Ready for the June’s SEO News Recap? We’ve wrapped up for you the key insights from SMX Advanced, a couple industry studies aiming to assess local and organic ranking factors; the new trends in the local search and some large scale Google tests that you should definitely keep an eye on. Lay back and educate yourself and thanks for choosing us for your guide in the SEO world!
GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS
LOCAL PACK BECOMES 2PAC
If you have assumed that ranking in the 3 pack in the post-six-pack era is a feat, prepare for your local SEO efforts to be put to a trial once again! Local SMBs’ most dreaded fear that local search will turn into a paid-to-play platform has just become a reality.
Google has already dedicated the first local result from the local pack to an ad. And to prevent the greedy local pros out there from dreaming too big, you’d better keep in mind that having both an ad and a free listing in the local pack seems to be impossible due to same domain saturation restrictions imposed by Google.
LOCAL PACK ADS FOR NEARBY BUSINESSES
Another Google test for monetizing the local pack, recommends nearby businesses above the local pack. Mike Blumenthal speculates that this particular ad ranking criteria will be limited not only to ad quality and relevance, but will also focus on proximity and open hours of the given business. And while currently the ad inventory for this test is rather scarce, when the feature rolls out officially, it will only make sense that ad cost will rise and the business distance radius will shrink drastically.
LOCAL PACK NEW FEATURE – THE ‘DEAL’ BADGE
Watch out hotel owners, the latest local search feature will help you differentiate your business. The local pack participants, as well as the local businesses listed in the Local Finder are now granted the ‘Deal’ tag.
If your pricing list is indeed better than that of your competitors’ then by all means let Google show that to the online users. If your rates are “below the rates of similar hotels nearby” or if you are “offering a discount compared to the current market price” you can make that price difference appear in the local search results, along with a special green tag ‘Deal’ that will definitely set apart your business.
NEARBY SEARCH FILTER FOR EASIER LOCAL SEARCH EXPERIENCE
Another test observed throughout the past month in the local search is the new search Google filter “nearby”. In addition to the history and trending filter, the nearby filter helps mobile users opt from nearby local businesses like gas stations, restaurants, cafes, etc.
GOOGLE MAPS ALREADY SPAMMED BY RELIGIOUS SECTS
As we have recently discussed in our latest post Google Maps spam is getting out of control. The well-elaborated scam that gets a lot of traction in Google Maps involves fake businesses ranking in top local search results, stealing leads and customers and redirecting them to legitimate businesses for profit.
One of the popular Map spam fighters Bryan Seely has recently discerned a new player in this map scam, who takes advantage of vulnerable online users and raises the stakes to a whole new level.
The Church of Scientology has recognized this Google Maps loophole as a convenient way to attract new followers and obviously has teamed up Google Maps spammers in order to increase the number of their converts. As a result the spammers, owners of fake local listings for drug rehab centers, service the incoming calls in their call centers and forward the leads to the famous sect.
I wonder if a thriving scam like this one will prove to be enough of a motivator for Google to invest more resources in Maps or they will again limit their involvement in the product and continue playing out strategies on how to best monetize it instead.
GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS
GOOGLE KEYWORD PLANNER REVIVES “KEYWORD NOT PROVIDED” MEMORIES
After the “keyword not provided” chaos many digital marketing analists switched tools from Google Analytics to the Google Keyword Planner in order to obtain detailed data about their target market keyword usage. It seems that people got way too comfortable with the AdWords tool whether they were actually setting a paid campaign or were simply extracting the keyword data they needed.
Probably this free-ride data access wasn’t quite favored by Google, and just like they stopped publicly updating the Page Rank a few years back, they’re now gradually limiting the useful data the Keyword Planner shows to marketers.
As compared to the previous reports, currently the Keyword Planner does not reveal search volume for each search term, but shows accumulated number for several key words and phrases. Thus it becomes quite difficult to conclude which phrase attracts most user attention. And if the person reading into the data is unaware of the change, he could seriously overestimate his expected reach for his paid campaign.
Furthermore, it is impossible to account for the number of key phrases that make up for this accrued search count, the data analysis becomes even harder and and the tool – rather unreliable.
What is more, this month surfaced certain complaints about the Keyword Planner tool by people who were refused access to it. Many got worried that Google have limited the tool’s availability to users with active paid campaigns only, but from the search engine officially debunked this assumption and characterized the issue as a temporary bug. Whether that is really the case or we are to get prepared for another “keyword not provided” crash, only the time will show.
2 IN 1: GOOGLE MOBILE FRIENDLINESS AND PAGE SPEED TEST COMBINED
Conducting an on-site audit is a time consuming process, fortunately Google has decided to save webmasters a minute or two in wondering around different tools and have come up with a single landing page where you could both assess your site speed score and its mobile-friendliness profile. Bookmark the link to the tool for future reference!
GOOGLE ANALYTICS WARN FOR HACKS
The rising number of hacked websites (a 180% rise since last year) becomes a serious issue in the SEO industry. Google have decided to send out alerts in the Google Analytics dashboard to all compromised sites, so make sure you check the section regularly for any Safe Browsing alerts.
GOOGLE BECOMES YOUR GP
You think that Google has an answer to it all?
Maybe you are right. Google will now help you self-diagnose your pains and indispositions. Just type your symptoms and Google will come up with a list of related conditions as well as information for self-treatment. The update is rolling out on mobile in the US.
As useful as that may seem, I am really worried about the actual consequences of this pseudo-authority advice. And as evolving the AI algos of the search engine are, health is a pretty sensitive topic to address by an automated machine.
A fine example of this medical scenario gone wrong is a current law suit filed against the top Chinese search engine Baidu. It seems that Baidu has promoted in leading positions a company offering experimental treatment to a terminally ill patient. The treatment turned out to be ineffective, quite expensive and officially unapproved by the state.
The responsible reaction of Baidu consisted in:
“removed 126 million promotional search results for medical information and 2,518 medical institutes from its search pages. It agreed to set aside 1 billion yuan ($150 million) to compensate users defrauded by misleading promotional results. And it would no longer rank promotional results solely on bidding prices.”
FACEBOOK CROSSING THE THIN LINE OF PRIVACY
Facebook keeps on record tons of data on each of its users. Lately, they’ve come up with a rather unsettling way to use it.
It turns out that Facebook feeds the location data gathered about its users into its “People You May Know” feature. As “useful” as that might seem at first sight it actually has some pretty scary consequences, ranging from a suggestion to connect with a last night creep that visited the same bar as you did, or Facebook giving away your profile details to abortion protesters, given that you’ve been all ‘detected’ at a given abortion clinic.
Such breach of privacy is way off and some innovative ‘usability’ features should first be assessed as to whether the sensitivity of the data used won’t hurt the platform users instead of ease their life.
INDUSTRY SURVEYS AND STUDIES
RELEVENCE BEATS BACKLINKS
Ahrefs has conducted another industry study with the attempt to analyze the weight of the current on-page ranking factors. Among some of the interesting conclusions they draw are:
- Inbound links have greater impact on rankings than saturating your website copy with exact match keywords;
- Search query relevance often has bigger influence on rankings than inbound links.
LOCAL RANKINGS TIGHTLY RELATED TO ORGANIC RANKINGS
If you have thought that Local SEO has nothing to do with organic rankings, you’ve got it all wrong. To rank well in local search one should first have a well-optimized website that can rank high in organic search. A strong authority website is the key prerequisite for fine local presence.
Such conclusions are also supported by the latest Local Search study, conducted by Local SEO Guide. Some of the additional insights surficed as a result of the study are:
- Google local pack rankings are tightly related to inbound links;
- Ensure citation consistency for your business in order to enter the local pack, but don’t stop there and back this effort up with other long-term SEO strategies;
- The local search ranking factors scale is topped by the inbound links, followed by website health, GMB profile and citations.
SMX ADVANCED TIPS FROM PROS
This month the SMX Advanced offered really interesting industry info. Some tips from the pro speakers that you should definitely catch up with are:
- Todd Friesen from Salesforce advises to kill pages that no longer bring traffic to your site by 301 redirecting them to other relevant pages on your site. This will save you craw budget and will definitely improve your on-site content strategy;
- Greg Boser from Foundation Digital shares that: “Good architecture should be your HTML sitemap. If you need an HTML sitemap, you’ve built your site wrong;”
- Boser also comments on the subdirectories vs subdomains dilemma: “Subdomains can be great for head terms, not so much for tail.” Laura Lippay from NetFlix also adds that “if the content is super different, go subdomain.”
SMX ADVANCED TIPS FROM GOOGLE
There was a special AMA session with Gary Illyes at the SMX Advanced where he revealed that:
- Google no longer uses authorship even for in-depth articles;
- Panda is continuous, it is not real-time, and it is slow.
- AMP is going to be a big thin.
That would be all friends! If you think we’ve omitted an important piece of news from the past month, go ahead and give your two cents in the comments!