Six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right in 2019

Here’s a bold statement: “SEO in the travel industry is immensely challenging.”

The sheer number of pages to manage, complexities of properties, flights, accommodation, availability, occupancy, destinations, not to mention the crazy amount of APIs and databases to make a travel site function, can all make life tricky for an SEO, particularly when it comes to the development queue…

tough development queue

Having said that, there are still common mistakes and missed opportunities out there that have the potential to be really impactful and believe it or not, they don’t actually require a huge amount of resource to put right.

So, here’s a list of the six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right for 2019:

  1. Forgetting about index bloat

There are a LOT of facets and filters when it comes to commercial travel category pages, arguably the most of any industry.

Typically with every facet or filter, be it; availability, location, facilities, amenities nearby, occupancy etc. A URL is created with the associated parameters selected by the user.

If not handled correctly, this can produce thousands of indexable pages that have no unique organic value to users.

This is a problem for a number of reasons:

  • It can be confusing for search engines because they can find it tricky to identify the best and most relevant URL to rank and show users depending on their query
  • It can dilute domain level ranking signals drastically
  • It can cause a huge amount of duplicate content issues
  • It can waste crawl budget which for big travel sites is super important

Combined, this can cause big losses in rankings, traffic and subsequently conversion!

How to identify index bloat

Go to Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and check your ‘Index Coverage’ report or, in the old version, check ‘Index Status’ to see if you can see any spikes or growth in ‘Total Indexed’ pages. If you notice something like the graph below and it’s not expected, then there may be a problem:

index bloat graph

If you find there is a big increase and you can’t explain why, conduct some ‘Site:’ operator searches and spot check areas of your site where this may be commonplace to see what you can find.

Here’s an example of index bloat from the page speed tool ‘Pingdom’. It seems as though every input a user executes produces an indexable URL:

index bloat example

Once you’ve found a problem like this, review the extent of it with a Screaming Frog crawl. This way you can see how many URLs are affected and distinguish between whether they are actually indexable or not.

For example, there may be a few hundred pages that are indexable but have not yet been found and indexed by Google.

How to fix index bloat:

  • Noindex – Use a page level meta ‘noindex’ directive on the culprit pages
  • Where possible redirect – index bloat can happen as a result of mountains of historical 404 pages too, 301 redirect them into the most appropriate page to consolidate
  • Canonicalisation – apply an absolute canonical tag to the culprit pages to indicate that they are duplicate
  • Pagination – where possible use rel=”next” & rel=”prev” markup to show that pages are part of a series
  • URL parameter tool – By far the easiest but arguably the most risky method is using Google’s parameter handling tool to indicate the purpose of the culprit pages, be careful though, this can cause bigger problems if implemented incorrectly

Expert tip

If any of the above are difficult to get implemented in your dev queue and you don’t trust yourself using the parameter handling tool, you can actually noindex web pages & directories in your robots.txt file. You can actually add lines reading:

Noindex: /directory/

Noindex: /page/

This could save you a lot of time and is fully reversible, so less risky if you have control over your robots file. If you’ve never heard of this, don’t worry it is supported and it does work!

  1. Unemotive meta titles

It’s pretty staggering but in the UK, there’s a lot going on in January for travel — it is certainly the biggest spike in the year for many brands, followed by ‘holiday blues’ peaks after summer.

Here’s the trend of interest over time for the query ‘tenerife holidays’ (a destination famed for its good weather all year round) to show you what I mean:

search trend over time of "tenerife holidays"

January might be a bad time to experiment because of the higher interest but, the rest of the year presents a great opportunity to get creative with your titles.

Why would you?

Simply, keyword heavy titles don’t inspire high click-through rates.

Creative titles entice users into your landing pages, give your brand a personality and increase your click-through rate. This sends strong positive relevancy signals to Google which helps towards highlighting that your website is the best for the initial user query.

Here are a few things you can try with supportive content and commercial landers:

  • Get emotional, people buy holidays on the experiences they anticipate having. Play on that with your titles – how will products/content from this page make the user feel?
  • Where possible use a numbered list to be as descriptive as possible
  • Use strengthening words such as premium, secret, amazing, proven, guaranteed
  • Tie in emotional hooks using words like; fun, adventure, seamless, safe, welcoming, luxury, relaxing
  • Experiment with ‘price from’ and actually quote pricing in the title
  • Switch up your ‘PHP’ generated title tags for property pages and experiment with more descriptive wording and not just PROPERTY NAME | LOCATION | BRAND – but don’t remove any keyword targeting, just improve those titles.

Expert Tip

Write five completely unique title tags for the same page and test each one with a Facebook or PPC ad to see whether they outperform your current iteration in terms of engagement.

  1. Poor merchandising

As previously mentioned, the travel industry experiences peaks and troughs of consumer behavior trend throughout the year which causes the majority intent to switch dramatically across different months in the year.

So, having a deep understanding of what users are actually looking for is really important when merchandising high traffic pages to get the best conversion out of your audience.

In short, gaining an understanding of what works when, is huge.

Here’s some tips to help you make better merchandising decisions:

  • Use last year’s email open rate data – what type of content/product worked?
  • Use Google Search Console to find pages that peaked in organic traffic at different times
  • Involve the social media team to get a better understanding of what your audience is engaging with and why
  • Use Google Trend data to verify your hunches and find clearer answers
  • Use UGC sites such as Quora to find questions users are asking during different months of the year. Use the following site operator and swap out ‘holiday’ for your topic: ‘site:quora.com inurl:holiday’ and then filter by custom date range on your search

Often consumers are exposed to the same offers, destinations and visuals on key landing pages all year round which is such a missed opportunity.

We now live in a world of immediacy and those in the industry know the challenges of users cross-shopping between brands, even those who are brand loyal. This often means that if users can’t find what they are looking for quickly, they will bounce and find a site that serves them the content they are looking for.

For example, there’s an argument for promoting and focusing on media-based content, more so than product, later in the year, to cater to users that are in the ‘consideration’ part of the purchasing funnel.

Expert tip

Use number five in this list to pull even more clues to help inform merchandising

  1. Holding back on the informational market share

I grant you, this is a tall order, travel advice, blogs and guides are a standalone business but, the opportunity for commercial travel sites to compete with the likes of TripAdvisor is massive.

An opportunity estimated from our recent Travel Sector Report at 232,057 monthly clicks from 22,040 keywords and only Thomas Cook is pushing into the top 10.

travel sector graph of number of keywords ranking

Commercial sites that don’t have a huge amount of authority might struggle to rank for informational queries because dedicated travel sites that aren’t directly commercial are usually deemed to provide better/unbiased content for users.

Having said that, you can see clearly from above that it IS possible!

So, here’s what you should do…

…focus on one thing and do it better than anyone else

Sounds pretty straightforward and you’re probably thinking ‘I’ve heard this before’ but, only a handful in the travel industry are actually doing this well.

Often you see the same information from one travel site to the next, average weather, flight times, the location of the country on a map, a little bit of fluff about the history of the destination and then straight into accommodation.

This is fine, it’s useful, but it’s not outstanding.

Let’s take Thomas Cook as an example.

Thomas Cook has built a network of weather pages that provide live forecasts, annual overviews as well as unique insights into when is best to go to different destinations. It even has a tool to shop for holidays by the weather (something very important to Brits) called ‘Where’s Hot When?’

Thomas Cook where's hot when?

The content is relevant, useful, concise, complete, easy to use, contemporary in design and, most importantly, better than anyone else’s.

In short, Thomas Cook is nailing it.

They have focused on weather and haven’t stopped until it’s as best as it can be.

Why did they bother with weather? Well it’s approximately a third of all travel-related informational searches that we found in our keyword set from the Travel Sector Report:

travel sector graph number of searches and ranking

Apply Thomas Cook’s methodology to something that is relevant to your audience, it could be; family attractions, adult only tour guides, Michelin star eateries, international laws families should be concerned about, the list is plentiful!

Find something, nail it.

  1. Ignoring the gold in on-site search

There are some big travel sites out there that don’t have an on-site search function which is a huge missed opportunity. Travel sites are inherently difficult to navigate with such a volume of pages, site search is quite often a great solution for users.

As well as this, it can give marketers some amazing insight into what users are looking for, not just generally in terms of the keywords users might be using but also the queries users are searching on a page by page level.

For example, you could drill down into the differences between queries searched on your homepage vs queries searched on specific landing pages to spot trends in behavior and fix the content gaps from these areas of the site.

You could also use the data to inform merchandising decisions to address number three on this list.

In doing this, users are actually telling you exactly what they are looking for, at what time, whether they are a repeat visitor or a new one and where they’ve come from to visit your site.

If you spend the time, this data is gold!

If you can’t get buy in for this, test the theory with an out of the box search function that plugs straight into your site like searchnode. Try it for six months, you might be surprised at how many users turn to it and you will get some really actionable data out of it.

It’s also super easy to track in Google Analytics and the reports are really straightforward:

1. Go to Admin

google analytics add searchnode search box to your site

2. Click ‘View Settings’

google analytics view settings

3. Switch ‘Site search Tracking’ on

google analytics site search tracking on

4. Strip the letter that appears in your site’s search URL before the search terms e.g. for wordpress this is usually the letter “s”: www.travelsite.co.uk/?s=search-term

5. Click ‘save’, boom you’re done.

Let Google collect data, extract it monthly and dig, dig furiously!

  1. Ignoring custom 404 errors pages

Who doesn’t love a witty 404 page. More and more often you’ll find that when webmasters optimize a 404 error page they make them lighthearted. Here’s a great example from Broadway Travel:

broadway travel 404 error page

There is a reason why webmasters aim for a giggle.

Think about it… when users hit a 404 error page, 100% of the time there’s a problem, which is a big inconvenience when you’re minding your own business and having a browse, so, something to make you laugh goes a long way at keeping you unfrustrated.

Time to name names, and show you some 404 error pages that need some work…

British Airways

british airways 404 page not found

TUI & Firstchoice

TUI and Firstchoice 404 page not found

Expedia

expedia 404 page not found

Momondo

momondo 404 page not found

404 error pages happen over time, it’s totally normal.

It’s also normal to get traffic to your 404 error page. But it’s not just any old traffic, it’s traffic that you’ve worked hard to get hold of.

If, at this point, you’re thinking, ‘my site has recently been audited and internal links to 404 pages have been cleared up’.

Think again!

Users can misspell URLs, ancient external links can point to old pages, the product team can make mistakes, as meticulous as you may be, please don’t discount this one.

Losing quality users because of a bad 404 experience is an SEO’s idea of nails down a chalkboard.

Here are some tips to optimize your 404 pages:

  • Hit them with something witty but don’t be controversial
  • Feature the main site query forms prominently so users can conduct another ‘base’ search
  • Feature a site search option as well – an error page is a perfect opportunity to get users to conduct a site search to give you some insight into what they are looking for (number five on this list)
  • Include curated links to most popular top level pages such as destinations, guides, hotels, deals etc. This will allow users to start from at the top of each section and it will also allow search engines to continue crawling if they hit a 404 page
  • Re-emphasize branding, USPs, value proposition and trust signals to subconsciously remind users of why they’re on your site in the first place

Even if you think your 404 is awesome don’t neglect them when they pop up:

  • Review the 404 page data in Google Analytics behavior flow to find broken links you may not have known about and fix them
  • Keep on top of your 404 pages in Google Search Console and redirect to appropriate pages where necessary

404’s are often the bane of an SEO’s life and you might think about ways to get out of keeping on top of them.

Sadly there aren’t any short cuts….

…Bonus SEO mistake

Creating a global 301 redirect rule for every 404 page and direct them to your homepage.

This is surprisingly common but is poor SEO practice for a number of reasons, firstly you won’t be able to identify where users are having issues on your site when 404 pages pop up.

You may also be redirecting a page that could have originally had content on it that was totally irrelevant to your homepage. It’s likely in this situation that Google will actually override your redirect and classify it as a soft 404, not to mention the links that may have originally pointed to your 404’s.

Save your users, build a 404 page!

Final thoughts

No site is perfect, and although it might appear as though we’re pointing fingers, we want you to be able to overcome any challenges that come with SEO implementation — there’s always a bigger priority but keep your mind open and don’t neglect the small stuff to stay ahead of the game.

The post Six most common travel SEO mistakes to get right in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/14/travel-seo-guide/116343/

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Google’s Pichai answers to Congress: The good, the bad and the frustrating

The appearance of Google CEO Sundar Pichai in front of Congress yesterday has been eagerly anticipated by those of us following the company’s tumultuous year in the face of criticism from international press, human rights organizations, and its own staff.

The hearing – lasting more than three hours – was titled Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices and promised to give Pichai an opportunity to publicly clarify the search giant’s position on consumer rights in regards to privacy in an increasingly data-dependent world – as well as reflecting on its openness as a business in the political context at home and abroad.

Overall, the hearing was a bit of a mixed bag. This was less to do with the substance of Pichai’s answers and more to do with the flawed questioning from the assembled. Here are what I took away as good and bad responses from the Google chief, as well as a few of my frustrations.

The good

Some of Pichai’s most substantial answers came when asked about issues of diversity, the wellbeing of ethnic minorities, and the rights of women.

He reiterated Google’s commitment to diversity and made reference to the fact that the business were the first to publish a transparency report on their diversity. He also pointed to combating the spread of white supremacy content on YouTube and made clear his and the company’s zero-tolerance attitude on hate speech.

This was obviously comforting to the assembled congress men and women – particularly as the US has seen hate crimes rise by 17% last year, and online media is argued to be adding to the normalization of hate speech in the mainstream.

Pichai was also asked about forced arbitration within the business – a subject that came to the fore last month as staff in Google offices around the world staged a mass walkout ‘to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone.’

His response was that the company have already enacted changes where forced arbitration for sexual harassment is concerned. This means that if employees want to bring sexual harassment charges against someone they now have the right to do so outside of the internal arbitration structure of the business (via a class action lawsuit, for instance). Pichai also expressed commitment to make changes (ultimately removing forced arbitration, I assume) outside of the realm of sexual harassment – giving more options and rights back to the employees.

The bad

As we expected, a number of questions during the hearing were focused on the rumored development of a new search product for the Chinese market.

Pichai was initially quite firm that Google had no plans to launch a search product (currently referred to as Dragonfly) in China, but the more he was pressed on the subject, the more woolly that stance became. ‘We have undertaken internal effort,’ he said, adding later: ‘It’s our duty to explore possibilities to give users access to information.’

Answers here were less substantial than those given in a recent Q&A with Pichai at the Wired 25 Summit in October. But we can see that internal development on a tool for the Chinese market is ongoing – even in the face of calls from staff to shut it down. Pichai’s stance is that pursuing work to give access to information for consumers everywhere (including China) is the human right he, and Google, is focused on. He did commit to being transparent as this work continues, but I have my doubts.

Some of the other more difficult questions for Pichai concerned internal messages and discussions from Google staff regarding domestic politics.

He was pressed on potential bias when a staff member admitted in an email to the company helping to get the Latino vote out in key states and not others during the 2016 election. Pichai denied such activities happened – at least in terms of Google itself working to do this. Another congressman questioned whether it was right that there should be a forum for the Resist (anti Donald Trump) group on Google’s staff network. Pichai said he was not aware of the group.

The frustrating

As we’ve seen, some of the questions on bias at Google are justified – although they frequently simmer down to semantics of the language used by staff when discussing politics on company time and in staff forums. Who is ‘we’ in the case of getting the Latino vote out in key states? Is the content discussed in the Resist group too political?

There were also plenty of frustrating moments where the capacity of congress members to understand how an algorithm which takes into account a vast number of metrics (including freshness, how linked-to the content is, and previous individual search history) can sometimes deliver results that appear more or less conservative or liberal.

I felt sorry for Pichai as he spent several minutes assuring one congressman that while his search for Donald Trump gave mostly negative results, the algorithm itself is neutral and the best content for the search query (in terms of quality and relevance) just so happens to not present Trump in a positive light. A few moments later, a congressman (presumably on the other side of the fence) expressed his disgruntlement after a recent vanity search to find most top ranking sites running stories about him were from the right wing news press.

All too often congressmen were seen to bark at Pichai, “it’s a yes or no answer,” when it could never be. Some held their iPhones (not Android devices) aloft and expected Pichai to know whether any Google apps on it were saving location data. These instances managed to be both depressing and humorous, but they highlighted a number of dualities Google must contend with as it moves into 2019. As a business, it has to be at the forefront of technology dealing with the complex issue of the world’s information and data, while still making sure every day consumers can use it safely and successfully.

At the same time, Google must be neutral in what it delivers to consumers – while having a staff that is always likely to lean one way politically more than the other, and also striving to be progressive in how it operates.

And ultimately, it still has a mission to provide users – wherever they are – with the best search information. It is clear that in the case of China, some negotiation with a government known to operate surveillance has to happen. In the case of the US, the company has to answer to a political class that is so binary that it, by comparison, can seem very outdated.

The post Google’s Pichai answers to Congress: The good, the bad and the frustrating appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/13/google-pichai-congress-overview/

Content marketing for Google SERPs in 2019

Adhering to the whims and fancies of Google’s unpredictable nature can be a tasking ordeal for content creators around the world.

What once seemed like a harmonious relationship, the bond between consumers and producers of content has become somewhat volatile, asking marketeers to be agile in their approach to content. As click-through rates and organic opportunity steadily drops, what are we required to do with our content to compete in the SERPs?

In this post, we’ll reflect on the recent ‘zero results’ update, mobile web, featured snippets and Google’s ‘biases’ can inform the next steps for 2019, ensuring a bright content-filled future for all.

Staying mobile?

Mobile web has been subject to immense change in recent times, and while the stats may prove daunting, the stakes have never been higher for producing valuable content on the platform.

In years gone by, Google has appeared to be giving preferential treatment to mobile over desktop. In 2015, the mobile-friendly update or ‘Mobilegeddon’ as it became informally known, paved the way for mobile-friendly content creators to rank higher. Since then, we’ve also seen the Mobile-first Index and a number of other activities aimed at bettering the consumer experience on mobile.

However, while experience and usability becomes prioritized, this has had to come at someone’s expense. In his BrightonSEO talk this year, Rand Fishkin was quick to highlight that:

“Google used to have two types of users – content creators and searchers, now they only have one…searchers”

Fishkin does not make this statement in an attempt to expose some form of conspiracy, but merely to draw attention to how the SERPs are changing and those who produce content must do more to compete for clicks. In early 2016, almost 60% of searches produced clicks to an organic result on mobile, with an even higher percentage for desktop (65.56%). Since then, while desktop web remains the same, the statistics for mobile give a very different picture, with organic clicks dropping just under 20%, and no-click searches now in the majority.

This rise suggests that users are getting all they need from Google without having to leave the page they’re on. The response, however, should not be to disregard mobile web, but to prioritize it and find ways to optimize your work in a way that adheres to the biases Google shows towards certain things. This is less about seeing SEO as one big game but creating content for a certain type of searcher and making the most of the space available.

 mobile clicks from Feb 2016 to Feb 208

 

Snippet in the bud

Making data instantly accessible for users is part and parcel of Google’s service with regard to SERPs. Google’s remarkable comprehension of what its users want is symbolized by additional features such as the featured snippet that sits in ‘page rank zero’. Results from queries such as ‘Ryan Gosling height in feet’ give us little reason to leave page one on Google or even scroll down the page, as we can instantly find what we’re looking for.

featured snippet ryan gosling height

Incredibly, Google extends this service beyond the height of random celebrities, giving immediate responses to searches about news, facts and even recipes. Optimizing for featured snippets allows your content to be scraped by Google and repurposed for the user, whether it’s a paragraph, list or table. Its presence in the SERPs appears to be more relevant than ever, with featured snippets and related questions appearing in 40% of queries according to HubSpot.

Producing content with this feature in mind must force you to treat Google as your customer, giving them what they want to then pass on to their customers through their own services. This strange cycle of events to achieving an appearance in the featured snippets becomes even more convoluted in the realm of link building, however. Content marketers such as us at Kaizen face the constant battle of relying on other sites to link to our content in a way that can be optimized by Google.

Fortunately, a critical feature of virtually all the content we produce, is to integrate data into the work. Content that answers existing questions that people are likely to ask is one of the few ways to find yourselves ranking in the featured snippets.

Two example campaigns for featured snippets

Below are two campaigns we launched last year which still currently appear in the featured snippets.

The first was a data study of seaside ‘Staycation’ towns in the UK for Credit Card checking service Marbles, whose coverage on House Beautiful appears in page rank zero.

staycations ranking

Secondly, was a study we carried out on the world’s most and least reliable airlines for medical travel insurance provider Get Going. In addition to being covered in the likes of Yahoo and the Independent, it was the link on the Reader’s Digest site that appeared in the featured snippets for the query of ‘most reliable airlines’.

featured snippet most reliable airlines

Achieving visibility in the featured snippets through our content’s coverage is a handy by-product of content marketing, but serves to show the occupiable spaces in the SERPs for your brand or client, bolstering the credibility of their content through data.

In an AHRefs study of the most frequently used terms in featured snippet queries, ‘Best’ and ‘Vs’ ranked 2nd and 3rd. While there may never be a set formula for appearing in the featured snippets, these findings imply Google’s leaning towards data, or simply the content that a searcher is looking for.

Answer the question

To conclude, the production of visual content that appeals to the nuances of Google’s scraping is not going to be possible for everyone given the varying nature of content, but it’s important to recognize where it’s possible.

Ultimately, your content needs to answer a question people are asking. What seems like such a rudimentary action for any marketeer is often lost in the wave of what seems like a ‘good idea’ at the time.

Content is made for many different reasons and for many different audiences, but Google’s growing dominance demands that we consider them at all stages of production. Google will always endeavor to embody the user in all that they do, meaning that it is our job to treat them as one. Then we’ll all live happily ever after.

Nathan Abbott is Content Manager at Kaizen.

The post Content marketing for Google SERPs in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/07/content-marketing-google-serps-2019/116314/

Four tools to discover and optimize for related keywords

SEO moved beyond exact keyword matching long ago. These days, in order to rank, we need to create content that includes related concepts, satisfies intent and provides value.

With such an important and complicated task in front of us, there’s never such a thing as too many tools.

Every keyword tool below has something new to bring to the table when it comes to helping you understand the topic better, expand your keyword list and diversify your organic rankings:

1. TextOptimizer

TextOptimizer is probably the most interesting tool on the list. For any term you put it, it will look at Google search result page, extract search snippets and apply semantic analysis to generate the list of all related topics, terms and concepts that form your topic cluster.

For example, for [grow tomatoes] it will generate the list of the following terms:

Text Optimizer

If you already have a page that you want to rank for that query, the tool will compare your existing text to the snippets Google returns for that query. It will then score your text and recommend expanding your content to include some of those suggested terms:

Text Optimizer score

The thing is, Google generates its search snippets based on which sentences from the ranked pages do the best job satisfying the query. This means that Google search snippets represent the best (in Google’s opinion) summary of the query topic.

By semantically analyzing those snippets and extracting related terms and topics from them, you will get a better understanding of what you need to include in your content.

Text Optimizer topics

It also shows subtopics and related questions (i.e. niche questions for each query you run) which helps you structure and format your content better.

Overall I have found the tool extremely helpful for creating more indepth content as it does a good job urging the writer to include the variety of related and neighboring terms (in order to increase your score)

There’s a good guide on how the tool works here. There’s also a handy Google Chrome extension to help you easier access the tool.

2. Serpstat Clustering Tool

Serpstat Clustering Tool is another innovative tool that uses Google to better understand and analyze relevancy.

This tool should be used to make sense of your long keyword lists. Instead of simply word-matching, the tool analyzes Google SERPs for every single term in your list and groups them based on how many overlapping URLs each query triggers in Google.

The logic is simple: The more identical results two SERPs have, the more related the search queries are.

This way, instead of creating a group based on a common modifier, the tool will form groups based on each keyword meaning and let you discover keywords which have no words in common, yet can (and should) be used within one copy:

Serpstat Clustering Tool

Read more about clustering here and about this grouping method here.

3. Spyfu Related Keywords

Spyfu has a separate tab listing related keywords to the one you put in. The nice thing about the tool is that it excludes phrases that contain your core term.

You can play with helpful filters to see more popular or less competitive keywords.

Spyfu related keywords

Read more about Spyfu related keyword analysis here.

4. Google: Related Searches, Google Trends, Google Correlate

Google is kind enough to provide us with lots of useful data that can be used for content planning and optimization. Here are three Google tools that are useful for discovering related terms:

Google Correlate

According to Google in the tool’s documentation,

Google Correlate is like Google Trends in reverse. With Google Trends, you type in a query and get back a series of its frequency (over time, or in each US state). With Google Correlate, you enter a data series (the target) and get back queries whose frequency follows a similar pattern.

In our case, we don’t have the data series, but the tool can also work with keywords: Simply put in your search term, and Google will calculate the trending pattern and show matching patterns.

Mind that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, so you may come across some funny terms. Don’t be discouraged! Keep running the tool and put together a list of related terms that do match your topic.

My favorite thing about the tool (and why I do use it) is that you can exclude your initial search term from the returned list which means you can prevent the tool from phrase-matching (which you already did when doing your traditional keyword research) and force it to come up with related phrases instead:

Google Correlate

Google Trends

Google Trends is a more straightforward tool: Simply type in your core term and scroll down to “Related queries”, i.e. “Users searching for your term also searched for these queries”.

The nicest thing about this tool is that it shows “Breakout” queries, i.e. queries that “had a tremendous increase, probably because these queries are new and had few (if any) prior searches.” These could be an opportunity for trending content!

Google Trends

Google’s “Searches related to”

Finally Google’s “Searches related to” can give you some ideas where to expand your core terms. Notice how Google is helpfully showing new terms it’s suggesting in bold:

Google's "Searches related to"

IMN Featured Snippet Tool collects those results and organizes them by (1) query they are triggered by and (2) popularity (i.e. based on how many queries trigger them):

Featured Snippet Tool

Futher reading:

Expand your keyword lists! This will help you create more indepth content, diversify your rankings and generate expsoure from other Google search result sections, like featured snippets and “People Also Ask.”

The post Four tools to discover and optimize for related keywords appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/11/related-keywords-tools-discover-optimize/

14 ranking signals you need to optimize for in 2019

It’s a well-known fact that there are over 200 ranking signals used by Google. And every year it keeps on tweaking and refining its algorithm introducing new ranking signals and changing priorities.

I know that the idea of having to optimize for all of them will probably make you shiver with horror. The good news is there are not so many ranking signals optimizing for which is simply a must.

Please note: in the light of mobile-first indexing, according to which mobile websites are being indexed in the first place, it’s most important that mobile sites are optimized for the below listed ranking signals.

So, without further ado, here is the list of the most important ranking factors for you to dominate search in 2019.

Relevance

I guess it’s more than obvious for any SEOs out there that Google is going nuts about getting into people’s heads and providing them with the most relevant search results. Now that we live in the age of semantic search, Google aims to figure out the meaning behind a certain search query to provide the most precise search results. Besides, Google also considers such factors as users’ search patterns, search history, location, and time.

  1. Accordance to search intent

Of course, when searching for something, users have certain intents in mind. And Google’s ultimate task is trying to figure them out in order to supply users with the most relevant search results on the top positions. Ranking-wise, the more relevant your page is to a certain query, the higher position it gets in the SERPs. What’s more, satisfying search intent almost always results in high CTR.

If you want to understand what search intents hide behind your keywords, consider experimenting with various queries. After typing them in the search box, have a look at the first result pages and try to figure out their search intent. If you see that some of your pages don’t really match the designed search intent, it may signify that these are not the right pages to be optimized for such keywords. So, if that’s the case, consider finding corresponding pages and adding more relevant content to them or creating some new ones that would be relevant to the implied search intent.

  1. CTR

CTR is one of the strongest relevance signals for Google. And there’s no doubt CTR has high correlation with rankings as an increase in CTR almost every time entails a significant ranking boost.

If you want to get an idea of what people tend to click on the SERPs to reach your site, you can use Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report. Pay your special attention to pages that rank high but have low CTR. It may be a flagger that your title tags or meta descriptions are not relevant enough and need to be worked on. To understand where you stand with your CTR, have a look at this summary of CTR data sorted by position in Google search.

Content

If there’s anything I know for sure, rankings and content have always belonged together. Basically, your content is the very reason for people visiting your site. What’s more, Google has rolled out Panda and Fred updates aiming to make the web more helpful and beneficial content-wise. However, even well-written content pages are not always enough. With Google constantly raising its standards, your piece of content should also satisfy the below listed ranking factors.

  1. Keywords on your page

In 2019 keywords in the title tag still remain a powerful ranking signal as this is one of the ways Google decides whether your page is relevant to a given query or not. What’s more, the closer your keywords are to the beginning of the title, the better. And of course, your most important keywords should be present in the page’s body, alt texts, and H1 tag. But please make sure that you’re not overusing them because you don’t want to be penalized for keyword stuffing, do you?

Of course, except from your main keywords, you need to be optimized for some related terms that would accompany them. Just in case you still haven’t collected such keywords, here are some advice on how to nail keyword research these days.

  1. Comprehensiveness

As I’ve mentioned before, Google is going nuts about improving the quality of search. With Hummingbird, Google now prioritizes pages that match the meaning of the query rather than separate keywords. That is why you need to aim not for just filling your piece of content with keywords but for making it as comprehensive as you can.

In order to optimize your content for comprehensiveness, consider using TF-IDF analysis, which can help to calculate how frequent certain keywords are used on your competitors’ pages. By doing this, you can get lots of relevant terms and concepts used by your top-ranking competitors. Luckily, there are now plenty of tools that have TF-IDF analysis in them. By the way, here is a nice guide for you on how to improve your content’s comprehensiveness with the help of TF-IDF.

  1. Grammar

Publishing mistake-free content is yet another signal to Google that content is of good quality. There’s not much to say there. Just make sure you proofread your piece of content before publishing it or use online grammar checkers like Grammarly.

  1. Well-structured HTML

By organizing your HTML markup in a clear way, you make it much easier for the search engines to understand what your content is actually about. Yes, search engines still rely on HTML structure and its semantic markup. So, no matter how cool your content is, if your page has messy HTML, peaky search engine spiders may think it’s of bad quality and down-rank it. Luckily, there is now a whole variety of plugins (including WordPress’ ones) that can help with cleaning and optimizing your HTML.

To make your HTML even more structured, consider implementing schema markup. Structured Data Markup Helper can offer you a helping hand with that. Doing this will help search engines to understand your content better, identify the most important information on your site, as well as make your snippets look more attractive. You can also preview your snippets with the help of Google’s Testing Tool to make sure everything is displayed correctly.

  1. Content uniqueness

Just as much as Google appreciates uniqueness it also penalizes sites with duplicate content. So, in order to improve your rankings and get Panda off your site, make sure it has no duplication issues. By the way, here’s a nice guide on how to spot and deal with various types of duplicate content. What’s more, you should also watch out for external duplication. So, if you suspect some pages on your site may have it, go ahead and check them with Copyscape.

If you work for one of those industries that simply cannot publish unique content every time (like online stores with many product pages), try to make your product descriptions as diverse as you can. Another good way to solve the problem is by utilizing user-generated content.

Backlinks

I guess it’s of no surprise to you that backlinks have been ruling ranking for ages. The reality is they still remain the strongest indication of authority to Google. And it’s safe to say that it’s hardly going to change in 2019. That is why quality link building should be your primary concern if you want to make it to the top. By the way, here are some powerful link building strategies for you to get some inspiration from.

Of course, one of the coolest tactics is to spy on your competitors’ linking profiles. One of my favorite tools for this kind of activity is SEO SpyGlass. With its help you can compare your linking profile with the ones of your competitors as well as see where your links intersect. By doing so, you will get priceless insights of new link building strategies that you can arm yourself with.

SEO spy glass tool

  1. Number of backlinks and linking domains

Although Google definitely appreciates quality more than quantity, the total number of backlinks still remains a powerful ranking signal. Please note that links coming from a single domain carry much less weight comparing to those that come from various domains. So, just have a look at the total number of backlinks and total linking domains parameters in whatever SEO tool you are using and see if your linking profile is in need of some improvement quantity-wise.

  1. Link authority

No matter how many links you have, they need to be of good quality. Otherwise, they’ll most probably get you in trouble (Penguin is watching you) rather than bring you good rankings. That is why in order to maintain quality of your links, you need to carry out regular backlink audits. Fortunately, there is a huge number of tools that help with identifying links’ harmfulness. So, if you’ve spotted some spammy links, make sure to contact the website owners who linked to you asking politely for removing them. If it didn’t work out, just disavow these reputation damagers and forget about it. What is more, if you spot some sudden spikes of links, make sure to check them as there is always a chance that your competitors could be pointing spammy links to you.

  1. Link anchor text

Although nowadays link anchor text is a bit less important than the two above mentioned link parameters, keyword-rich anchor text still firmly stays an important relevance signal for Google.

To be on the safe side, your links’ anchor texts need to be semantically relevant to the topic of your content and also maintain diversity. On top of that, don’t over-optimize your anchor texts with keywords, especially with the ones that are somehow connected with monetization, as this will definitely get you under Google’s Penguin penalty.

User experience

With Google now being obsessed with user experience more than ever, the pressure on website owners and SEOs is really high. You are supposed to have super fast and uber convenient website to make your visitors stay and compete for high positions in the SERPs. So, here are three major user experience ranking signals for Google that I want to drive your attention to specifically.

  1. Page speed

Of course, the very first thing that comes to your mind when you think of user experience is page speed. And I’m sure you’re aware of Google’s Speed Update that has officially made page speed a ranking factor for mobile.

Another speed related change that took place recently has to do with the PageSpeed Insights tool which now evaluates websites according to two criteria: Speed and Optimization. The Speed parameter is now calculated based on real-user measurements: FCP (First Contentful Paint) and DCL (DOM Content Loaded) which are extracted from CrUX database. And Optimization score has to do with technical parameters like redirects, compression, minification, etc.

In the light of all these recent changes, our team has conducted a research aiming to figure out the correlation page speed has with rankings. Surprisingly enough, it turned out that Optimization score has huge influence on rankings these days.

So, in order to get yourself an idea of how your websites is performing speed-wise, go ahead and test it with PageSpeed Insights. Pay your special attention to the Optimization parameter and fix technical issues (if you have any). If you’re not sure how to do it, please consult this guide on Optimization score improvement.

In case your Optimization score is perfectly fine but the Speed parameter leaves much to be desired, the only thing you can do is to make it less “heavy” and sophisticated by minimizing the amount of images and scripts. You can also consider implementing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for your mobile pages as it will make them load almost instantly.

  1. Dwell time and bounce rate

Another two ranking signals that are closely connected with user experience are dwell time and bounce rate. To be completely honest with you, both of these metrics depend massively on the type of query. When it comes to bounce rate, for instance, a user may receive an immediate answer by visiting only one page of your site. This will still be considered a bounce, although it doesn’t mean that your page is not good enough. But as a rule, researching something takes a user more than just one page to open.

Speaking of dwell time, the longer a certain user stays on your page, the more relevant it seems for Google. Just like with bounce rate, a user can spend only 5 seconds on your site and be fully satisfied with the answer at the same time.

So, although both of these parameters depend on what exactly users type in the search box, the combination of these two parameters allows Google to evaluate pages’ relevance pretty accurately.

So, to make your visitors stay for longer, try to engage them as much as you can. Think of providing your users with some additional content links so that they are sent to some related posts on your site, for instance. Another good idea is to implement so-called “breadcrumbs”. These are small text paths at the top of the page that improve website navigation and help users to understand where they are on you site. What’s more, you can add comment sections under your posts, that may win you another couple of minutes.

  1. Page authority within your website

I guess it goes without saying that PageRank is one of the strongest authority signals for Google. The thing is, except for external PageRank, your page is also influenced by the internal one. So, if you want to improve rankings of some pages that are performing not so well, it’s better not to hide them deep in your site structure. The best practice is for every single page of your website to be not more than 3 clicks away from your homepage.

However, if you need to boost rankings of a page that is buried in your site structure, the best thing you can do is to point some internal links to it. But just before doing that, look at your site structure with the help of WebSite Auditor’s Visualization feature to see how internal link juice is distributed within your site and what pages need to be worked on in the first place.

tool to see page authority within your website

  1. HTTPS sites

Caring about user’s safety is yet another Google’s concern these days. Back in 2014, Google has made HTTPS a ranking signal. Since that having an HTTPS site is not a recommendation but a must as Chrome browser now marks sites as “not secure” in case they are not HTTPS. For you to be safe and provide your users with safe experience, learn how to migrate your site from HTTP to HTTPS.

Conclusion

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, there is an enormous amount of ranking factors that directly or indirectly influence your position on SERPs. But in 2019 I would definitely suggest setting a course for creating great content, quality link building, and improving user experience. Besides this, it’s always nice to carry out competition research to see how your top competitors optimize for the following ranking signals to borrow their tactics and reinforce your weak spots (if there are any).

The post 14 ranking signals you need to optimize for in 2019 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/10/ranking-signals-2019-optimize/

How to increase page speed to improve SEO results

Page speed has been a part of Google’s search ranking algorithms for quite some time, but it’s been entirely focused on desktop searches until recently when Google began using page speed as a ranking factor for mobile searches as well.

Have you checked your page speed scores lately?

How do your speeds match up against your competition?

If your pages are loading slower than competitors, there’s a chance you’re taking a hit in the SERPs. While relevance of a page carries much more weight than page speed, it’s still important to ensure your pages are loading fast for users and search engines.

Here are 5 ways to increase page speed and improve SEO results.

Compress images

Large image files can have a significant negative impact on page speed performance. Images often represent the largest portion of bytes when downloading a page. This is why optimizing images generally returns the biggest improvement in speed performance. Compressing your images using an image compression tool will reduce their file size leading to faster loading pages for both users and search engines, which in turn will have a positive impact on your organic search rankings.

Leverage browser caching

Web browsers cache quite a bit of information, including images, JavaScript files and stylesheets. The benefit is that when visitors revisit your site, the browser doesn’t have to reload the whole page. If your server does not include caching headers or if resources are only cached for a short period of time, then pages on your site will load slower because browsers must reload all of this information.

Google recommends setting a minimum cache time of one week (and preferably up to one year) for static assets, or assets that change infrequently. So, make sure you work with your web developer to ensure caching is setup for optimal page speed performance.

Decrease server response time

There are numerous potential factors that may slow down the response of your server: slow database queries, slow routing, frameworks, libraries, slow application logic, or insufficient memory. All these factors should be taken into consideration when trying to improve your server’s response time.

The most favorable server response time is under 200ms. SEO marketers should work with their website  hosting provider to reduce server response time and increase page speed performance.

Enable Gzip compression

Your pages will load slower if your site has compressible resources that are served without Gzip compression. Gzip, a software application for file compression, should be utilized to reduce the size of files on your site such as CSS, HTML, and JavaScript (but not images).

You will need to determine which type of server your site runs on before enabling Gzip compression as each server requires a unique configuration, for example:

Again, your hosting provider can help you enable Gzip compression accordingly. You’d be surprised how much faster your pages load by having Gzip implemented.

Avoid multiple landing page redirects

Having more than one redirect from a given URL to the final landing page can slow page load time. Redirects prompt an additional HTTP request-response which can delay page rendering. SEO Marketers should minimize the number of redirects to improve page speed. Check your redirects and make sure you don’t have redundant redirects that could be slowing load time.

Conclusion

SEO marketers must be analyzing and improving page speed. A great place to start is compressing images, utilizing caching, reducing server response time, enabling file compression, and removing multiple/redundant redirects.

I urge marketers to periodically use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool to check your load time and compare your website to competitors’ sites. The tool also provides specific, recommended optimizations to increase your site’s page speed performance.

As Google continues to favor fast-loading websites it’s crucial that SEO Experts take necessary steps to ensure your site’s pages are meeting (and beating) Google’s expectations. Today, improving page speed is an essential aspect of any successful SEO Program.

The post How to increase page speed to improve SEO results appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/07/increase-page-speed-seo-results-116310/

What people search for: Tools for trends

Keeping up to date with what people search for online can be invaluable to your business. Whether you’re looking to inform your latest paid search campaign or just need some fresh, trending content for your blog, these tools can help.

However, with over 3.5 billion searches each day worldwide, it’s hard to know how to narrow all that data down to help you improve your SEO.

Here are some of the many great tools available to help you discover what people search for: the most popular topics, keywords, and trending stories.

Google Trends

When asking what people search for, it makes sense to start with the largest, most commonly used search engine in the world – Google. Due to its sheer size, Google has some great stats, trends, and insights to dig your teeth into.

Let’s look at Google Trends, for example. This gives you a very quick overview of the searches with the most traffic overall, which is continually updated. You can enter a keyword and see how search volume has varied for that term over time and in different places.

Simply change the location, time frame, category and type of search to dig even deeper into the data.

google trends data

Google Trend results for “SEO.”

Google Autocomplete

If you’re looking to find variations in your keyword phrases, Google Autocomplete is a great free tool that you’re probably already using every day.

Type your keyword into the search box and related terms will display in a drop down list. This can be a good starting point for inspiration on long-tail keywords you might need.

Google News

If you’re looking for fresh content for a website or blog, Google News will deliver the very latest headlines from news sites across the globe (including local news), which are tailored to your personal interests/keywords.

You can use the search bar and the “top stories” section on the left side bar. Also, you can zero in on specific topics and locations to see what news stories people are reading and searching for now.

google news results

Google News results for “Brexit.”

Trending on social media

Away from Google related tools, there is plenty that the big social media platforms can offer you when it comes to updates on the latest trends. Regular users of Twitter will know about the trends for you box, which uses an algorithm to display trends that are based on your location and who you follow.

trending for you box twitter

This is similar to Instagram’s Explore function. Again, it’s based on your Instagram history and the type of content you follow and watch.

When it comes to broader discovery of what people search for, trending hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram are invaluable. Simply start researching the day’s top performing hashtags to see what‘s hot and then follow the conversation – perfect for blog post topics.

Ask Quora

Of all the question and answer sites, Quora is one of the most useful tools for long tail keywords research. Its “related questions” feature (which appears once you’ve typed in a question) is a handy way to generate long tail keywords that might not immediately spring to mind from just looking at your search term. But more importantly, whatever topic you plan to cover, Quora has relevant questions and corresponding answers from thought leaders in that field.

ask quora search

Quora’s title page with related questions box.

Answer the Public

One of our favorite but lesser-used tools is Answer the Public.

Answer the Public utilizes search data from Bing and Google and predicts what questions will be asked around each keyword. It also presents this data in a unique and visually stunning way – plus you’re able to download the information to an Excel or .CSV file.

answer the public data visualization

Answer the public’s beautiful data presentation.

Bing Webmaster Keyword Research Tool

Poke around with what people search for with Bing’s own data on its organic searches. The tool provides up to six months of search data (no averages) and generates suggestions of keywords by language and country/region.

For more information on this tool, check out our previous guide, Bing Keyword Research Tool: Highlights & Limitations.

Bing Ads New Trending Queries and Broad Match

This tool allows you to discover what people search for by industry and sub-industry. You select your target audience, and it populates new trending queries (by volume) on the left bar.

Then, you can click any given query to see how it’s performed this year versus last year and how popularity changes week to week.

bing ads trending queries and broad match

Google Ads Keyword Planner

Most of us are already familiar with Google Ads (formerly AdWords) Keyword Planner. Search for keyword ideas, compare how keywords perform, measure the keyword competition and improve your next campaigns.

For more information on using Gooogle Ads, check out these articles:

End of year summaries

If you want to explore the searches that have shaped the previous year, most of the major search engines will summarize this data for you. For example, Google’s Year in Search will give you a top 5 list in a variety of topics – from actors, car brands and consumer tech, to movies, recipes, and even selfies!

Click on any of the results to be taken to an Explore page to see more information, such as interest by region, related topics and related queries – giving you a heap of great insights.

What other of your favorite tools did we miss? Leave a comment below!

The post What people search for: Tools for trends appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Source: https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/12/06/what-people-search-tools-trends/