Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.
Search Engine Roundtable Stories:
Other Great Search Forum Threads:
We’re rolling out UI updates to make bulk analysis & changes easier. Learn more today: https://t.co/tdPNCBioJB via @sengineland @GinnyMarvin… https://t.co/xWHOLVfXBi, Bing Ads on Twitter
Adding ClaimReview markup is an easy way so that if your fact check article appears in Google, it gets a special snippet highlighting it as a fact check. I wish more publications would add it to their fact checks #GlobalFactVâ, Danny Sullivan on Twitter
Yes. That’s a description Google wrote & other sites actually took from us without credit, it seems. We’re looking at ways to better attribute in cases when we, well, source ourselves 🙂 This explains a bit more of how this may, Danny Sullivan on Twitter
“EAT” can be an interesting angle when looking at a site, but it’s just a part of the bigger picture. The mobile speed update is just around the corner, so that would be worth improving too :).… https://t.co/JOZZ, John Mueller on Twitter
We expect a fix over the next few weeks. Feel free to reach out if you have any additional queries. -Anil (2)…, Google AdWords on Twitter
Ad Grants Website policy – get every new domain approved before creating any ads lead…, The Google Advertiser Community
How to set up conversion tracking to measure what visitors are doing on your website, The Google Advertiser Community
If you’ve been experiencing ownership transfer issues with your @GoogleMyBiz then there’s hope. @Google Announces New Help for Service Area Businesses Listings. find out more on the latest @ebiziq blog post https://t.co/V73Bo6, Annette Sugden on Twitter
Remember: Ignore billing information when you’re setting up an Ad Grants account, The Google Advertiser Community
What to do if your Ad Grants application has been rejected, The Google Advertiser Community
Search Engine Land Stories:
Other Great Search Stories:
Industry & Business
Links & Promotion Building
Local & Maps
Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.
Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Rebrands AdWords, Releases Indexing API, URL Inspector Tool & Speed Update New Details
This week we learned that Google is going to drop the name AdWords after 18 years and switch it to Google Ads. Google also released an Indexing API, which right now only works with job posting URLs, they don’t have plans to expand it. Google Search Console added a new tool called the URL inspector tool, which is rolling out now. Google said the new Speed Update which is coming soon will grade speed on a gradual scale, which is unlike the old speed algorithm. Google says they ignore links in press releases. Google said all URLs in the Google index have a canonical URL. Google is showing “must include” in some search results snippets. Google knowledge panels can now be verified by the owner. Some Google knowledge panels are looking more and more like featured snippets. Google local pack is showing a filter for “your past visits,” also filters based on your queries which is cool. Google My Business has a new insights analytics report for subjective attributes. Google My Business said they launched performance cards, which is really old. Google sent me a indoor GPS beacon from Project Beacon. Google’s Danny Sullivan said he might work on a search engine style guide. Google AdWords added a new words and ad group shift cards to the overview page. Bing Ads is now powering their automate extensions using AI. And Danny Sullivan was profiled by CNBC about his new role at Google. That was this past week in search at the Search Engine Roundtable.
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Search Topics of Discussion:
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Google updates its search algorithm thousands of times a year.
Some of Google’s algorithms are quite well known – some have almost taken on legendary status (e.g., Florida, Panda, Penguin, RankBrain) and have had a major impact on the history of SEO and the rankings (and revenue) of websites.
But most changes are much smaller. Some updates even go completely unnoticed.
In just the past two years, we’ve seen roughly a dozen significant updates – many of which were “quality updates,” as well as:
Some of these recent updates have been confirmed or announced by Google.
However, other periods of volatility in the SERPs (believed to be due to an algorithm update) have been observed and reported by algorithm watchers and tracking tools, but Google has never officially confirmed an update.
Why You Should Track Google Updates
You’re in the profession of optimizing websites and content for search engines.
So it makes sense to keep track of big and important changes that could impact your SEO strategy and tactics.
An algorithm change or update can either help or hurt your:
Search ranking and visibility.
Organic search traffic.
Return on investment (ROI).
Most people tend to think of an algorithm as a way Google punishes websites.
But really, algorithms are a way to reward websites for providing a good user experience and relevant content.
Search is a zero-sum game. For every winner, there must be a loser.
Google wants to provide the best possible answer for the user’s search query.
All that said, it would be kind of insane (and impossible) to try to keep track of every little Google search update.
Think about it like this:
If Google is updating it’s search algorithm thousands of times per year, that means Google is changing its algorithm around three times per day, on average.
To paraphrase Roger Montti: If you pick any day of the week and declare a Google update happened, you’d probably be correct!
So track those big updates. Just don’t obsess over them or you’ll make yourself crazy.
So how do you track Google algorithm updates?
Places to Track Google Algorithm Updates
There are many great SEO blogs that cover all types of search updates.
But here are a few resources you can use to specifically to keep track of Google algorithm updates.
Search Engine Journal: History of Google Algorithm Updates
Want to know the names, dates, and impact of any major algorithm changes or updates?
Search Engine Journal has you covered – from 2003 to today.
We have an entire page dedicated to Google Algorithm updates that includes the following information:
The rollout date(s).
A brief overview of the impact.
Whether it is confirmed or unconfirmed.
Links to official announcements (blog posts and tweets), as well as news stories and analysis (from SEJ and other credible external sources) so you can deeper dive and understand the changes.
Also, you can sign up for Search Engine Journal’s newsletters and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll keep you posted on every major algorithm update.
Google Webmaster Central Blog
Though not so much recently, the Google Webmaster Central Blog used to be the place to find out about major algorithm changes as they happened, whether it was the rollout of Panda, Penguin, or the Page Layout algorithm.
However, Google still uses the blog to announce upcoming big changes, sometimes weeks or even months in advance (such was the case with the mobile-friendly update).
Definitely keep an eye on this resource to stay up on the latest changes, straight from Google.
A few years ago, Matt Cutts was the best person at Google to follow as he regularly kept the SEO community informed about changes to search.
Nobody has completely filled this role, which means Google is no longer very good about confirming algorithm updates.
However, there are a couple of Googlers who might announce or confirm updates, and possibly even share a few salient details:
Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) is always on the lookout for news about algorithm changes. He regularly reports on Google updates at Search Engine Roundtable; however, there is a fair bit of rampant speculation based on industry chatter that sometimes doesn’t amount to anything significant (seen in headlines ending with a question mark).
Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) is another avid algorithm watcher. In addition to sharing info and insights about algorithm updates via Twitter, she also has published interesting blog posts and case studies on her blog.
Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) regularly shares data when he sees disturbances in the algorithm, both on Twitter and on the GSQi blog.
8 Tools to Track Google Algorithm Updates
Google isn’t particularly fond of any third-party tools that monitor changes to Google’s algorithms.
Officially, some Google spokespeople have warned SEO professionals that such tools are inaccurate most of the time.
This is true – some of these tools pick up on “changes” to Google’s search results that aren’t really algorithm updates at all.
Fluctuation? Sure. But volatility in the SERP results isn’t always due to a Google algorithm change.
All that said, these tools can provide an early warning that an update might be brewing and you should check your analytics.
Here are a few tools you can use to track Google algorithm updates.
MozCast, in the style of a weather report, provides a “temperature” that represents how turbulent Google’s algorithm has been every 24 hours over the past 30 days. Hotter and stormier means Google’s rankings are very much in flux.
SEMrush Sensor is one of the more impressive algorithm tracking tools. You can see ranking changes (desktop and mobile) broken down into more than 20 categories, as well as by device, SERP feature, and location. Plus you can check out overall SERP volatility (and domain winners and losers) for the last 30 days.
Rank Ranger Rank Risk Index Tool
RankRanger monitors more than 10,000 domains and keywords daily to identify ranking patterns and track volatility in Google’s desktop and mobile search results.
Accuranker ‘Grump’ Rating
Is Google Chilled, Grumpy, or Furious? Find out Google’s “mood” with Accuranker’s ‘Grump’ Rating, which highlights fluctuations in Google’s algorithm. You can also track by country and device and sign up for alerts via email.
This Google algorithm tracking tool monitors fluctuations for about 17,000 keywords (desktop and mobile) using a flux metric called a “roo”. A higher roo value means high volatility, while a low roo value indicates it’s a fairly ordinary day. Algoroo also highlights weekly winners and losers.
Advanced Web Rankings Google Algorithm Changes
AWR’s Google Algorithm Changes tool monitors 11,000 keywords and 500,000 URLs across various industries to highlight fluctuations and show changes in position.
This free SEO tool will help you figure out whether a Google algorithm update has impacted your organic sessions. Panguin uses various filters to overlay known algorithm updates on top of your Google Analytics data to make analysis a breeze.
This tool monitors more than 100,000 keywords daily to track ranking fluctuations in desktop, mobile, and local search results. You can sign up to be notified when Google is particularly volatile.
What to Do After an Algorithm Update
There are five things you should always remember after an algorithm update (whether confirmed or unconfirmed):
Make sure you were actually impacted by the algorithm change and not something else (e.g., a website change, technical SEO issue, or manual action).
Don’t rush to react – be patient and collect data.
Read credible sources (like Search Engine Journal) to gain insights and see what the SEO experts are saying.
Make adjustments to your SEO strategy and tactics as necessary.
It’s also important to remember that Google’s algorithms are constantly changing.
What impacts your rankings today could change in a few days, a week, or in a month.
Chasing Google’s algorithm can be dangerous, as shown in this classic illustration:
If you come through a big Google change unscathed, celebrate!
If, on the other hand, your traffic and rankings plummet, look at it as a blessing in disguise. Google has detected some flaw in your website. So get working to fix it.
You can minimize your chances of avoiding a huge impact by always focusing on the SEO fundamentals. Avoid any shortcuts or spammy tactics that may have short-term gains but could create disaster in the long term.
You’re far better off understanding your audience and creating content that builds your authority, relevance, and trust.
You can use many tools to monitor Google’s constantly changing search algorithm. Most of these tools make it fairly easy to understand the relationship between the update and your organic traffic.
While it isn’t necessary to monitor every update that Google launches (especially since there are thousands of changes every year), it is important to understand the big changes and adjust your strategy accordingly as they happen.
Featured Image: Paulo BobitaAll screenshots taken by author, June 2018
In the last six years that I’ve been producing content for links, link building has changed dramatically.
After undergoing a damage limitation rebrand, the industry is now called ‘outreach’ and is more aligned with classic PR rather than the automated approach which preceded.
In certain industries (finance, gambling etc.), you can’t compete without serious volume link building and no one is under any illusion that it’s not business as usual.
To compete on a level playing field, you do what everyone else is doing, but just a little better (so said Lance Armstrong).
As long as links are a vital ranking factor (and realistically, that’s not going to change) the low-end volume blanket email campaigns are still part of the program for some.
But, for brands that have bigger budgets and more to lose from a link-based penalty, we also have the ‘digital PR’ approach and a focus on securing ‘top-tier’ links.
Most smaller sites don’t have access to the budgets that big brands do but that doesn’t mean that there is no hope for the indie site.
As we enter into the digital PR era, with creative smarts and limited budgets you can create content to get attention from top-tiers.
You just have to understand what a journalist wants.
What a Journalist Won’t Pay Attention To
The traditional link building approach of ‘I have this piece of content you may be interested in…’ that blogger outreach has existed upon is not going to work with journalists.
To get the attention of journalists, you have to consider what they want.
Journalists don’t care about listicles (e.g., 10 ways to [insert anything here]), tools, or cute memes.
They certainly don’t care about you or your business.
What Do Journalists Really Want?
Journalists care about one thing only: information that will help them to write a story of interest to their readers.
That could be from unique data or a breaking news story.
Most likely, the only thing that you can offer to them is a set of unique data unless you dressed up as Spider-Man and scaled monuments in London. A bold and brilliant (yet illegal) move that gained consistent exposure for an aggrieved father, but not something I recommend for the average business.
Journalists must write stories every day for their readership and they constantly need feeding information that can help them to fulfill this. This is your starting point for securing a link.
Know What Your Journalist Is Writing About
The starting point for creating content for a journalist is to understand exactly what they write about and therefore, what they will be interested in sharing.
Do your research and source journalists that are specifically relevant to your niche. Search for trade publications, magazine style hub sites and also check out the sections in the mainstream media looking for anywhere you may fit.
Review what the journalist is writing about and what other sources they are citing in their articles – this will leave clues for where you can look for sources of data and what topics or research they are likely to respond to.
Once you have an understanding of what may gain their attention, you can structure your content around data that will form the basis of a story.
How to Connect an Existing Idea with Data for Journalists
A client came to me with an idea for a piece of content based around planning permission. As a standalone topic, this was not significant enough for a successful outreach campaign and I was not confident it would gain any significant links.
I often find this issue with clients who want branded content to fit their site but they also want links. Taking an existing idea to turn into something that will appeal for top-tier links is a challenge but can be done when combined with a data set or a survey.
The main piece of content was created from the complex information of planning permission (in the UK) distilled into an at-a-glance guide that delivered key facts for anyone considering basic home renovation. Very much on topic for the client and their market audience.
To supplement the piece, I conducted a survey that could offer unique information and insights.
The key question I wanted to answer was: What was the main reason that people had planning permission turned down for?
I thought this would be useful information for anyone considering a planning application.
Create a Survey to Supplement Your Content
Running a survey is relatively simple. If you have an existing customer database you already have a wealth of resource at your command.
Access to a database is not always possible so the alternative is to use sites such as Pollfish, Google Surveys or Survata. I’ve had great success with Pollfish.
The key to getting the best out of your survey is to consider what you want the results to show and then structuring your questions around this.
Aside from the main question I wanted to answer, I also asked about the experience of the planning application, if they applied directly or through a third party, and how difficult or easy the process was.
I was then able to use this information through the piece which offered another layer besides the rules of planning permission.
When running a survey, your budget does dictate as to how many responses you can get. The more responses you have, the more credibility the information has.
I aim for between 400-800 responses looking for a strong bias of results – a sample set of 400 responses is your minimum for results that are statistically sound and viable.
Source a Dataset to Support Your Content
If you don’t have a wealth of data from your business, or you don’t have the budget to run your own unique survey, other pre-existing sources of data can supplement your content outreach by offering something newsworthy to the journalist.
For planning permission, and in addition to the survey, we found a dataset that contained information for each regional planning authority with a breakdown of the numbers for how many applications were approved the first time. From this, we created our story for outreach.
To find datasets, research your niche or theme in known sources to see what is available or, use Google searches to see what comes up. Often trade organizations run annual surveys surrounding the industry but these are usually snapped up quickly directly by journalists.
If you’re in-house, have a retainer client, or have your own brand, then get to know your niche and monitor relevant sources on a regular basis and aim to capitalize on the fresh data.
Remember, open source data is available to everyone. If you found it, then most likely others have, too. Might seem obvious, but check that no one else has covered the same dataset.
Even if it has been covered, it is still possible to put your own spin on the content and present in a different way but don’t waste your time with something that has been covered extensively.
How Do You Generate a Story for Your Journalist?
So, you have your content and your data – how do you make the pitch to the journalist?
Getting someone to do something that you want is all about presenting in the right way and making as easy as possible for that person to say yes. You have to make it obvious and lead with that.
If you’ve read “Made To Stick“, you will be familiar with this example: screenwriter Nora Ephron recalls her first day at journalism school when she was presented with a brief that contained information about a teacher training day that would improve student efficiency. What most of the students missed and was the foundation of the lead for the story was that next Thursday, there would be no school. That was the hook.
In all sets of data, there is a story. Your job is to find it.
In our example, we have our set of data that told us where in the UK it was easiest/hardest to gain planning permission. This lead story appealed to trade publications and to regional papers – it also perfectly connected and complimented our content piece about planning permission.
We wrote a long email with this as a headline and talked through the results of our survey and the data source and then concluded with our piece of content.
The result was significant coverage of the lead story linking back to the piece of content.
A journalist will not link to listicles, tools, or quizzes.
Journalists are only interested in information that will help them write a story.
Journalists leave clues for sources of data and topics that they will respond to.
Use a unique survey to embellish your content.
Find or create a dataset as a foundation for your content to appeal to a journalist.
Your job is to find the story in the data and then present it.
More Link Building Resources:
Image CreditScreenshot taken by author, June 2018
Google’s John Mueller spoke about the upcoming new Speed Update that is expected some time in July – so any day now. He said that this speed algorithm differs from the one in April 2010 in that it doesn’t just measure too slow pages and dings them if they are just too slow, this new Speed Update does work on a “gradual scale” and small gradual improvements to speed can help improve your rankings a little bit, he said.
This is honestly new to me. I thought this new speed update was similar to the one from 8 years ago but the only difference was it now will look at mobile page speed, not just desktop. I was wrong. Google’s John Mueller said at the 10:18 minute mark in this morning’s hangout, that this speed update is different. He said “It’s a bit different than the other speed update that we did, in general, you know maybe like seven or eight years ago where there is no differentiating between like fast and slow.” “It’s more of a gradual scale,” he added. “So the faster you can make your pages the more we can take that into account. And it’s not so much that it’s like it’s too slow or it’s faster, ” he said.
So making incremental speed updates to your pages will make small improvements to your rankings when this new Speed Update is pushed out. How much will it impact your rankings? John said “a little bit.”
Here is the video embed:
Here is the transcript:
It’s a bit different than the other speed update that we did, in general, you know maybe like seven or eight years ago where there is no differentiating between like fast and slow.
It’s more of a gradual scale.
So the faster you can make your pages the more we can take that into account. And it’s not so much that it’s like it’s too slow or it’s faster.
Okay so gradual improvements can help me with my rankings?
A little bit.
How do you measure page speed? Well, Google said they use a bunch of metrics, including Google’s page speed tool, Lighthouse, how fast the page loads for users and many other metrics they said. So Google won’t really tell you if your pages are fast or slow or somewhere in between based on this new Speed Update.
So I guess time will tell in terms of how much of an impact this new Speed Update will matter to most sites in Google. We will of course keep a close eye on it.
Forum discussion at YouTube.