From all of us at MagnifyAds, we wish you a safe holiday season and a happy New Year!
With over 200 factors in Google’s algorithm, SEO is a complex science. But it’s not how much you need to know that makes it really challenging — it’s the ever-changing nature of the rules of the game.
As search engines strive to improve the quality of search results, some ranking factors shift shapes, others fall into oblivion, and completely new ones arise out of nowhere. To help you stay ahead of the game in 2018, here’s a list of the most prominent trends that are gaining momentum, with tips on how you can prepare for each.
1. The rise of SERP features
Are you assuming a #1 organic ranking is the way to get as much traffic as possible? Think again. Increasingly, SERP features (local packs, Knowledge panels, featured snippets and so on) are stealing searchers’ attention and clicks from organic listings.
And it’s only fair if you consider the evolution the Google SERP has been through. It has gone all the way from “10 blue links”…
… to something that makes you feel like you’re part of a Brazilian carnival.
What can you do about it?
With the evolution of SERP features, it’s critical that you (a) track your rankings within these features, and (b) monitor the features that show up for your keywords and are potentially stealing traffic from you. You can do this with SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker by simply starting a project for your site. The tool will track 15 Google SERP features, along with organic results. The Google SERP Features column will show you all features triggered by your keywords, with the ones yourank in highlighted in green. Additionally, you can measure the volatility of SERP features day-to-day under the SERP Analysis tab.
Based on this data, analyze the opportunities that SERP features pose. Can you squeeze into the local pack? Can you get a featured snippet for this query? How about a Knowledge Graph panel? Which brings us straight to the next point:
2. Structured data
Structured data is a way of formatting HTML that uses a specific vocabulary, telling search engines how to interpret content — and how to display it in the SERPs.
Google’s never officially confirmed structured data is a ranking signal — and in itself, it likely isn’t.
Why bother, then? Glad you asked!
Structured data lets you enhance your search listings in several ways: Think Knowledge Graph panels and rich snippets. The latter can increase your listings’ CTR (click-through rate) by 30 percent. Multiple real-life experiments show an increase in clicks boosts rankings.
With search results getting more diverse, you can’t ignore the opportunity to stand out. In fact, you’d better get at it right now, before a competitor does.
What can you do about it?
Go on and do it, really. There are several structured data formats, but most SEOs stick to Schema.org. This step-by-step guide to Schema for SEO is a good place to start. Once you’ve implemented the markup, track whether rich snippets show up for your site with the Rank Tracker tool mentioned above.
3. Survival of the fastest
Speed is big. Not only is it a ranking signal; it’s a major UX factor. UX, in turn, impacts rankings. It’s a loop of sorts!
But how fast is fast, exactly? Google expects pages to load in under three seconds. Here’s what you can do to get there.
What can you do about it?
First, take Google’s page speed test. The test is integrated into WebSite Auditor and available in its free version. Just launch WebSite Auditor and create a project. Jump to Content Analysis and specify the page you’d like to test. In a moment, you’ll see a selection of on-page factors calculated for you. Go to Technical factors and scroll to Page speed (Dekstop).
For any problematic factor, click on it for an explanation and how-to-fix advice.
4. Relevance 2.0
Increasingly, it’s getting harder to convince Google you have great content when you really don’t (and easier to get penalized for trying). There are a number of ways Google assesses content quality, one of them being Latent Semantic Indexing. By looking at billions of pages and terms used in them, Google learns which terms are related and builds expectations as to the terms that are likely to appear in a given context. This helps Google decide whether a piece of content is “comprehensive.”
With RankBrain, Google may further analyze the best-performing search results (according to Google’s user satisfaction metrics) and look for similarities between them. These shared features, such as usage of certain terms, may become query-specific ranking signals for the given search term.
What can you do about it?
How do you make sure your content is comprehensive? By researching the top-ranking pages in your niche and looking for the features they share, just like RankBrain does. Clearly, you can’t do this manually for each term, so here’s a simple framework that uses WebSite Auditor and its TF-IDF tool.
In WebSite Auditor, jump to Content Analysis > TF-IDF and select a page. The app will go to Google’s search results, analyze the 10 top-ranking pages and calculate a TF-IDF score for each term used on each page. As a result, you’ll get a list of relevant terms and phrases, sorted by the number of competitors that use them.
You can implement the recommended changes and edit your page right in WebSite Auditor’s Content Editor.
5. Voice search is the real deal
Still skeptical about voice search? Consider this: Google reports that 55 percent of teens and 40 percent of adults use voice search daily; and, according to Google’s Behshad Behzadi, the ratio of voice search is growing faster than type search. Voice search calls for a whole new keyword research routine: Voice searchers use normal, conversational sentences instead of the odd-sounding query lingo.
What can you do about it?
Rank Tracker is a great help in researching questions voice searchers are likely to ask. Launch Rank Tracker (free version is fine), jump to Keyword Research, and press Suggest Keywords. Pick the Common Questions method from the list, and type in your keywords.
In a minute, you’ll end up with hundreds of questions you can target!
6. Mobile is unignorably big
With the rise of voice search, over half of Google searches coming from mobile devices, the impending mobile-first index, and mobile-friendliness being a ranking factor, you simply can’t afford to ignore mobile SEO anymore.
What can you do about it?
First off, check if your pages are mobile-friendly. Google’s mobile test is available in WebSite Auditor, under Content Analysis. Enter the URL of the page you’d like to test, switch to Technical factors, and scroll down to Page usability (Mobile).
Click on the problematic factors, if any, for how-to-fix advice. Forward the tips to your dev team, and re-run the test once the improvements have been made.
7. ‘Linkless’ backlinks
For years, links have been the trust signal for search engines — one that SEOs spent the most time on optimizing (and often manipulating). But times are changing, and linkless mentions may be becoming an off-page signal of equal weight.
Search engines can easily associate mentions with brands and use them to determine a site’s authority. Duane Forrester, formerly senior product manager at Bing, confirmed that Bing is already using unlinked mentions for ranking. This patent and many SEO experts’ observations are reason enough to believe that Google may be doing this too.
What can you do about it?
In addition to a backlink checker, use a web monitoring tool to find mentions of your brand and products. Awario is perhaps one of the best apps for this, with their own real-time index of the web and the Reach metric that lets you see the most authoritative mentions first.
8. An increasingly personalized SERP
Personalized search results aren’t just based on the traditional ranking factors, but also on the information about the user (such as their location, search history or interests).
Google, Bing and Yahoo all personalize their search results in multiple ways. Back in 2011, an experiment showed that over 50 percent of Google searches were being personalized; that number has likely only gone up since.
What can you do about it?
Don’t panic: Personalization doesn’t have to work against you. When someone searches for your target keyword for the first time, you’ve got to do your best to appear among the top results in the unbiased SERP. If the searcher clicks on your listing, you’re becoming their preferred entity, and their subsequent searches will most likely include your site as the top result.
One thing to keep in mind is to ensure your rank tracking is accurate. Rank Tracker will check your rankings in a depersonalized way by default, so there’s no need to set up any extra prefs. But if you’re looking to see unbiased results in your browser, make sure you’re using an Incognito/Private mode.
When you’re in the business services industry you’ll inevitably be asked if your company offers special pricing for non-profits or "not for profit" companies. Let's explore the fundamental differences between non-profit and for-profit general business plans and taxation and see why non-profits seemingly don't bother to budget for contracted business services like for profit companies and any other organization in the business world is expect to.
What’s the basic difference?
Over the past seven years we’ve had hundreds of requests for non-profit discounts. They come from non-profits of all sizes. Some are huge multinational charities, some are small local volunteer organizations, others are somewhere in the middle. Just like there are small businesses, medium sized businesses, and large businesses, there are small, medium, and large non-profits.
The fundamental difference between a for-profit business and a non-profit business is the profit. For-profits are allowed to realize a profit, non-profits aren’t. Non-profits can generate a profit – called a surplus – but they have to reinvest it back into the organization. For-profits can take the profit and distribute it to their shareholders, owners, or anyone else they’d like. That’s the key difference.
There are some other differences too. Some might say that non-profits do good, while for-profits do business, but I don’t believe that 1. matters, or 2. suggests that for-profits don’t do good.
Another difference might be staffing. Many non-profits are staffed by volunteers. But many aren’t. In fact, according to the BLS, non-profits employ 8.7 million people (6% of all workers in the US). Overall, average hourly earnings of full-time workers at non-profits and for-profits are about the same. So both non-profits and for-profits have a lot of paychecks to write.
Yet another difference could be revenue from customers vs. fundraising from donors or funding through grants. But wherever it comes from, it’s still money in the door to sustain operations.
Adding this all up, I’ve never understood how these differences relate to pricing. Why should a non-profit organization pay less for services (or supplies or food or rent or…) than a for-profit company? How is an automatic discount for a non-profit fair to a full-price paying for-profit? They both have employees, budgets, goals, financial pressures, etc. If you don’t look at the tax code or the sign on the door, they are the same.
Who decides who really needs a discount?
Many of the non-profits that have contacted us asking for discounts have operating budgets far north of many of our for-profit customers’ annual revenues. Many of our small business customers are individual entrepreneurs barely making enough to pay themselves. Some of our small business customers are still in the red – making them “non-profits”, literally.
To be clear: We don’t have anything against non-profits (our CEO founded the Support World Peace Organization, Americans For World Peace, and many others that are all Non-Profit 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations). Over the years we’ve donated our services and portions of our own revenue to select causes, schools, teachers, relief efforts, and organizations — many of which have been non-profits. Where appropriate, we try to help when we feel we can. There are plenty of non-profits doing incredibly important work around the world. And many of these organizations are staffed by devoted volunteers who generously give their time for their cause. We respect these organizations and these people.
However, we believe everyone who pays us for our services should pay the same price. We’ve worked hard to keep our prices reasonable. We haven’t increased our prices in years. From the small guy just getting started in his spare time on the weekends, to an established small business, to organizations assembled for a cause, to small groups inside some of the world’s largest corporations, our rates are the same no matter who you are or what you do.
We believe prices should be fair, public, and consistent
We don’t want to be one of those companies that has a “who you are determines how much we can charge you” pricing model. We find those models unfair, dishonest, and flat out unappealing. The best pricing is clear, fair, public, consistent, and predictable.
When you contract MagnifyAds you should know we aren’t charging you more than someone else just because we can. You aren’t paying a higher or lower price based on your negotiation skills. That doesn’t mean an exception here and there for a rare special case can’t be made — it means that when someone sees a published price on our site they can be confident that that’s what it costs to get the job done efficiently based on our vast experience and ability to not financially profile our clients, gouging some to make up for awarded discounts to others.
Hiring a Contractor as a Non-Profit
This is a conversation our staff members have with clients quite often: The issue of a nonprofit hiring and paying an independent contractor. What is fascinating is the degree of resistance we often get when attempting to explain the way the IRS and the state see such matters. Seems like everybody has a story about how somebody else is doing things.
“If they can do it, why can’t I?”
The reason businesses (including nonprofits) like to use independent contractors is simple: it saves on employment taxes. The problem lies in the fact that the person your nonprofit is paying is not an independent contractor simply because you want her to be. Whether or not someone is legitimately an independent contractor depends upon a set of well-defined rules. And understanding these rules can save you a lot of headache with Uncle Sam.
The IRS uses Publication 15-A, Employers Supplemental Tax Guide (58 total printed pages), while the Department of Labor uses a more generalized, 3 page document. You can click on the links to learn more about these tests. Whichever test you employ (Get it? Employ?), it boils down to three, simple concepts:
Concept #1: Behavioral.
Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?
Let’s use an example. Suppose you operate a daycare and you have a clogged drain in the kitchen area. What do you do? You call a plumber, of course. It is very unlikely that you will stand over the plumber and instruct him on how to fix your drain. No, you called a professional for a reason. He knows how to fix your clog! You may have some input or preferences. But for the most part, he is in control of what he does and how he does it.
Conversely, if you hire a part-time receptionist, it is very likely that the balance of control lies with the organization, not the receptionist. The receptionist is told when to come in everyday, how long to stay and what the job expectations are…even to the point of being trained in how to do most every aspect of the job!
Concept #2: Financial.
Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? These include things like how the worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.
In our example of the plumber, what is the likelihood you will be supplying the plumber with tools to open your drain. Not very likely. Your receptionist, on the other hand, probably won’t be expected to supply her own phone and computer.
Another financial consideration involves the element of risk. Contractors have opportunity to experience financial loss, whether it be from underbidding a particular job or simply running his or her business in the red. Employees are not generally exposed to the potential for loss. If they have a job, they get paid.
Concept #3: Type of relationship.
Are there written contracts or employee-type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?
When the plumber is finished, you will be invoiced. He decides the fee. You may or may not have an ongoing contract with him for future services, but the relationship is clearly one of professional and client. I’ve yet to meet the receptionist who bills for her services at a fee she determines.
The reality is, it isn’t that complicated. People just want to make it that way. And the game they are playing by treating employees as contractors will catch up with them eventually…and when it does, it will be very, very expensive indeed. Don’t take chances that can greatly harm your nonprofit. It’s not worth the risk to either your organization’s finances or reputation.
The idea that non-profits should receive special privileges or discounts is a myth perpetuated by an old school of misinformation. Like a business, the cost of operating is a hard figure; founders of non-profits base their salaries on those figures and plan everything in their organization around hard figures. If they are truly a fundraising entity they will raise the funds necessary to operate, just like a business.
Hiring an Independent Contractor like MagnifyAds to build your website or provide a service should be a cost your business, for-profit or non-profit, should be prepared to pay for as an operating cost and those operating costs should be covered by current revenue/donations or from a surplus.
Sources: https://signalvnoise.com, https://www.501c3.org
Quick Way to Rank #1 in Google:
Before we give you the secret to ranking #1 or at least on the first page of Google, here is a cool mash-up video of Matt Cutts, Google's Head of Web Spam, where he talks about how anyone can get the no.1 ranking in Google search. Before you take this video seriously, it’s a funny mashup video and doesn’t have real value in teaching you to quick way to rank better.
Can I Rank#1 in Google?
The quick answer is YES. The details, however, may require you to make some popcorn and get comfortable for a very long education. Ranking on the first page of Google is not tough but it’s not going to be an easy pathway. You have to work on numerous factors in tandem and it requires a perfect strategy for content creation, content promotion and generating backlinks.
Before the Penguin update, Backlinks alone boosted your ranking but in the post panda and penguin world, it’s changed. Anchor text variation, quality of sites giving you backlinks, On-site SEO structure, and many other signals have changed so, like the gears on a clock, you have to adjust with them or nothing will work properly and your intended efforts will be broken.
So here is quick checklist for better ranking in the SERP’s:
A common question asked from business professionals and business owners is:
“How do I get my business to rank in a nearby city where I don’t actually have a physical office?“
You have 2 ways to try to do this:
Before we explore each of these two strategies, let me clarify our purpose with an example:
Assume you’re a dentist and you have an office in Portland, Oregon. You already rank well in Portland for terms like “dentist” and “dentist Portland.”
But you’d also like to rank well and attract more clients from Beaverton, Oregon, a major suburb about 20 minutes outside of Portland. Since Google has a very strong bias toward your physical location, you don’t rank well in the neighboring city of Beaverton.
What you want is to show up for “dentist Beaverton.” You also want to appear for people who live or have a smartphone in Beaverton and are simply searching Google for “dentists.”
The 2 strategies below might help you do it.
Strategies For Ranking In A Neighboring City
Strategy 1: Doorway Pages
One strategy for trying to rank your website in a neighboring city is to create a specific page on your site that targets that city + your keyword. For example, create a page that targets the keyword phrase, “dentist Beaverton.”
The trick with doorway pages is they have to be quality and unique. You can’t just use the same copy for every doorway page and swap out the city name. All that gets you is a lot of duplicate content on your website and it probably won’t rank.
In order to do it well and to give yourself the best chance of ranking, you have to create unique, quality content that is relevant to your keyword, “dentist Beaverton.”
If I were creating a doorway page for a dentist in a specific city, I’d make it unique by including information on the page such as:
One caveat with a doorway page is that because you do not have a physical location in the city you’re trying to rank in, you’re not going to be able to setup and claim a Google Business page. We get into that in Strategy #2: Setting up a Faux Office.
Thus, doorway pages will only help you rank your website. You will never appear in the valuable local Google business listings as seen in the image below.
Nonetheless, we’ve been very successful with “doorway pages” for a client of ours who operates a fertility clinic on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. They are ranking very well in several other cities we’re targeting with doorway pages. These cities range in driving distance 20 minutes to 2 hours away from the client’s physical clinic location.
In the example below, we created a page to target “IVF” in the city of Caboolture, about 50 minutes away. To make the page quality and unique, we extrapolated government fertility statistics and applied them to the population of Caboolture. That data is relevant, unique, and useful to those patients doing research to find a clinic to work with.
Competition Plays A Part
Of course, it goes without saying that a big reason we’re ranking so well is because there is little competition and thus little traffic for “IVF Caboolture.” But that’s ok. We’re ranking on page 1, so the few people who do search each month, they see our website.
In the larger metropolitan city of Brisbane, we’re not ranking as well. There are several clinics in Brisbane and it’s 90 minutes away from my client’s clinic.
But we’re trying. Doorway pages don’t take long to setup once you have a good model, so it’s worth a shot to see what happens.
If we really wanted to boost the authority of the Brisbane page to rank it better, we’d have to aggressively build links. As of yet, we haven’t invested the immense resources to do that.
Strategy 2: Faux Office Locations
The method described above will help you rank your website in another city. The “faux office” method described here will help you rank both your website AND a Google Business page in another city.
In order to get a Google Business page in the city your targeting, you must have a physical address in that city, preferably in the city center or the area with the densest population. You can get a physical address 1 of 2 ways:
Note that it can’t be a PO Box; it’s got to be a brick and mortar location with an address Google can find on its map.
Regarding the Regis Option
According to online marketing specialist Randy Kirk:
“Google is catching on to the Regis deal, although that loop hole is not closed yet. It still works.
The better option is to do a friendly swap or “rent” space from a business partner who has a physical brick and mortar office in the city you’re targeting. We’ve used this “rental” agreement strategy to help a law firm rank in 6 different cities. I even know one company that found retailers to rent them an address for $50/month.”
For business professionals like lawyers, realtors, dentists and other medical practitioners, it’s common to have multiple professionals working from the same physical office location. Therefore, each person can claim and optimize their own Google business page and have a chance to rank in the local 7-pack listings.
But it doesn’t work with everyone.
I have a client who operates an Affordable IVF clinic on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, Australia. Recently, they started offering the same affordable IVF services out of their full service clinic in Bundaberg, a city over 3 hours away. Even though the Affordable IVF business is a completely separate business (with a different name) than the full service clinic, Google would not allow me to setup a Google Business page for Affordable IVF in Bundaberg unless my client either:
Getting back to our dentist example, I’d ask my client if he knew a non-competing dentist (like a pediatric dentist or orthodontist) in Beaverton that he could “rent” office space from. Just enough space to get his name on the door!
Through all appearances, it would look like our Portland dentist had now setup shop in Beaverton as a secondary office. Once we have the physical address in Beaverton, we can claim and optimize a Google Business page for that location with the intent of trying to rank it for keywords like “dentist Beaverton.”
We’d also need to add the Beaverton address to his website and begin getting citations and reviews for that second office to help it rank.
With regard to the “faux” office option, you might be thinking, “Well, this approach seems shady and misleading.” I’d call it “marketing,” but you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Certainly, if you operate a business that serves customers at their location like a locksmith, steam cleaner, or home inspector, you have no choice but to employ one of these tactics if you want to rank organically and attract business in other cities you serve.
Or course, you could always run a pay-per-click ad campaign to target the city you want to target. That’s what Google would like you to do!
I haven’t seen anyone get “penalized” for employing either of the two strategies described here. Worst case, you just won’t rank and you will have invested time and money into something that did not bear any fruit.
The real risks are with consumers and those are twofold:
Every business is different and we always discuss the ethics of what we’re doing before we do it. If you’re an attorney or real estate agent and can conduct business over the phone, these approaches may be completely practical and good for your business.
However, if you customers need to come see you at your office, you’ll have to decide how aggressive you want to be as a marketer. Different businesses are willing to take different risks to grow, so if you want to do it, we can help you.
Businesses that see customers at their location such as a chiropractor, doctor, or dentist are the ones who will need to weigh the risk more carefully before deciding to invest.
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