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Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Though Google+ has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011–reaching 540 million active users this past October–Facebook remains the world’s largest social network (Google+ is the second). Nonetheless, the relevance of Google+ as an engaging social platform, and its importance to web marketers as a Google-owned property, cannot be debated. Described by Google itself as a “social layer”, the purpose of the tool is to act as an interlay, allowing users to interact socially with google-enhanced websites and services.

One way that Google is doing this is through Google Authorship, which Forbes is calling one of the Top 7 SEO Trends Dominating 2014. Google Authorship is an important factor in the Google algorithm that aims to surface quality content in search rankings based, in part, on who authored it. Content is no longer enough to help a website rank for search terms. Google’s algorithm is continually evolving to highlight websites with content that is authoritative, engaging, diverse, and, just as importantly, written by an expert in the field.

With more and more businesses implementing Google Authorship in their marketing strategy, it is important to know the basics so you can determine if it is relevant to your business. Chances are, it is.

What is Google Authorship?

Google+ and Google Authorship go hand-in-hand. The wide integration of Google+ profiles into Google’s other properties, including its search engine (and, consequently, search results), has essentially humanized, or socialized, the way we search. According to The Huffington Post, Google Authorship was created “with the goal of allowing writers to claim their content, as well as allowing search engine users to find more content written by the same writer.” This allows users to see the face behind the content they’re reading, and adds to the trustworthiness of the website. If a user can see that one person is writing on the same topic across different sites, it establishes that person’s reputation as an expert in the space.

Authorship does not only allow users to find content created by a reputable writer; it also allows Google to do the same. The concept was implemented to reduce spam and improve the quality of content, and, by extension, of search results. As the algorithm evolved to incorporate social media more actively into search results, Google+ became an important tool for sites to improve their rankings. That is exactly how Authorship works: by creating a solid Google+, writers can link their profiles to the content they create, allowing Google, and the user, to infer authority through their social presence.

With Google+ allowing authors to “claim their content”, how do businesses ensure that their content is written by an authority figure? While not every business is in the position to source expensive content externally from prominent figures in their space, Forbes suggests “designating a person within your organization to take ownership of contributing great content to leading online publications…to become your true thought leader.”

What Author Rank Means for Your Page Rank

Google Authorship implies that eventually Author Rank will become as much, if not more, relevant than page rank. As an author’s web presence becomes more prominent through the sheer amount of content they have authored, and the number of sites to which they contribute linked to on their Google+, they become an authority. Ultimately, their rank will factor into search results. It is even speculated that websites that have not implemented Google Authorship will eventually be phased out of search results entirely (though that is just speculation at this point).

An excellent infographic by Internet Marketing Inc. (included below) highlights the importance of Author Rank. Author Rank is directly impacted by the writer’s social activity on Google+ and other social media platforms. The amount of engagement on Google+, including frequency of posts, number of connections, the number of shares and +1’s their posts receive, and comments all factor in. And since Author Rank is tied directly to the writer’s content, not the site on which it is posted, Google’s continued emphasis on Authorship means that the value lies in the writer, not necessarily in the site. Your page rank will always matter, but you will benefit directly from the writer’s Author Rank.

Because the content matters as much as the page on which it is hosted, Internet Marketing Inc. recommends guest posting as a way to improve Author Rank, in addition to active social engagement. Linking a writer’s Google+ to their content means that a snippet of their profile, including their picture, is included in search results. It has been proven that Authorship can increase click-through rates by 30% to 150%, all by humanizing your content. A friendly face can do wonders for the trustworthiness of your site, and the frequency of clicks.

Check out The Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Google Authorship for a thorough breakdown of how to effectively set up a Google+ profile, and scroll down for the full infographic from Internet Marketing Inc.

Facts Behind Google Author Rank & Authorship [Infographic]

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How Hummingbird Should and Shouldn’t Influence SEO

How Hummingbird Should and Shouldn’t Influence SEO

As Google recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, the world-famous company also implemented a new change to its search engine algorithm. Called Hummingbird, the search engine update was not widely publicized by Google, but it certainly has wide-reaching effects on how people receive information and how marketing companies need to present their content. Anyone involved in the world of SEO, Internet marketing or website management should fully understand Hummingbird, how it will change the Google search function, and what should and shouldn’t change when it comes to content.

How Will Hummingbird Affect SEO?

There are several major ways that the Hummingbird algorithm update from Google will affect how the world’s most popular search engine is used. First, the search engine is now poised to respond to full sentences rather than keyword fragments. In addition, it skips over or negatively penalizes content full of unnecessary and duplicate backlinks. The search engine is also taking into account bounce rates, which refers to the length of time that users spend on a certain page before closing it or moving on. Pages that keep users for longer periods of time are deemed to be more useful and are thus moved to the top of the rankings for related search terms.

What SHOULD Internet Marketers Change?

There are some individuals who believe that quality content is quality content no matter the algorithm, but the reality is that this update will affect how often users find particular pages. In order to be readily accessible to people searching for information in your field, you need to be aware of the changes in major search engines. Here are some of the key things that every Internet marketer should be doing as a result of September’s Hummingbird update:

Remove Unnecessary or Duplicate Backlinks

Up until quite recently, one of the ways that Internet marketers and website managers would drive traffic around their website was to include multiple backlinks on every page. While some internal links can be very helpful, especially if they are referring users to a specific and related piece of information, they are often just going in circles and trying to keep users on the site for as long as possible. Hummingbird is now aware of unnecessary backlinks, and webpages may be penalized in rankings due to having duplicates of the same link when not required. As a marketer, learn to be careful about how many links you use. Links are important, but the same link should rarely, if at all, be used twice on a single page.

Add in Hashtags Where Relevant

Hashtags may have originated as a minor function on Twitter, but they are now commonly used in almost every form of social media. You can search via hashtag on Google+, Twitter and Facebook, and now the search engine itself is recognizing these hashtags as separate search terms altogether. Many Internet marketing companies have been wary of including hashtags in actual content, but there is reason to believe that this could be beneficial. When people search specifically for hashtag phrases, such as #NYpizza rather than simply “NY pizza,” it is the results that include hashtags that will come up first thanks to Hummingbird. While this is not something you want to overdo, adding hashtags in when appropriate, especially in content geared towards younger audiences, is a smart move.

Include Infographics or Related Pictures

good-infographicOne of the ways that Hummingbird rates and ranks pages is by seeing how long users stay on a particular webpage before leaving. Therefore, one of the best ways to enjoy better rankings on Google search is to create content that keeps people interested for longer. While interesting written content is certainly key, there is no question that pictures, videos and infographics are also helpful. Infographics, in particular, work well because they require the user to slowly read the information as well as mentally process the visual image. This provides the user with interesting content, and it keeps them on your page for longer than text would alone.

Encourage Organic Referrals

Another key factor that Hummingbird acknowledges when presenting search engine results to users is the number of referrals for a particular page on the Internet as a whole. However, the links have to be organic. Simply leaving a link to a website on a popular forum or pasting it into the comments section of a larger blog will not help with that page’s rankings, and it could actually count against the page over time. Organic links will improve your ranking in Google’s search engine, however. These are links that are on related pages and are deemed to be natural ways of sharing information with people who might benefit from it.

Focus on Answering Common Questions

Perhaps the most talked-about change to Google search, thanks to the algorithm update of Hummingbird, is how longer-tail keywords are poised to surpass shorter phrases. Thanks in large part to the popularity of voice searches on smartphones, people are searching for entire sentences or even full questions more than ever before. Internet marketers and SEO specialists can capitalize on this by including question and answer type posts on their pages. It is certain that you can expect to see more query-based content online in the near future as well as longer keywords that are more specific than ever before.

Regularly Add Interesting Content

Hummingbird will also take into consideration how often websites add new content and grow in size. While some websites have been able to enjoy success without adding new pages or changing their content for months or even years at a time, that is not the case today. In order to maintain or improve your current ranking on Google search, you should aim to add content on a regular basis. While you don’t need to necessarily churn out content at a rapid pace, making a goal of weekly additions is reasonable for even small businesses or pages with a niche market.

Stop Keyword Stuffing

Keyword-stuffingSuccessful Internet marketers have been against keyword stuffing for years, but the practice remains popular among many websites. By seeing which keywords attract customers to a certain page, website developers and content creators sometimes focus exclusively on adding these words to their content. Unfortunately, sometimes the abundance of keywords can actually distract from the meaning or relevance of the text. Hummingbird recognizes this fact, and the newest algorithm will penalize those pages that have keywords stuffed into content unnecessarily.

It may be clear to you that Hummingbird, the newest algorithm update from Google search, will affect SEO in some major ways. While Internet marketers should continue to focus on relevant, interesting content that can be shared through social media, there are some additional ways to help improve the rank of particular pages. Key ways include no longer stuffing keywords into content, continually adding to your website, creating query-based content, encouraging organic referrals, getting rid of duplicate backlinks, and including relevant hashtags and infographics.

What Google’s 3 Big Changes Mean for the Future of SEO – And How to Adjust Your Internet Marketing Strategy

Google is no stranger to algorithm tweaks and Adwords changes, but the recent Hummingbird update and full-on move towards semantic search represent the company’s biggest search shifts since the early 2000s. Even much-feared updates like Panda and Penguin pale in comparison to these changes. In this post, we’ll talk about three recent Google changes and touch on what they mean for your Internet marketing efforts. Don’t worry: As always, we’ll leave you with some useful takeaways to help you position your business for an uncertain but exciting future.

Hummingbird: Googling the Future

google-hummingbirdHummingbird has gotten the lion’s share of the public’s attention, so we’ll start here. Previous updates like Penguin and Panda had certainly made substantive changes to the ways in which Google’s search engine indexed and ranked sites. For instance, Penguin identified new black-hat techniques and increased the “penalties” for such tactics. By contrast, Hummingbird uses an entirely new algorithm to translate search queries into relevant results. If Penguin and Panda were the virtual equivalent of oil changes, Hummingbird is analogous to a wholesale engine rebuild.

In a nutshell, Hummingbird represents the most advanced iteration of an evolving system known as “semantic search.” Unlike the keyword-driven algorithms that Google once used – and that search engines like Bing and Yahoo will continue to use until they release Hummingbird-like updates of their own – semantic search aims to uncover the actual intent or meaning behind everyday search queries. In some circles, this is known as “natural language search.”

Just What Is Semantic Search, Anyway?

Techopedia offers a concise definition of semantic search, describing it as a “data searching technique in a which a search query aims to not only find keywords but to determine the intent and contextual meaning of the words a person is using for search.”

Rather than returning a static slate of results for general keywords like “muffler,” semantic search looks at the context of each individual search for “muffler.” Factors that might influence the results of a post-Hummingbird search include the searcher’s location, current news, or product-development trends and keyword synonyms.

This has important implications for local businesses that aim to improve their local inbound marketing efforts. Since Google now uses searchers’ locations to return relevant results for local products and services, a San Jose-based user’s search for “Where can I get a new muffler?” will return very different results than a New York-based user’s search for the same tail.

Semantic search is also better at interpreting long-tail searches that ask specific contextual questions. Pre-Hummingbird, “Where can I get a new muffler for my Honda?” might have returned results that contained the words “get,” “muffler” and “Honda” in the meta tag. Unfortunately, meta tag keywords don’t always guarantee relevance. Post-Hummingbird, the same query is apt to point users to local muffler repair shops or car dealerships that work with Honda owners.

If you own a business that serves a local client base, make sure that your website clearly defines your trade area and markets to folks who live within it. Also, don’t be afraid to update the content on your site to include fewer awkwardly phrased keywords. As you’ll see, it’s far more important to write relevant, engaging content about what your business does than attempt to game search engines into indexing your site based on keyword density. In fact, Hummingbird preserves and strengthens Google’s notorious distaste for keyword-stuffed content.

(Not Provided): Has Encrypted Search Killed the Keyword?

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The growing focus on semantic search highlights another important trend that has major ramifications for your Internet marketing operation: the gradual shift to fully encrypted search. In September of 2013, Google indicated that all organic, non-AdWords searches on its platform would be encrypted within a matter of months.

“What is encrypted search,” you ask?

Simply put, encrypted search hides the source of keyword queries. For years, webmasters could look at their Google referrals and see the exact keywords that brought users to their sites. Following the above example, an auto-repair shop owner could easily evaluate the relative efficiency of search terms like “mufflers” or “brake pads.” This is no longer the case. Today, the majority of Google referrals contain a cryptic “(not provided)” message. While this is partially due to the company’s legitimate concerns about user privacy, it’s also an indication that Google intends to reduce its long-held focus on keyword-based searches and improve its semantic search capabilities.

This is the natural endgame of the move towards quality content that began with 2011′s Panda update. If Hummingbird represents the first major move towards semantic or “natural language” search, the demise of organic keyword referrals represents the final nail in the coffin of the pre-Panda era.

This doesn’t mean that keywords are completely dead. For the foreseeable future, it will remain possible to track keyword searches that lead users to your site.

Analytics and Technical SEO: Still Plugging Away

google-adwords-100-credit

There are a few different ways of doing this. First, Google has shrewdly – some might say “cynically” – moved all direct keyword reporting to its AdWords platform. While you’ll no longer be able to see organic search results for free, you’ll have no trouble obtaining and analyzing keyword data through AdWords’s paid search feature. Incidentally, this gives Google yet another way to make money off of your Web traffic. If you’re like many business owners and webmasters, you’ve probably received an official snail mail letter from Mountain View that advertises a substantial AdWords credit. This is no accident: The company aims to monetize this recent shift before the end of the fiscal year.

If you’re a bit cheaper, you can still use free tools like Google’s Trends and Keyword Planner tools. Trends dovetails with Google’s Knowledge Graph to analyze and quantify the online penetration of brand-specific terms. Think of it as a “heat meter” for your company’s products and services. Keyword Planner is even more straightforward: It offers information about the cost-effectiveness of common paid search keywords and suggests synonyms or alternatives that may cost less than others. Of course, you’ll need to spring for paid search tools like AdWords to leverage its findings.

If they’re used properly, these tools can wean you from your dependence on old-fashioned organic keyword searches. It’s even more important, however, to focus on maintaining and improving the fundamental quality of your website’s content. It’s all about building authority: No matter what your company does, focus on convincing prospects that it’s the best in the business. Worry less about working relevant keywords into your website’s written content and more about uploading engaging posts, videos, pictures and other media on a regular basis. If your website is the go-to resource for queries about the complex problems that your business exists to solve, new leads and customers will follow.

Hashtags and Social Media

Google+-hashtagThere’s a third major change that has largely been lost in the hullabaloo about Hummingbird and encrypted search: Google’s hashtag search feature and the rise of “Social Media 2.0.” As recent IPOs from Facebook and LinkedIn indicate, social media platforms are finally learning how to monetize their services. For Internet marketers, this opens up a whole new box of exciting possibilities.

Let’s be clear about Google’s hashtag search feature. It remains in its infancy, and the verdict is still out on its effectiveness. However, this is beside the point: In this specific corner of the inbound marketing world, Google is stuck playing catch-up. These days, search engines aren’t the only platforms that can drive streams of traffic to your site.

Moving Beyond the Search Box

According to a recent Ad Age survey, nearly 60 percent of CMOs plan to increase their digital media advertising budgets over the coming 12 months. By contrast, just 30 percent plan to boost spending on cable television. While AdWords outlays do account for a substantial chunk of digital media budgets, Facebook ads, promoted tweets and sponsored content are growing at a rapid pace. Even once-staid LinkedIn is getting in on the action: The business-oriented social media platform just poached a noted Google executive in preparation for a major push into paid advertising.

If you run a consumer-facing business, many of your prospects spend their free time on Facebook. Take advantage of the platform’s intuitive ad-bidding service to work your way into their feeds and sidebars. With powerful algorithms that cater ads to highly specific user demographics, Facebook advertising is arguably more cost-effective than AdWords spending. Meanwhile, B2B marketers can look forward to LinkedIn’s increasingly sophisticated marketing options.

Making Lemonade: Why It’s a Great Time to Be an Internet Marketer

What can we learn from Google’s three big changes? First, we can learn not to overreact to sudden, unexpected changes that could affect our business plans. Microsoft’s increasingly popular Bing marches to the tune of its own drummer, and many SEO strategies that no longer work for Google continue to find a receptive audience there. By and large, the inbound marketing strategies that work for one search engine work for all of them.

More broadly, each passing month brings new online marketing options that savvy business owners can leverage to their benefit. Whether you’re focusing on improving your content marketing operation with authority-building blog posts or trying out powerful new social media tools, a post-Hummingbird world holds tremendous promise for your business.

Google Secure Search POV – Impact on SSL Searching

On Sept, 23rd Google announced an update that impacts visibility to keywords used by a visitor coming to your website via an organic search on Google.com. This is an expansion of a previous Google update which was first announced in October of 2011 known as Google Secure Search.

not provided

Google Secure Search Updates

With Google Secure Search (HTTPs) Google does not pass the organic keywords that referred traffic to websites through the URL via Google.com searches. In the case of secure search the keyword parameter is recorded as “not provided.” When this news was first announced this was limited to signed-in Google users ( Gmail, YouTube, etc) on Google.com netting out to impact ~12% of the organic referrals originating from Google.com. Over the past two years, (not provided) data has grown significantly ( 60-70% in the month of September). It is important to note that Paid Search is not impacted by this change.

Google Analytics Not Provided Keyword Data

Overview:

Google will no longer provide organic keyword referral data due to Secure Search expanding to the entirety of their searches.

Impact:

In the near future when this fully rolls out, (not provided) will continue to increase and eventually all organic traffic from Google.com will no longer be mapped to a specific search query. This will affect the way marketers and webmasters look at organic data and measure the impact of optimization efforts.

Solution and Implications:

At a high level, keyword level metrics must now shift to a page-level focus. While the specific options available and tactics with which to measure are certainly in their infancy, there are a number of tools at our disposal that, when measured independtly don’t paint a comprehensive picture but when marreid together can help close the gap and build out the story of keyword performance:

  • keyword rankings
  • page-level data
  • paid search data
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Google AdWords
  • other search engine keyword data (which is not blocked)

Reliance on keyword planning tools and paid search data is increasingly important to gain insight to holistic site traffic and ROI trends. Paid Search will also play a larger role in content gap analysis and discovery through query reporting insights.

Conclusion:

At this stage, I don’t think there is a solid answer that fits all applications. This will certainly be a topic of high interest moving forward and Fuze will continue to share insights around this shift as they become available within our Search practice.

What are your thoughts or questions on this update? Leave them in the comments!