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Featured Snippets Drop to Historic Lows

Posted by Dr-Pete

On February 19, MozCast measured a dramatic drop (40% day-over-day) in SERPs with Featured Snippets, with no immediate signs of recovery. Here's a two-week view (February 10-23):

Here's a 60-day view, highlighting this historic low-point in our 10K-keyword data set:

I could take the graph back further, but let's cut to the chase — this is the lowest prevalence rate of Featured Snippets in our data set since we started collecting reliable data in the summer of 2015.

Are we losing our minds?

After the year we've all had, it's always good to check our sanity. In this case, other data sets showed a drop on the same date, but the severity of the drop varied dramatically. So, I checked our STAT data across desktop queries (en-US only) — over two million daily SERPs — and saw the following:

STAT recorded an 11% day-over-day drop. Interestingly, there's been a 16% total drop since February 10, if we include a second, smaller drop on February 13. While MozCast is desktop-only, STAT has access to mobile data. Here's the desktop/mobile comparison:

While mobile SERPs in STAT showed higher overall prevalence, the pattern was very similar, with a 9% day-over-day-drop on February 19 and a total drop of about 12% since February 10. Note that, while there is considerable overlap, the desktop and mobile data sets may contain different search phrases. While the desktop data set is currently about 2.2M daily SERPs, mobile is closer to 1.7M.

Note that the MozCast 10K keywords are skewed (deliberately) toward shorter, more competitive phrases, whereas STAT includes many more "long-tail" phrases. This explains the overall higher prevalence in STAT, as longer phrases tend to include questions and other natural-language queries that are more likely to drive Featured Snippets.

Why the big difference?

What's driving the 40% drop in MozCast and, presumably, more competitive terms? First things first: we've hand-verified a number of these losses, and there is no evidence of measurement error. One helpful aspect of the 10K MozCast keywords is that they're evenly divided across 20 historical Google Ads categories. While some changes impact industry categories similarly, the Featured Snippet loss showed a dramatic range of impact:

Competitive healthcare terms lost more than two-thirds of their Featured Snippets. It turns out that many of these terms had other prominent features, such as Medical Knowledge Panels. Here are some high-volume terms that lost Featured Snippets in the Health category:

  • diabetes
  • lupus
  • autism
  • fibromyalgia
  • acne

While Finance had a much lower initial prevalence of Featured Snippets, Finance SERPs also saw massive losses on February 19. Some high-volume examples include:

  • pension
  • risk management
  • mutual funds
  • roth ira
  • investment

Like the Health category, these terms have a Knowledge Panel in the right-hand column on desktop, with some basic information (primarily from Wikipedia/Wikidata). Again, these are competitive "head" terms, where Google was displaying multiple SERP features prior to February 19.

Both Health and Finance search phrases align closely with so-called YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) content areas, which, in Google's own words "... could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety." These are areas where Google is clearly concerned about the quality of the answers they provide.

What about passage indexing?

Could this be tied to the "passage indexing" update that rolled out around February 10? While there's a lot we still don't know about the impact of that update, and while that update impacted rankings and very likely impacted organic snippets of all types, there's no reason to believe that update would impact whether or not a Featured Snippet is displayed for any given query. While the timelines overlap slightly, these events are most likely separate.

Is the snippet sky falling?

While the 40% drop in Featured Snippets in MozCast appears to be real, the impact was primarily on shorter, more competitive terms and specific industry categories. For those in YMYL categories, it certainly makes sense to evaluate the impact on your rankings and search traffic.

Generally speaking, this is a common pattern with SERP features — Google ramps them up over time, then reaches a threshold where quality starts to suffer, and then lowers the volume. As Google becomes more confident in the quality of their Featured Snippet algorithms, they may turn that volume back up. I certainly don't expect Featured Snippets to disappear any time soon, and they're still very prevalent in longer, natural-language queries.

Consider, too, that some of these Featured Snippets may just have been redundant. Prior to February 19, someone searching for "mutual fund" might have seen this Featured Snippet:

Google is assuming a "What is/are ...?" question here, but "mutual fund" is a highly ambiguous search that could have multiple intents. At the same time, Google was already showing a Knowledge Graph entity in the right-hand column (on desktop), presumably from trusted sources:

Why display both, especially if Google has concerns about quality in a category where they're very sensitive to quality issues? At the same time, while it may sting a bit to lose these Featured Snippets, consider whether they were really delivering. While this term may be great for vanity, how often are people at the very beginning of a search journey — who may not even know what a mutual fund is — going to convert into a customer? In many cases, they may be jumping straight to the Knowledge Panel and not even taking the Featured Snippet into account.

For Moz Pro customers, remember that you can easily track Featured Snippets from the "SERP Features" page (under "Rankings" in the left-hand nav) and filter for keywords with Featured Snippets. You'll get a report something like this — look for the scissors icon to see where Featured Snippets are appearing and whether you (blue) or a competitor (red) are capturing them:

Whatever the impact, one thing remains true — Google giveth and Google taketh away. Unlike losing a ranking or losing a Featured Snippet to a competitor, there's very little you can do to reverse this kind of sweeping change. For sites in heavily-impacted verticals, we can only monitor the situation and try to assess our new reality.


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Google Posts: Conversion Factor — Not Ranking Factor

Posted by Greg_Gifford

While Google Posts aren’t a ranking factor, they can still be an incredibly effective resource for increasing local business conversions — when used correctly. This week’s Whiteboard Friday host, Greg Gifford, shows you how to put your best post forward.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Fridays. I'm Greg Gifford, the Vice President of Search at SearchLab, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in local SEO and paid search. I'm here today to talk about— you guessed it — Google Posts, the feature on Google My Business that lets you post interesting and attractive things to attract potential customers.

The importance of Google My Business

Mike Blumenthal said it first. Your Google My Business listing is your new homepage. Then we all kind of stole it, and everybody says it now. But it's totally true. It's the first impression that you make with potential customers. If someone wants your phone number, they don't have to go to your site to get it anymore. Or if they need your address to get directions or if they want to check out photos of your business or they want to see hours or reviews, they can do it all right there on the search engine results page.

If you're a local business, one that serves customers face-to-face at a physical storefront location or that serves customers at their location, like a plumber or an electrician, then you're eligible to have a Google My Business listing, and that listing is a major element of your local SEO strategy. You need to stand out from competitors and show potential customers why they should check you out. Google Posts are one of the best ways to do just that thing.

How to use Google Posts effectively

For those of you who don't know about Google Posts, they were released back in 2016, and they used to show up, up at the top of your Google My Business panel, and most businesses went crazy over them. In October of 2018, they moved them down to the very bottom of the GMB panel on desktop and out of the overview panel on mobile results, and most people kind of lost interest because they thought there would be a huge loss of visibility.

But honestly, it doesn't matter. They're still incredibly effective when they're used correctly.

Posts are basically free advertising on Google. You heard that right. They're free advertising. They show up in Google search results. Seriously, especially effective on mobile when they're mixed in with other organic results.

But even on desktop, they help your business attract potential customers and stand out from other local competitors. More importantly, they can drive pre-site conversions. You've heard about zero-click search. Now people can convert without getting to your site. They appear as a thumbnail, an image with a little bit of text underneath. Then when the user clicks on the thumbnail, the whole post pops up in a pop-up window that basically fills the window on either mobile or desktop.

Now they have no influence on ranking. They're a conversion factor, not a ranking factor. Think of it this way though. If it takes you 10 minutes to create a post and you do only one a week, that's just 40 minutes a month. If you get a conversion, isn't it worth doing? If you do them correctly, you can get a lot more than just one conversion. 

In the past, I would have told you that posts stay live in your profile for seven days, unless you use one of the post templates that includes a date range, in which case they stay live for the entire date range. But it looks like Google has changed the way that posts work, and now Google displays your 10 most recent posts in a carousel with a little arrow to scroll through. Then when you get to the end of those 10 posts, it has a link to view all of your older posts. 

Now you shouldn't pay attention to most of what you see online about Posts because there's a ridiculous amount of misinformation or simply outdated information out there.

Avoid words on the "no-no" list

Quick tip: Be careful about the text that you use. Anything with sexual connotation will get your post denied. This is really frustrating for some industries. If you put up a post about weather stripping, you get vetoed because of the word "stripping." Or if you're a plumber and you post about "toilet repairs" or "unclogging a toilet", you get denied for using the word "toilet."

So be careful if you have anything that might be on that no-no, naughty list. 

Use an enticing thumbnail



The full post contains an image. A full post has the image and then text with up to 1,500 characters, and that's all most people pay attention to. But the post thumbnail is the key to success. No one is going to see the full post if the thumbnail isn't enticing enough to click on.

Think of it like you're creating a paid search campaign. You need really compelling copy if you want more clicks on your ad or a really awesome image to attract attention if it's a banner image. The same principle applies to posts. 

Make them promotional

It's also important to be sure that your posts are promotional. People are seeing these posts in the search results before they go to your site. So in most cases they have no idea who you are yet.

The typical social fluff that you share on other social platforms doesn't work. Don't share links to blog posts or a simple "Hey, we sell this" message because those don't work. Remember, your users are shopping around and trying to figure out where they want to buy, so you want to grab their attention with something promotional.

Pick the right template

Most of the stuff out there will tell you that the post thumbnail displays 100 characters of text or about 16 words broken into 4 distinct lines. But in reality, it's different depending on which post template you use and whether or not you include a call to action link, which then replaces that last line of text.

But, hey, we're all marketers. So why wouldn't we include a CTA link, right? 

There are three main post types. In the vast majority of cases, you want to use the What's New post template. That's the one that allows for the most text in the thumbnail view, so it's easier to write something compelling. Now with the What's New post, once you include that call to action, it replaces that last line so you end up with three full lines of available text space.

Both the Event and Offer post templates include a title and then a date range. Some people dig the date range because the post stays visible for that whole date range. But now that posts stay live and visible forever, there's no advantage there. Both of those post types have that separate title line, then a separate date range line, and then the call to action link is going to be on the fourth line, which leaves you only a single line of text or just a few words to write something compelling.

Sure, the Offer post has a cool little price tag emoji there next to the title and some limited coupon functionality, but that's not a reason. You should have full coupon functionality on your site. So it's better to write something compelling with a "What's New" post template and then have the user click through on the call to action link to get to your site to get more information and convert there.

There's also a new COVID update post type, but you don't want to use it. It shows up a lot higher on your Google My Business profile, actually just below your top line information, but it's text only. Only text, no image. If you've got an active COVID post, Google hides all of your other active posts. So if you want to share a COVID info post or updates about COVID, it's better to use the What's New post template instead.

Pay attention to image cropping

The image is the frustrating part of things. Cropping is super wonky and really inconsistent. In fact, you could post the same image multiple times and it will crop slightly differently each time. The fact that the crop is slightly higher than vertical center and also a different size between mobile and desktop makes it really frustrating.

The important areas of your image can get cropped out, so half of your product ends up being gone, or your text gets cropped out, or things get really hard to read. Now there's a rudimentary cropping tool built into the image upload function with posts, but it's not locked to an aspect ratio. So then you're going to end up with black bars either on the top or on the side if you don't crop it to the correct aspect ratio, which is, by the way, 1200 pixels width by 900 pixels high.

You need to have a handle on what the safe area is within the image. So to make things easier, we created this Google Posts Cropping Guide. It's a Photoshop document with built-in guides to show you what the safe area is. You can download it at bit.ly/posts-image-guide. Make sure you put that in lowercase because it's case sensitive.

But it looks like this. Anything within that white grid is safe and that's what's going to show up in that post thumbnail. But then when you see the full post, the rest of the image shows up. So you can get really creative and have things like here's the image, but then when it pops up, there's additional text at the bottom. 

Include UTM tracking

Now, for the call to action link, you need to be sure that you include UTM tracking, because Google Analytics doesn't always attribute that traffic correctly, especially on mobile.

Now if you include UTM tagging, you can ensure that the clicks are attributed to Google organic, and then you can use the campaign variable to differentiate between the posts that you published so you'll be able to see which post generated more click-throughs or more conversions and then you can adjust your strategy moving forward to use the more effective post types. 

So for those of you that aren't super familiar with UTM tagging, it's basically adding a query string like this to the end of the URL that you're tagging so it forces Google Analytics to attribute the session a certain way that you're specifying.

So here's the structure that I recommend using when you do Google posts. It's your domain on the left. Then ?UTM_Source is GMB.Post, so it's separated. Then UTM_Medium is Organic, and UTM_Campaign is some sort of post identifier. Some people like to use Google as the source.

But at a high level, when you look at your source medium report, that traffic all gets lumped together with everything from Google. So sometimes it's confusing for clients who don't really understand that they can look at secondary dimensions to break apart that traffic. So more importantly, it's easier for you to see your post traffic separately when you look at the default source medium report.

You want to leave organic as your medium so that it's lumped and grouped correctly on the default channel report with all organic traffic. Then you enter some sort of identifier, some sort of text string or date that can let you know which post you're talking about with that campaign variable. So make sure it's something unique so that you know which post you're talking about, whether it's car post, oil post, or a date range or the title of the post so you know when you're looking in Google Analytics.

It's also important to mention that Google My Business Insights will show you the number of views and clicks, but it's a bit convoluted because multiple impressions and/or multiple clicks from the same users are counted independently. That's why adding the UTM tagging is so important for tracking accurately your performance. 

Upload videos

Final note, you can also upload videos so a video shows in the thumbnail and in the post.

So when users see that thumbnail that has a little play button on it and they click it, when the post pops up, the video will play there. Now the file size limit is 30 seconds or 75 MB, which if you got commercials, that's basically the perfect size. So even though they've been around for a few years, most businesses still ignore Posts. Now you know how to rock Posts so you'll stand out from competitors and generate more click-throughs.

Hopefully you enjoyed the video. If you've got any additional tips to share, please throw them in the comments down below. Thanks for watching, and I'll see you again next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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The Potential Impact of Gen Z on SEO

Posted by stewartfussell

Generation Z's behaviors differ from the cohorts that came before it, creating a new challenge for businesses marketing to consumers within it. Gen Z's presence is also growing in the marketing industry itself and, as such, learning how to work with and appeal to these young people is a critical step to take sooner rather than later. 

Who is Generation Z?

Social media stars might be the first people who come to mind when you think of Gen Z (also affectionately called Zoomers), but this age group is more than just TikTokers and YouTubers. Although the purported birth years of this generation vary across different sources, Pew Research refers to them as individuals born from 1997 and onward. With that in mind, it may come as a surprise that these Americans now make up about 28.7% of the total population. For context, Baby Boomers now account for a smaller proportion of just 21.8%, and Millennials around 22%.

Even more shocking than these statistics may be the fact that the oldest members of Generation Z are now well into their twenties. While it’s easy to think of this group as teenagers and children, they’ve grown up quickly, and are now major players in the world’s economy. In fact, this group has an annual spending power of around $143 billion, and currently accounts for approximately 40% of global consumers.

It’s well known that members of this cohort are digital natives and have been raised alongside technology. In 2014, the UK’s Office of Communications tested the technological proficiency of children versus adults only to find that the average 6-year-old outperformed those in their 40s. It’s safe to assume most members of this new generation have a solid grasp of technology, and a skill set that rivals people much older. This may be even more prevalent now with the rising use of digital resources due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Pew Social Trends noted in a recent essay that much like Millennials, who faced the Great Recession during their coming-of-age years, Gen Z will be affected by the pandemic for a long time to come. With a job market that is more competitive than ever and digital skills in high demand, a career in search may become increasingly attractive. Although search engine optimization is ever-changing, its importance has been unwavering for nearly two decades, making it a stable option in an unpredictable world.

How do Zoomers interact with marketing as a whole?

When it comes to targeting this cohort, its members are creating new challenges for businesses. First and foremost, their relationships with brands are very different than those of the generations that came before them. Reports from IBM in association with the National Retail Federation found that, for Gen Z, brand loyalty must be earned. Zoomers are looking for a reflection of their personal values in brands and are prepared to hold them accountable. Beyond their resistance to conventional brand loyalty, research has also found that they are more difficult to engage.

Generally speaking, in this day and age, consumers are bombarded with thousands of ads a day and have become harder to reach. As such, it’s not shocking that a common statistic claims that members of Gen Z have the smallest attention spans of just eight seconds. However, Fast Company presents this information in a new light by explaining that they actually have “8-second filters”. These filters allow them to quickly process the tremendous amounts of information they encounter each day to hone in on what they actually care about, uniquely preparing them to glaze over advertising attempts (as they’ve been conditioned to do basically since birth).

To combat this trend, marketers have been pursuing a variety of novel strategies and methods. For example, experiential marketing has proven to be effective with Gen Z, and they're also especially excited by virtual reality.

While there are many new marketing opportunities available, social media continues to be a major channel for Gen Z engagement. This is especially true when it comes to video content on sites like YouTube and TikTok. All in all, as these consumers move away from traditional television viewership, the need for alternative marketing avenues grows.

How does Gen Z use search?

With all of this background information in mind, it’s easy to see that search is well-positioned to access this target demographic. Generation Z may not be as responsive to direct advertisements, but they’re accustomed to searching.

As a matter of fact, search engines have been around longer than Gen Z has, with the first search engine appearing in 1990, so it’s no surprise that their use is second nature to this age group. Zoomers fully understand how to use search tools, and they have the capacity to quickly evaluate SERPs prior to deciding on which link will get their click.

They’ve always had the answers to any question readily available, so they also use search for more intentional discovery. Despite their noted “8-second filter”, Fast Company additionally found that they could become deeply focused on topics they find to be worthwhile. Furthermore, their nonchalance towards brand loyalty means they may be less likely to opt for a big brand website over others.

Finally, their use and reliance on mobile devices can't be overlooked or overstated. The stereotype that people are now glued to their phones has some merit, and companies like Google have taken notice. They’ve already begun catering towards this shift, with things like mobile-first indexing and AMP pages now taking on greater importance. IBM and NRF discovered that, in a global survey of 15,600 Gen Z-ers, 60% would not use an app or site that loads too slowly. This puts the importance of mobile site speed into a greater perspective for SEOs hoping to capture this demographic through search.

The findings of a recent Fractl survey clearly align with each of these trends. They found that out of all the generations, Gen Z has the highest preference for long-tail queries. They know that a short-tail query will produce broad results, and they may not find what they’re looking for. In addition, their mobile usage has created an uptick in voice assistant search functions, which utilize these multi-word phrases as well.

Zoomers working as SEOs

Although this age group is well equipped to use search engines, it’s likely that the concept of SEO still remains somewhat foreign to them. A quick Coursera search shows that there are almost no SEO-specific college courses currently available to students. While some general digital marketing classes may have a chapter or section on SEO, that information can oftentimes be outdated due to the ever-changing nature of search. There are also a few certificate programs and online workshops, but the aforementioned issue is still present. In summary, the most accessible way for students to learn is through their own research, an internship, or some other similar experience that they happen upon.

That said, this industry can provide a fantastic career path for members of Gen Z, should they discover and choose to pursue it. Working in search allows you to develop a variety of skills from critical thinking to problem-solving and data analysis. Those in the SEO community are always up to date on the latest tech and trends, which is valuable in many facets of business. Furthermore, working within an agency provides the opportunity to learn about a vast range of industries and niches. Many SEOs even pick up web development, data science, and programming experience along the way, and these are three competencies that are in very high demand. All things considered, the many hard and soft skills that can be developed through SEO work are the foundations for being successful throughout a career.

Zoomers already have an aptitude for work in technology-based spaces, and those with the determination can pick up expertise quickly in this field. Prime examples of this include the use of SEO tools and content management systems. For instance, once a CMS such as WordPress is learned, that knowledge can be easily transferred to others like Drupal, HubSpot, and so on. The same can be said for tools like Google Analytics and Search Console, because understanding how to evaluate data within those platforms can be translated to a variety of others. In essence, SEO and Gen Z could truly be a match made in digital marketing heaven.

Understanding client-side Gen Z-ers

While SEO may not yet be a mainstream career path for most young people, those in the digital marketing field will likely encounter it at some point. As such, it’s important to keep in mind that members of this generation will also be working on the client side of search.

As previously mentioned, some Zoomers are already part of the workforce, and the presence of this cohort will only continue to grow. In the year 2020 alone, Gen Z made up approximately 24% of the worldwide workforce.

With an influx of new workers on the horizon, working with them may be a unique experience given their strong grasp of technology. On top of that, they're also more familiar with concepts like analytics and data science as those careers are seeing a boom in the higher education sector. Members of this age group shouldn't be underestimated when it comes to absorbing the ins-and-outs of SEO from the client’s point of view.

As Gen Z continues entering the workforce, likely in entry-level positions, it’s important to remember that they'll be decision-makers in a few short years. They'll have an increasing ability to influence budgeting decisions, so it's absolutely critical to think about ways to connect with them now and communicate the value of SEO to save time, energy, and money in the long run. A few steps to work through are as follows:

  • Understand that they’re eager to learn and can do so quickly.
    • Walk them through the reasoning behind each recommendation to build their knowledge over time. As with clients of any age, this improves trust and helps them to see how SEO really works.
  • Take them seriously and listen to their insights.
    • They may have concerns, as any client might when it comes to SEO strategies and how they play into the overall marketing plan. Listen to what they have to say, as they may be new, but they could still provide impactful insights.
  • Embrace novel ideas and creative thinking.
    • Fresh ideas are never a bad thing, but it can be easy to feel resistant towards those that seem to come out of left field. Fight the impulse to immediately shut these down and instead seriously consider how they could be incorporated into the project.
  • Don’t shy away from using new tools and technologies.
    • As mentioned above, Gen Z isn't intimidated by new forms of technology. Share interesting findings from tools like HotJar, Tableau, or Google Tag Manager to make SEO more exciting for them.
  • Be candid and transparent about performance analytics.
    • Be up front about the state of the site’s performance to build their confidence and appreciation for search. In the age of instant gratification, there are few things more satisfying than a positive trend line. On the other side of that, be sure to research and determine the causes for any downturns.

Conclusion

While Gen Z may be a mystery in many ways, two things are certain: they are well on their way to dominating many industries, and they shouldn't be overlooked. Likewise, if you’re not preparing for their arrival, you might already be falling behind.

Give these findings and tips some thought, and if there are already Gen Z-ers in your organization, try to take time to pick their brains. Go ahead and learn to embrace the change – as we so often do in SEO – because these TikTokers and YouTubers will only be growing in influence.


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How Did US Stimulus Checks Impact On-Site Traffic and Conversions? [Case Study]

Posted by OeuyownK

As a Senior Analytics Strategist working at an agency with clients across industries, I’ve seen wildly contrasting performance throughout the pandemic. Certain online retailers and auto sites were far surpassing any historical performance, while others had to cut back budgets significantly. The variances in revenue performances also empirically correlated with time frames when the public received more support, in the form of stimulus checks.

My team at Portent conducted the study detailed below to verify our hypotheses that the pandemic caused revenue increases in online retailers and auto industries, and that those spikes correlated with stimulus distributions. We discovered a few specific factors that increased the probability of confirming our hypothesis along the way.

“Unprecedented” has undoubtedly been the word of the year, and it’s touched all aspects of life and business. There have been changes in consumer behavior across all industries — we’ve unfortunately seen swaths of shutdowns in particular markets while others have sustained or are even thriving. This post will provide some observations in online behavior along with some consumer data that should be used as predictive indicators through the rest of the pandemic.

The study

The observations of changes in online behavior were pulled and anonymized from 16 of our clients across 8 different industries. We narrowed those 8 industries down to three categories defined by Google Analytics for the purposes of this analysis: Shopping (10), Travel (3), and Autos & Vehicles (3).

The sites included in this analysis were limited to the US where possible and ranged in monthly revenue from $16K to $103K and in monthly sessions from 4K to 44K.

Observation #1: Stimulus checks resulted in increases in online behavior

Stimulus checks initiated the first revival of spending since the start of the pandemic. Granted, it was only about a month between the first notice of a lockdown and the beginning of stimulus payments. However, that increase in spend remained at higher levels after the majority of stimulus checks were distributed for most sites in this analysis—of course, excluding the Travel sites.

The first round of stimulus checks provided some form of relief to single Americans that made less than $99K a year, with those who made less than a $75K salary receiving the full $1,200. There were differences in limits depending on whether you have children or how you filed your taxes.

There was a noticeable jump in both sessions and revenue during the (1) week of April 13th, when $80M worth of stimulus payments were deposited for taxpayers who had direct deposits set up. By the (2) week of April 20th, additional rounds of deposits were made to those who manually set up direct deposits through the IRS. And by the (3) week of June 3rd, the IRS had delivered $270B in stimulus checks to Americans. At this point, revenue and sessions began to normalize below that period of stimulus distributions until the undeniable Black Friday sales occurred.

Observation #2: The impact depends on the market

There were obvious industries that were impacted most by the changes in consumer behavior and are still barely recovering: travel, in-store retail, and restaurants, to name those that were hit the hardest. On the other hand, some industries are actually performing better than before, such as online retail sales and food and beverage stores.

The analyses from S&P Global and the U.S. Census Bureau were accurately reflected in our study as well. Through the end of November, the average revenue for the Shopping sites in our analysis was 27.5% higher than our dip seen in March while sessions were 24.4% higher.

What came as a surprise, however, was that the Autos & Vehicles sites actually sustained higher averages than the Shopping sites. The sites in this industry saw 26.8% higher sessions and 36.8% higher revenue compared to the dip seen in the beginning of the pandemic and also well above prior levels in the beginning of the year.

The stark jump in sessions and revenue also aligned with when the distribution of stimulus checks began. In hindsight, the increase in consumer spending in this industry could have been anticipated considering the limitations and fear associated with traveling by plane. Online behavior is higher in the summer months as well, as those who were becoming restless from quarantining began to take road trips to satisfy their wanderlust.

There were a few other predictable trends that we identified in our study:

  1. There was one quick spike in athletic wear purchases with the average sustaining higher than pre-pandemic levels.
  2. There was a prolonged spike in revenue and especially traffic for baking goods and flour purchases, which remained at much higher levels compared to prior numbers. Then there was the seasonal influx of interest during the holidays. Interestingly, the conversion rate was 123% higher during the holidays compared to its peak in the beginning of the pandemic.
  3. With parents and families stuck at home, there was an exponential and lengthy growth in online behavior for children’s toys. Although the growth has tapered, it continues to see an upward trend.
  4. As expected, travel sites have taken the largest hit out of our study with a significant drop that has resulted in little to no recovery. The increase in revenue and sessions in the summer is almost entirely attributed to a resort that saw a similar increase in interest from the wanderlusts of the Autos & Vehicles sites.

Observation #3: There’s a positive correlation between AOV and % change in revenue

There was a fairly strong correlation of 0.76 between average order value (AOV) and % change in revenue YoY* for Shopping sites only. The consumer behavior on Autos & Vehicles sites was more dependent on stimulus checks and weather while the behavior on Travel sites was dependent on the feeling of safety.



*The data in this chart was pulled with the following notes:

  • YoY comparison was for November 2019 vs. November 2020 (November being the highest performing month based on seasonality)
  • Two anomalies were excluded from this data: (1) A flour company and, (2) A company with an AOV of nearly $2K

This one makes intuitive sense if you think about who’s been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Industries that are still thriving are ones that were able to more easily transition to 100% remote work and ones that had enough funds to weather some dropoff in clientele. Those who were fortunate enough to be employed in those industries during this time are also more likely to be paid higher than the median. In fact, only 30% of parents earning $200K or more lost their jobs since the pandemic, compared to 65% of parents earning less than $25K. Those who lost jobs in higher income brackets were also more likely to be able to find work again.

High-income spenders weren’t significantly impacted by the pandemic aside from the first few months, during which the change in consumer spending came from uncertainty. Although high- and low-income brackets both saw significant drops in spending initially, high-income consumers returned to levels comparable to January 2020 while low-income consumers were still about 10% below on average through September 2020.

Considerations to forecast future performance

There’s quite honestly nothing novel in this analysis that hasn’t been surfaced through market research, and these observations have been corroborated by economic data. The key takeaways here are to pay attention to the trends we're seeing, think about how they relate to your target audience or customer, and pay attention to new developments that may signal a shift toward normalcy once again as you re-enter the digital marketplace.

Stay informed of economic trends

Keep up-to-date with economic research published by S&P and monitor news releases from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to identify trends in Personal Income, Disposable Personal Income (DPI), Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE). The PCE started dipping in July, which correlates with the changes in consumer behavior we saw in our study. Although the reports don’t come out immediately, staying updated on the direction of these trends could inform your efforts.

Consider your target audience

It’s important to narrow down your research to your target audience. If your business is international, you likely won’t be as impacted by future stimulus checks in the US. However, different international markets will recover at differing rates.

Similarly, it’s important to keep your industry in mind. S&P is already estimating that the most-affected industries may not recover fully until 2022. This means that industries like in-store retail, travel, and service will have to find alternative ways to pivot during this time to return to normal levels.

Once you’ve considered your market and industry, weigh the risks based on your AOV and the income level of your average consumer. The higher the average income level, the more likely it is that your market has already recovered or the higher your chances are of being able to adjust successfully.

Additional federal support

Although the support from the US government throughout the pandemic has been lackluster at best, there’s a possibility of additional support. The recent round of stimulus checks were more limited than the first, meaning the impact on consumer behavior might be less noticeable. Economists are guessing that consumers would rather save this smaller amount than put it back into the economy. However, these bills should be accounted for in forecasting with the hopeful potential of additional (and more significant) federal support.

The distribution of vaccinations is likely to take at least several months to be impactful and possibly even longer to reach herd immunity. During this time of forward movement in the pandemic, we will all need to monitor and predict consumer behavior in unprecedented ways until we begin to see normalcy again.


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The Strategic Value of Structured Data Implementation on SME Websites

Posted by CrystalontheWeb

Structured data is one of the most effective ways to increase the visibility of your website content and increase the sustainability of your SEO as Google implements regular updates to the SERP environment. Over the last five years, many of Google’s most game-changing SERP features have been driven by the use of structured data from across the web. Google for Jobs, Google Shopping, featured snippets, how-to instructions, recipe cards, knowledge panels, and other rich snippets all serve content from sites with structured data.

So, when we think about how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can compete in today's ever-evolving SERP landscape, time and time again, well-implemented structured data is what makes the difference.

In this blog I’ll explain the following:

  • What is structured data?
  • Why should SMEs prioritize structured data implementation?
  • How do you identify which structured data is best for your SEO strategy?
  • Strategies for adding schema to your site
  • How to measure and demonstrate the impact of structured data

In my experience, well-implemented structured data is effective for websites of all sizes and in all verticals. For my own clients, schema implementation has enabled growth, improved performance on search and created opportunities to reach new audiences.

  • For an established national retail brand with a thriving social media following, schema optimisations contributed to a 50% increase in organic conversions within a month. And six months on, the improvements we made to product markup, organisation, and blog schema had helped drive a 230% increase in organic conversion value.
  • For a local recruitment site, we combined niche targeted schema and sitemap optimization to increase both organic clicks and impressions by over 80% each, within four months.
  • For an international B2B retailer, improving existing schema formed the basis for marketing strategy that enabled us to grow our tally of ranking keywords by an average of 70% across three countries, increase our revenue by 35% when compared to the previous period, and create new marketing channels, within 6 months.
  • For a professional services provider, we built E-A-T centric schema optimisations into a blog and were able to improve average ranking position by 30% in 3 months and by 43% within a year.

Though the target markets, objectives and audiences differed in each case, I was able to use schema markup as a strategic underpinning of a wider SEO and marketing strategy. This is because schema has become a fundamental element of scalable SEO.

What is structured data in SEO?

On a website, structured data is a means of defining content with a uniform set of names and values, so that bots and machines can better read, index, understand, and serve the content of your site. While the phrase “structured data” can include elements like open graph for social media, microdata, or indeed any set of data that is organized uniformly (think of your CRM), generally when SEOs talk about structured data, we’re referring to structured data markup in JSON-LD as specified by Schema.org and recommended by Google.

Why is Schema.org structured data so strategically important?

Schema.org has become structured data HQ, because its framework — sets of vocabularies and relationships — was created and is maintained through a cross-platform partnership between Google, Microsoft, Yandex, and other major search engines. They regularly create new schema types and relationships aimed at making the information on the web more easily accessible to users.

Schema.org breaks down content into common vocabulary of predefined @types, which each have predefined properties, and can then be expressed using a common Javascript notation (JSON-LD). Like entries to the Oxford English Dictionary, the team behind Schema.Org are constantly adding new @types and properties in order to keep pace with user needs. At present, there are 778 types, but that number will continue to grow. Each new type brings more clarity, consistency, and ease of access to the information on the web — something that’s brilliant for search engines, and great for your traffic.

What does that mean in practice?

Sometimes when I'm explaining structured data to clients, I describe it as a means of essentially turning your beautiful website into a spreadsheet for robots. They can prioritize and process the critical information about the content of the page without having to understand the layout of your particular Wordpress theme, reams of CSS, or navigate your Joomla configuration.

This means that information a bot has on a page can be more consistent and resilient, even if the content changes day-to-day. So, in the example of a retailer with seasonal specials and campaigns that change the front end home page layout, structured data tells Google the same information about the page in the same way every time:

Why should SMEs prioritize structured data implementation?

Simply put, structured data gives you the chance to jump the queue on the SERP.

When we look at the ways in which Google has enhanced its SERPs over the last few years, what we see consistently is the use of JSON-LD structured data in combination with Google APIs to create new features and new channels for content. Rich snippet SERP features like Google for Jobs, Google Shopping, featured snippets, how-to instructions, recipe cards, knowledge panels, and other monumental changes to the SERP have all been driven or improved by the creation and utilization of structured data frameworks.

Users love these features because they’re multi-media search enhancements, and are impossible to miss as they often take up the entire viewport on mobile:

Left to right: rich results for Google for Jobs, recipes, video


Not a plain blue link in sight.

In many cases, your content cannot be included in these attractive rich snippets without structured data. So, if you literally want to get ahead of the competition, structured data needs to be a component in your SEO strategy.

What are the other advantages of structured data for small businesses?

Along with increased visibility, structured data implementation offers the following advantages for small businesses:

  1. You will likely outpace your local competitors. SMEs are likely to feature within local pack search results with other small businesses. Here, competition for keywords is fierce, but many have yet to incorporate structured data into their sites. This is an opportunity to increase your visibility, gain more market share, and therefore increase conversions.
  2. Schema markup is a fully scalable optimization. While some SEO tasks like content creation can require pages to be optimized one-by-one, Schema markup can be built into the structure of the page. This means that once it’s set up, every new product listing page, for instance, would already have the optimization as you expand the site, whether you stock six products or six thousand. The time this saves is especially significant for small marketing teams.
  3. Schema markup implementation can be carried out as a single project within a few months. This can be a win for clients and SEOs, because in many cases, there is a clear demarcation before and after, followed by solid results which help to build confidence in further SEO activities, give clear ROI and satisfy clients looking for quick wins.

How do you identify which structured data is best for SEO strategy?

With almost 800 types of schema markup available to add to a website, it can be difficult to decide which are the best for your page, but to start, you can introduce or improve some new elements to help you better perform online and complement your existing content or e-commerce SEO strategy.

Does your site pass the schema markup need-to-have checklist?

There are certain sets of schema markup that apply to almost every site, and others — like Product and Job Postings — that are niche critical to effective SEO. As a general rule of thumb, every time I get a new client, I run through the following initial checks:

  • Do the homepage and about pages have Organisation or Local Business schema?
  • Do the blogs have schema for Articles or Blog Postings?
  • Do the team pages have Person schema?
  • If it’s an e-commerce site, does it have the niche critical Product schema?
  • If it is a recruiter site, does it have the niche critical Job Postings schema?
  • If the business is in another niche with dedicated Google SERP features, does it have the necessary markup?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions and the site doesn’t have the appropriate markup, then you should add schema markup to your site.

If the answer to these questions is “yes”, then it’s important to test the quality of the implementation before moving on to the next step. To do this, take a look at Search Console’s Rich Results Report to review pages at scale, or use their Structured Data Testing Tool and Rich Results Test to inspect individual pages. If you see errors, they should be addressed.

How to Find Address Schema Errors

Valid schema markup in Search Console

First, take a look at Search Console’s Rich Results Report to review pages at scale and identify which content is being read as Valid, Valid with Errors or Error.

Valid: If your markup is ‘Valid’, then it is being crawled and indexed correctly. These pages are unlikely to require further action.

Errors: Pages with markup that is identified with an ‘Error’ tend to have incorrect syntax, so you should review the individual page and correct the code as soon as possible. When the changes are complete, use the Validate Fix button, to request reassessment.

Valid with Warning: If your content is showing as ‘Valid a Warning’, then you are likely displaying schema markup with a Missing field. These warnings do not make the page or the markup invalid, but they can make the page less competitive, because the content is less targeted. Review your content to ensure that your schema is reflecting as much of the on page content as possible in order to reduce these errors, and therefore increase the performance of your schema markup.

Schema markup warnings in Search Console


Structured Data Testing Tool and Rich Results Test allow you to troubleshoot improvements to structured data on individual pages. Each of these tools you can enter the URL in question and you will receive itemised information on any errors or warnings.

Warnings on structured data testing tool
Warnings on rich results test


The missing fields highlighted here correspond to properties within the Event schema type. So, to improve this markup, you would look up the definitions of the relevant properties on schema.org and, where applicable, use their example HTML to guide your optimizations.

Property definitions in schema.org
Example "performer" HTML script from schema.org


In this instance, to improve the performance of my schema, I may need to build new performer fields into the CMS, or to work with the dev team to add the content from existing CMS data fields into the schema regex.

In either case you will be making improvements that help you better target and serve users.

Strategies for adding schema to your site

If you need to add schema to your site there are a few options for implementation.

Adding schema to single static pages

For some single pages with largely static content, adding markup types like Local Business, Organization, or a single FAQ page, can be a straightforward process of generating the code and placing it into the HTML of the page. Major CMS platforms like Shopify and Wordpress have plugins to assist with generating the markup for these pages which is easy to implement. Those with custom CMS configurations can use tools like the Schema Markup Generator to generate the JSON-LD, then pass it onto the development team to push it live.

Adding scalable schema for bulk implementation

Bulk schema implementation is almost essential for high volume content creators. This applies to e-commerce shops, but also to those who regularly post standard format content like recipes, blogs, articles, job vacancies, events, training courses, etc.

For these pages, the most effective way to get the most out of the schema on your site is to automate the process by building it into the structure of your site. In most instances, this involves a four phase approach, working in coordination with your developers and clients.

  • Start with your sitemap. You should have a dynamic XML sitemap that helps Google index pages as they are created, and includes the elements that are listed within the structured data. For an e-commerce site, this means having a sitemap that includes the product listings pages, but also the image sitemap and customer service pages.
  • Organize your content. For bulk implementation, you should work with your content, and try to assign a type and property to each standard field for content on your page. Treat it like a formula that can be applied to each page with the same format. If you don’t have fields that correspond with the required properties for your schema type, add them. If you have a bulk of information, try to ensure that you have properties that support the USPs of your content. Then work with your developers to update your template so that the schema generates consistently across the site.
  • Connect with relevant Google APIs. Once your sitemap is solid, your content is optimised and your markup is in place. check to see if the schema you're using has an API and, if it does, get your site connected to it. Some of the most-used rich results connect directly with dedicated Google APIs, which further integrate with PPC tools to round out your marketing mix.
Examples of Schema Types with Dedicated Google APIs
  • Lodging schema connects with the Hotel API and can be used with Google Hotels PPC
  • Job Posting schema connects with the Indexing API to enable inclusion in Google for Jobs
  • Product schema connects with Content API to enable inclusion in Google Shopping search results and ad listings.

How to measure and demonstrate the impact of schema markup

Measuring Schema Enable Rich Results in Search Console

The impact of schema markup which generates rich results, can be easily monitored and measured in Search Console. Within the Enhancements tab, you can monitor the quality of your implementation and any current or recent errors.

View schema-enabled rich content in the Search Console Enhancements tab


To monitor impressions, rankings, clicks and CTR, visit the Search Appearance tab under Performance. This tab provides historic data that can be compared to earlier configurations of the site.

Visit Performance > Search Appearance tab to see rich result performance


Within Google Analytics, your tracking and monitoring will depend upon your implementation. For instance, google-jobs-apply clicks may show as a separate source from standard search results within Organic. But I’ve also seen Google Shopping clicks show as part of the (other) channel. In either case, annotate your implementation dates to monitor relevant content for changes in clicks, impressions, and conversions.

For many small businesses, Search Console data should be sufficient but there are also tools which can help you drill down further into the data.

In summary

Taking a strategic, integrated approach to structured data implementation helps SMEs to stay competitive in today’s search environment because of its scalability, versatility and measurability. Furthermore, the applicability of schema markup as the underpinning of a cohesive content and advertising strategy, brings much needed efficiencies for SME marketers who want to make the most out of their content.


Want to learn more about technical SEO? Check out the Moz Academy Technical SEO Certification Series, an in-depth training series that hones in on the nuts and bolts of technical SEO.

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7 Emerging Technologies in SEO and Their Applications

Posted by AbdulGaniy_Shehu

SEO is a dynamic industry. What worked some weeks ago might not work again right now.

As an SEO professional, you need to know the latest trends and emerging technologies, to keep up with the ever-changing demand of the industry. That way, you can stay on top of your game and become more efficient in your business.

In this post, I’ll share with you seven emerging technologies in the SEO industry and how they impact your work as an SEO expert. Finally, I’ll show you how to apply them in your business for optimal results.

If you want to scale your SEO processes in 2021 and beyond, you should watch out for these technologies, and start implementing them in your business right away.

1. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

In December 2019, Google officially rolled out the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) algorithm update worldwide. This update brought NLP to the fore, and it’s been a technology to watch out for in the SEO industry since.

With NLP, Google can understand what a word in a sentence means by looking at its context.

This means that Google no longer relies on the specific words or phrases that users are searching for to provide them with the right answers. Rather, they’re looking at the intent behind each search.

Here’s an example of how BERT (an offshoot of NLP), affects a search query according to Google.

Before NLP, if someone searches for the query “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa”, Google thinks that this is an informational query to confirm if a U.S citizen can travel to Brazil without a visa. Hence, it shows a Washington Post article that answers the question on top of the SERPs.

As you can see, the context behind this search is someone wanting to travel to the USA from Brazil who needs a visa. While it was difficult for Google to figure out what these kinds of queries meant in the past, with BERT, the algorithm understands the context behind each search and provides the user with the right information.

How to utilize NLP in your SEO processes

With NLP, informational content is more crucial than ever. However, optimizing for BERT isn’t something you can do as an SEO.

Rather, you should focus on creating high-quality content that answers search queries accurately. When you do, you’ll definitely rank well.

This Moz article shows you how to write amazing pieces of content for search engines and people.

2. Natural Language Generation (NLG) for short-form content

With NLG, SEOs can now produce meaningful phrases and sentences just like a natural language, but using technology.

Instead of battling with writers’ block and spending hours thinking of what to write, NLG removes that burden through automation. And if you’re a content creator, this helps you focus just on polishing the content and making it read better.

While there are a lot of use cases for NLG, at the moment, it’s better used to write short-form content such as headlines, product descriptions, meeting memos, and so on.

How to use NLG as an SEO

There are a lot of use cases for NLG technologies. With a tool such as Copy.ai, you can create landing page hero text, Facebook primary text, blog introductions, email subject lines, listicles, meta descriptions, and so on.

Here’s an example of some listicles I created for the topic “quality blog content” using this tool:

As you can see, if I wanted to write an article on this topic, I can use some of these suggestions as an outline for my post. With these, I can focus instead on researching the individual sub-topics.

Here’s another example of some website taglines that I created for Moz by entering the brand name and a brief description of “The Ultimate SEO tool you can trust” into the tool:

If you were starting a new brand as an SEO, you can use NLG tools such as this, to discover awesome taglines to use for your brand.

3. TF*IDF

TF*IDF stands for “Term Frequency times Inverse Document Frequency”. This measures how you use a term on a particular page and how it compares to a collection of pages for that specific keyword.

While TF*IDF might seem like a measurement of keyword density, it’s actually measuring how important a keyword phrase is by comparing it to that keyword’s frequency in a large set of documents.

Although it’s not yet clear if Google uses TF*IDF in its algorithm, it’s a good practice to incorporate it into your on-page SEO strategy.

Before applying TF*IDF, you need to create a piece of content targeting a particular keyword. Once that’s done, plug the content into a TF*IDF tool. Some recommended options are Text Tools, SEO PowerSuite, Ryte, and Surfer SEO.

How to use TF*IDF in your SEO processes

With technology and some information about your keyword, TF*IDF tools usually suggest some phrases you can add or remove from your pages. As an SEO, you can optimize your page based on these suggestions to meet the required TF*IDF score for that keyword.

That way, you can figure out some phrases which are closely related to the keyword you’re writing about, but not present in your content. When you add these phrases and words to your content, it makes your article topically relevant and helps your page rank better in the SERPs.

4. GPT-3 for automated content creation

In September 2020, The Guardian published a story on its website that was written by a robot. Since then, Generative Pre-trained Transformer Number 3 (GPT-3) has been a hot topic in the SEO industry.

The GPT-3 API works in an interesting way because it’s been trained with a large pool of datasets to mimic how humans write. This includes the Common Crawl dataset, Wikipedia, relevant historical books, and so on.

When you provide the GPT-3 API with a writing prompt, it tries to predict exactly what would come after that, based on the information it’s read on the Internet.

The screenshot below is an example of GPT-3-generated content that went viral on Hacker news some months ago. Most users commented on it, just like they would on a regular post, without knowing that it was written by a robot.

How to Use GPT-3 for automated content creation

  • Email writing: As an SEO, you most likely recognize that writing great emails is a skill that’ll help your business grow, yet find it difficult to do so. With GPT-3, you can write emails easily. All you need to do is provide some bullet points outlining all you want to cover in the email, and it’ll automatically write it for you.
  • First draft writing: Creating the first draft is the most difficult aspect of writing. With GPT-3, you can create the first draft of your content, and then edit it afterwards to meet your brand voice. This saves you a lot of time and makes you more efficient.

5. SEO A/B testing

Most SEOs focus more on user A/B testing and less on SEO A/B testing. While user testing involves randomly assigning visitors (users) of your website to different versions of your pages, and eventually deciding on the one to use based on the performance. In SEO A/B testing, the users are Googlebots and not end-users, and they’re typically shown the same version of the page.

What this means is that when you implement SEO/AB testing, you’re only showing users or Google only one version of the page, and not multiple pages.

How to implement SEO/AB testing

There are different ways to implement SEO A/B testing, depending on what you want to achieve for your business. If you’re just starting out, some things you can test include:

  • Title tags
  • Meta description
  • H1

Take for instance, Etsy conducted a title tag SEO A/B testing for some of its pages, and within a few days, they started seeing significant traffic changes to their pages.

If you’re an intermediate/advanced SEO, you can test other things such as:

  • AMP pages
  • Internal anchor texts
  • Schema markup
  • New content
  • And so on

For example, SearchPilot ran an internal link SEO A/B testing for a grocery store, and saw a 25% increase in organic traffic.

Conducting SEO A/B tests such as these will help you know exactly what works well for your brand and what doesn’t. That way, you can make more informed decisions when optimizing your pages for SEO.

For instance, if your traffic decreased to a particular page after making changes to it during the SEO A/B test, it shows that the test didn’t work out.

Typically, you should expect to start seeing results from your SEO A/B testing as soon as Google crawls your variant page. If Google crawls your test page within say 7-14 days, then you can compare it with the main page.

Some SEO A/B testing tools you can use for this purpose include: Google Tag Manager, Rankscience, Optimizely, etc.

6. Automated on-page content optimization

When creating a long-form piece of content, you typically:

  • Check the top-ranking pages on the SERPs
  • Go through each piece of content ranking on the SERPs
  • Figure out the specific headings and subheadings the pages are covering
  • Identify the missing points in the pages
  • Create a better outline of our own piece.
  • And so on

This usually takes a lot of time. You have to spend hours manually checking one piece of content after another and taking note of the most important points to include in your own piece.

How to use automated on-page content optimization

Instead of spending hours to create content briefs and researching the information you want to include in your content, you can use SEO tools such as Frase AI and Content Harmony.

With Frase AI, you can shorten the time you use for content research. Say you want to write about “how to lose weight fast”, you can input the main keyword into the tool.

Once done, it’ll automatically check the top-ranking pages in the SERPs, and provide you with some useful information you can use when creating your content. These include the top results for the keyword, statistics and data you can add in your content, questions your target audience are asking on Quora, Reddit, and Google’s People Also Ask.

With a tool such as Content Harmony, you can automatically create content briefs that meet search intent in less time.

All you need to get started is your keyword. Once you input it into the software, it automatically analyzes the SERPs using different data points. Afterwards, you can build your content briefs from there.

7. Non-text content factors

Non-text content factors are becoming more prominent in SEO because they help you create a nicer user experience on your website pages.

If you read a piece of content with blocks of texts all over it, you’ll most likely find it unappealing to look at. And with the upcoming enforcement of Core Web Vitals by Google in March 2021, non-text content factors will have a huge impact on SEO.

Some of these non-text content factors include:

  • Images
  • Infographics
  • Graphs
  • Charts
  • Videos
  • Audio clips
  • Animations
  • Slideshows
  • Downloadable files such as PDFs

How to use non-text content factors for SEO

  • Canva: With this tool, you create high-quality non-stock images for your pages.
  • Venngage: If you want to create infographics that catches your readers’ attention, then you should use Venngage.
  • Invideo: Invideo helps you create and edit videos online in a few minutes with different ready-made templates.
  • Animaker: If you don’t have a design background and want to create animated videos, then this tool will help you greatly.

With these tools, you can make your pages and posts more appealing. Hence, your readers will spend more time on your website, and your bounce rate will eventually decrease drastically.

Conclusion

As we look forward into the future of the SEO industry, new technology developments will definitely play a significant role. While some of them are already in use, others are still in development.

If you’re an SEO who wants to remain on top of things in the industry, then you should keep an eye out for these emerging technologies and start applying them to grow your business. Have more SEO tech to add to this list? Let me know in the comments.


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How to Explain Domain Authority to a Non-SEO

Posted by Orbiteer

Do you ever have to explain the importance of Domain Authority to clients or co-workers who have little or no SEO experience? If so, this week’s WBF host — Andy Crestodina — walks through how to get your message across successfully.

Anatomy of a Perfect Pitch Email

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Video Transcription

SEO is actually really hard to explain. There are so many concepts. But it's also really important to explain so that we can show value to our clients and to our employers. 

My name is Andy Crestodina. I'm the co-founder of Orbit Media Studios. We're a web design company here in Chicago. I've been doing SEO for 20 years and explaining it for about as long. This video is my best attempt to help you explain a really important concept in SEO, which is Domain Authority, to someone who doesn't know anything at all about SEO, to someone who is non-technical, to someone who is maybe not even a marketer.

Here is one framework, one set of language and words that you can use to try to explain Domain Authority to people who maybe need to understand it but don't have a background in this stuff whatsoever. 

Search ranking factors

Okay. Here we go. Someone searches. They type something into a search engine. They see search results.

Why do they see these search results instead of something else? The reason is: search ranking factors determined that these were going to be the top search results for that query or that keyword or that search phrase. 

Relevance

There are two main search ranking factors, in the end two reasons why any web page ranks or doesn't rank for any phrase. Those two main factors are, first of all, the page itself, the words, the content, the keywords, the relevance.

SEOs, we call this relevance. So that's the most important. That's one of the key search ranking factors is relevance, content and keywords and stuff on pages. I think everyone kind of gets that. But there's a second, super important search ranking factor. It's something that Google innovated and is now a really, really important thing across the web and all search.

Links

It's links. Do these pages have links to them? Are they trusted by other websites? Have other websites kind of voted for them based on their content? Have they referred back to it, cited it? Have they linked to these pages and these websites? That is called authority.

So the two main search ranking factors are relevance and authority. Therefore, the two main types of SEO are on-page SEO, creating content, and off-site SEO, PR, link building, and authority. Because links basically are trust. Web page, links to web page, that's kind of like a vote.

That's a vote of confidence. That's saying that this web page is probably credible, probably important. So links are credibility. Good way to think about it. Quantity matters. If a lot of pages link to your page, that adds credibility. That's important that there's a number of sites that link to you.

Link quality

Also important is the quality of those links. Links from sites that they themselves have many links to them are worth much more. So links from authoritative websites are more valuable than just any other link. It's the quantity and the quality of links to your website or links to your page that has a lot to do with whether or not you rank when people search for a related key phrase.

If a page doesn't rank, it's got one of two problems almost always. It's either not a great page on the topic, or it's not a page on a site that is trusted by the search engine because it hasn't built up enough authority from other sites, related sites, media sites, other sites in the industry. The name for this stuff originally in Google was called PageRank.

PageRank

Capital P, capital R, one word, PageRank. Not web page, not search results page, but named after Larry Page, the guy who kind of came up with this, one of the co-founders at Google. PageRank was the number, 1 through 10, that we all used to kind of know. It was visible in this toolbar that we used back in the day.

They stopped reporting on that. They don't update that anymore. We don't really know our PageRank anymore, so you can't really tell. So the way that we now understand whether a page is credible among other websites is by using tools that emulate PageRank by similarly crawling the internet, looking to see who's linking to who and then creating their own metrics, which are basically proxy metrics for PageRank.

Domain Authority

Moz has one. It's called Domain Authority. When spelled with the capital D and captial A, that's the Moz metric. Other search tools, other SEO tools also have their own, such as SEMrush has one called Authority Score. Ahrefs has one called Domain Rating. Alexa, another popular tool, has one called Competitive Power. They're all basically the same thing. They are showing whether or not a site or a page is trusted among other websites because of links to them. 

Now we know for a fact that some links are worth much, much more than others. We can do this by reading Google patents or by experiments or just best practices and expertise and firsthand knowledge that some links are worth much more.

But it's not just that they're worth a little more. Links from sites with lots of authority are worth exponentially more. It's not really a fair fight. Some sites have tons and tons and tons of authority. Most sites have very, very little. So it's on a curve. It's a log scale.

It's on an exponential curve the amount of authority that a site has and its ranking potential. The value of a link from another site to you is on an exponential curve. Links from some sites are worth exponentially more than links from other smaller sites, smaller blogs. These are quantifiable within these tools, tools like Moz, tools that emulate the PageRank metric.

And what they can do is look at all of the pages that rank for a phrase, look at all of the authority of all of those sites and all of those pages, and then average them to show the likely difficulty of ranking for that key phrase. The difficulty would be more or less the average authority of the other pages that rank compared to the authority of your page and then determine whether that's a page that you actually have a chance of ranking for or not.


This could be called something like keyword difficulty. I searched for "baseball coaching" using a tool. I used Moz, and I found that the difficulty for that key phrase was something like 46 out of 100. In other words, your page has to have about that much authority to have a chance of ranking for that phrase. There's a subtle difference between Page Authority and Domain Authority, but we're going to set that aside for now.

"Squash coaching," wow, different sport, less popular sport, less content, less competitive phrases ranking for that key phrase. Wow, "squash coaching" much less competitive. The difficulty for that was only 18. So that helps us understand the level of authority that we would have to have to have a chance of ranking for that key phrase. If we lack sufficient authority, it doesn't matter how awesome our page is, we're not likely to ever rank.



So it's really important to understand one of the things that Domain Authority tells us is our ranking potential. Are we sufficiently trusted to be able to target that key phrase and potentially rank for that? That's the first thing that the Domain Authority defines, measures, shows. The second thing that it shows, which I mentioned a second ago, is the value of a link from another site to us.

So if a super authoritative website links to us, high Domain Authority site, that Domain Authority in that case of that site is showing us the value of that link to us. A link from a site, a brand-new blog, a young site, a smaller brand would have a lower Domain Authority, indicating that that link would have far less value. 

Conclusion

So bottom line, Domain Authority is a proxy for a metric inside Google, which we no longer have access to. It's created by an SEO tool, in this case Moz. When spelled with a capital D, capital A, it's Moz's own metric. It shows us two things. Domain Authority is the ranking potential of pages on that domain. And secondly, Domain Authority measures the value of another site should that site link back to your site. That's it.

Hope this was helpful. Feel free to pass this along to anyone that you're trying to explain this to. Add to it. Let us know in the comments. Hope this was useful, and it was a huge pleasure and honor to be able to make a Whiteboard Friday for Moz. Again, Andy from Orbit Media. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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