news that Google had overtaken Facebook as a source of referral traffic, Adam Tinworth blogged: “Business models dependent on Facebook growth are dead in the water, unless you can afford to buy that growth.

“Publishers will need a renewed focus on SEO — especially those that have been social-first.”

Writing for The Drum, founder and managing director of 93digital, Alex Price, observed that Facebook was following Google in “placing its long-term bet on quality [content]”, singling out Facebook-driven publications like 9GAG, Unilad and The Lad Bible as most likely to suffer from the change.

“If I were them, I would be thinking hard about the teams of people I employ to churn out social media content and how sustainable that now is.”

He added that publishers would need to focus on retention and repeat visits to drive long-term value, and optimize the experience of their website, particularly on mobile, in order to build a sustainable source of revenue in the post-Facebook age.

Publish quality content, increase engagement, optimize for mobile… if you’re in SEO, this list will be starting to sound very familiar. It’s a mantra that the search industry has been repeating for years.

High-quality publishers are likely doing most of these things already, so their task will be to ramp up those efforts while diversifying their sources of traffic beyond Facebook. This will stand them in good stead on the search engine results page and beyond.

For lower-quality social publishers, things might not be so easy. After all, these publications evolved specifically to cater to a social sharing environment, which will soon no longer exist.

Much like the brand Pages of yore with hugely inflated Like counts, publishers will need to figure out how to deliver a message of real value to consumers, or risk disappearing altogether.

Understanding AdWords keyword match types for manufacturers

With much of AdWords' help documentation geared towards retailers, it can be confusing for manufacturers to figure out how best to utilize the platform. This guide to match types for manufacturers from columnist Dianna Huff can help. The post Understanding AdWords keyword match types for...

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Smart speaker sales grew 103% last year

The virtual assistant devices became the fastest selling consumer technology last year, dramatically outpacing wearables and VR. The post Smart speaker sales grew 103% last year appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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SEO trends and Google changes to expect in 2018

Columnist Pratik Dholakiya explores current search trends and speculates on where the industry might be headed in 2018. The post SEO trends and Google changes to expect in 2018 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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YouTube SEO 101

In this comprehensive guide to YouTube SEO, columnist Stephan Spencer explains the fundamentals of YouTube optimization and explains how to increase visibility and rankings for your videos. The post YouTube SEO 101 appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Looking back at 2018 in search: A time traveler’s year in review

What does 2018 have in store for search marketers? Columnist (and time-traveler) Dave Davies pays a visit from the future to share what this year's major search developments will be. The post Looking back at 2018 in search: A time traveler’s year in review appeared first on Search Engine...

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Google is sunsetting AdWords Review extensions

The text ad extension will be removed from AdWords entirely next month. The post Google is sunsetting AdWords Review extensions appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Mobile-first indexing in 2018: 3 things SEO professionals should do right now

As an SEO expert or agency, you’ve spent years attempting to navigate the murky waters of helping your clients find customers online using algorithms, link building hacks, on-page and off-page technique.

And when you thought you were finally making good progress, BOOM! Paradigm shift and the game changes.

The mobile revolution happens.

Google announces its interest in improving user experience and making search results more useful by making its index mobile-first.

According to the Google Webmasters Blog: 

To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.

What this big paragraph means is pretty simple:

Henceforth, Google will use the mobile version of your site to rank it on Google (for both mobile and desktop search).

That means if you have a site optimized for mobile, you’ll rank well on both mobile and desktop. But, if your site doesn’t perform well on mobile, it will tank your rankings on both mobile and desktop.

While a definite timeline for the roll-out of the mobile-first index has not been fixed, a lot has been said about its implementation happening early this year. At SMX Advanced last June, Google’s Gary Illyes pinpointed 2018 as the likely deployment year for the mobile-first index.

And seeing as 2018 is now upon us, there is a need to prepare for the upcoming update (if you have yet to do so). Here are three things you need to do immediately to prepare for a mobile-first index and help your site, or your clients’ sites, weather the storm.

1. Responsive design

This is one of the most important things you would need to do to rank well on the mobile-first index. Responsive websites that change based on the needs of the users and the device that they’re viewing it on are mandatory.

Responsive sites not only offer an optimized browsing experience, they are also offering a two-for-one value. They rank well on both mobile and desktop because the design changes to fit the size of the user’s screen.

Before I talk about some of the steps involved in turning a static website into a responsive one, let’s go over the basics of a responsive design which includes:

  • Fluid site grid with proportionate instead of fixed measures
  • Flexible texts and images
  • Implementing design changes to ensure usability for non-desktop devices
  • Using CSS media queries to define breakpoints for design changes

I’ll give some standard tips on how to turn a static website into a responsive masterpiece, but please note that while the principles stay the same, your theme might be built differently, so consider these only as broad strokes. You might have to do some custom work for your own site.

  • Define default zoom
  • Set fluid element widths and heights
  • Resize website images to make sure our images are automatically scaled according to screen size
  • Implement breakpoints that are more design (than device) specific
  • Create a mobile menu
  • Adapt font sizes and style

Now because responsive design is not about making things fit on a screen, it’s also about keeping your site usable. As a last step, it’s a good idea to test your site in terms of usability on different devices and also test in multiple browsers to make sure your content renders properly.

2: Invest in a mobile-optimized website builder

Think of it as investing in accessibility for your customers. Unless you live under a rock, it is common knowledge that digital screens are getting smaller and more mobile.

Isn’t it then wise to ensure your full website is enjoyed irrespective of the gadget being used? Ensuring your clients’ customers get the best experience is all you’re here for as an SEO practitioner.

A mobile optimized website builder makes your website responsive to mobile gadgets: i.e., it detects what your visitor is using (a smartphone or a tablet) and automatically adjusts the layout of your website to fit the size of the gadget being used.

Unsure of where to begin your search for a website builder? Consider using a Google Preferred website builder – website builders which adhere to Google’s best practices for creating lightning-fast web experiences. Specifically, I want to highlight one noteworthy option if you want to prioritize speed: Duda, which bills itself as the only Google Preferred builder fully optimized for PageSpeed.

Having a well-designed and responsive website isn’t the only goal of mobile optimization. Speed is also crucial – even on mobile, visitors expect pixel-perfect images coupled with split-second rendering time.

A fast website encourages more sessions online, more customer conversions, lower bounce rate, and higher engagement. Usefully, Duda’s widget builder also allows web developers to add elements that are not native to its platform.

Don’t be caught waiting till the algorithm updates to start making big moves. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, take that step today.

3: Mobile-optimized content

Mobile devices follow you everywhere, which has made them a first-class cure for boredom. But it takes more than a responsive design to make your website mobile-ready.

To ensure your content is as responsive and mobile-friendly as the rest of your optimized website, you have to understand user behavior and preferences as well as available solutions.

Although most mobile users have a short attention span, if you serve valuable content, no matter the length, your visitors will consume it voraciously as long as your content is engaging.

Articles, movies, TV shows will be read and watched on mobile. Follow the following tips to ensure your content is optimized for mobile:

  • Take advantage of mobile applications to encourage engagement beyond your website. An interesting article or an amazing deal on an item will probably go far if your visitors share it on Facebook or Twitter. Use it!
  • Develop high-quality content that tells stories. As long as your content is great, mobile users are willing to spend long sessions on your website. How many times have you opened a link and spent longer time than you intended to on a website? Great content will do that to you.
  • There are various forms of contents; GIF, infographics, Meme’s, articles, high-quality images, videos, use them all. Your business/website caters to visitors of various interests, to avoid ostracizing any of them, ensure that you cover every angle.
  • Shorter headlines get users reading faster. Yes, a strong headline is important but you must also remember that you have only about 5 seconds to convince your visitor to keep reading. Do you really want to waste it on an overly long headline? Keep it strong and short.

Lastly, regardless of the amount of work you have put into your content, feedback is key. You need to know which of your content your visitors engage with the most. Stay on top of it all.

Google bringing the Assistant to tablets and Lollipop Android phones

The move comes against the backdrop of accelerating virtual assistant usage and intensifying competition. The post Google bringing the Assistant to tablets and Lollipop Android phones appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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AdWords advertisers can use phone numbers & addresses for Google Customer Match targeting

Google Customer Match becomes more accessible to advertisers that don't have large customer email lists. The post AdWords advertisers can use phone numbers & addresses for Google Customer Match targeting appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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