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How to Think About Them for SEO



Everything that is man-made is knowable.

That includes the Google algorithm.

But that doesn’t mean the algorithm is known.

In the 20+ years, I’ve been doing SEO, I’ve seen thousands of theories around how the search engine algorithms work – specifically Google’s algorithm.

Everyone from Ivy League PhDs to street smart elementary school dropouts search for a silver bullet – a trick or technique that will allow a website to rank for any keyword or topic desired.

I’ve seen some SEO professionals find things that work for a time.

I’ve seen black hats seemingly rank at-will for anything they want – for a time.

But the tricks never work for long.

I’ve never been a fan of silver bullets or manipulative tricks to rank for specific terms or topics.

I don’t believe that SEO is rocket science.

There are those that would have you believe if you can just plug the right numbers into a mathematical formula, you’ll be able to rank.

The problem is those numbers are constantly in flux – and if Google sees that someone has figured out how to mathematically manipulate their system, they change the numbers.

Let’s face it, when we try to reverse engineer Google algorithm, no matter how smart we are, we are akin to someone trying to find a specific red dot in a Jackson Pollock painting while blindfolded.

No, SEO isn’t rocket science.

It’s more like plumbing.

You don’t need to understand how to build a sewer system, you just need to understand how the pipes work and be willing to get your hands dirty while working hard.

The Rise of the Baby Algorithm

Earlier this month at Pubcon, Google’s Gary Illyes said something that validated my current thinking around rankings in general.

Illyes said:

“We have probably millions of baby algorithms and they act differently. They might do something that triggers more crawls on certain sites. It solely depends on the algo and what it’s trying to do.”

In other words, what works in Google for one topic may not work for other topics.

Each topic might have its own “baby algorithm.”

That means that the ranking criteria for keywords around mortgage topics will be different from the ranking criteria for recipes.

This makes sense to anyone optimizing for topics in multiple verticals.

There is no overarching, unified tactic that will definitively get any site to rank for a topic.

What works in vertical may very well flop in another.

The confirmation of many different Google algorithms by Illyes solidifies that adage that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy in modern SEO.

Modern SEO is tried and true best practices coupled with marketing nuance and hours and hours of testing.

SEO as Fishing

I love metaphors.

When I heard Illyes talk about baby algorithms – it wasn’t cute cuddly infants that came to my mind.

It was ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

And fish.

In my mind’s eye, I saw a vast interactive landscape filled with thousands of varied bodies of water.

In each pond were different types of fish.

The ponds that held bass didn’t have sharks – the sharks were in the bigger bodies of water.

Lots of folks were casting lines into the ponds.

Some of these folks were using the wrong bait.

Some folks were trying to catch sharks with worms while others tried to catch bass with large squid.

Periodically, a fishing guide would help a fisherman by suggesting a different bait – or moving them to another pond that had the type of fish they were looking for.

What can I say, I have a vivid imagination.

Of course, in this metaphor, the bodies of water are the aforementioned baby algorithms.

The fish are potential leads or customers.

The guides are SEO professionals.

If you’ve done much fishing, you know that the right bait and the right placement can determine success or failure.

The same goes for SEO.

Some of the baby algorithms Illyes refers to appear to be more sensitive to technical SEO aspects.

Some of these baby algorithms respond best to great content.

Some are more prone to rank sites with solid backlink profiles.

The trick to not just to understand what is working in the baby algorithm where you are “fishing”, but to be able to find the right baby algorithm body of water.

You won’t catch freshwater fish in the ocean.

And you won’t get customers for a mortgage company if you are trying to optimize for a travel-based baby algorithm.

There are plenty of people out there that can catch fish without a guide.

If you are dropping a line in a well-stocked pond, it’s hard not to catch a fish.

But in SEO, there aren’t very many well-stocked ponds and the competition among fishermen can be brutal.

That’s where the SEO comes in.

Think of an SEO as the fishing guide who can understand what types of fish lurk in each body of water.

SEO professionals also understand the bait to use to catch particular fish.

A good SEO will move you from a baby algorithm pond to the baby algorithm ocean if you need to catch sharks.

SEO professionals may not know each individual baby algorithm, but experience has taught them how to find the right place and use the right bait for each type of fish – even if it may take some trial and error to land the right combination of bait and location.

Just throwing a line into a pond won’t work for most companies.

Sure, you might get lucky and catch a few small fish.

I’ve fished a lot in my life, and I can tell you when I can afford a good fishing guide, I hire one.

I will always catch more fish with a guide than on my own.

In SEO, if you don’t know the right bait or the right body of water to cast your line in, you need a guide.

Good SEO professionals are those guides – we find the right baby algorithm and right bait for our company or our clients to catch the fish they need to feed their loved ones.

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Image Credit

Featured Image: Unsplash / Modified by author, October 2019

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See the ‘top signals’ informing your Google Ads bidding strategies



Google’s smart bidding strategies use a host of signals to inform bids with each auction. Now, Google is starting to show which signals are driving performance to optimize bids for people more or less likely to convert.

Top signals. The signals shown might include device type, location, day of week, time of day, keywords, remarketing and Customer Match lists and potentially some other signals. You might also see combinations of signals such as time and keyword. Signals in red are less likely to convert in that strategy, while signals in green are more likely to convert.

(Click to enlarge.) Top signals for portfolio bidding strategies now show in Google Ads.

Where to see top signals reporting. The top signals will show in the bid strategy report. Keep in mind, that report is only available for portfolio bid strategies. The bid strategy report is located from Tools > Shared Library > Bid Strategies. Then select a portfolio strategy.

Google said it will show for Target CPA and Maximize conversions on Search, but you may be able to see top signals for other portfolio strategies. The example above is just for eCPC, in fact.

Why we care. Understanding which contextual signals have particular influence on your automated bidding can give you insights into your target customers and potentially inform your strategy. For example, if you see a keyword being “down signaled,” it may just be a poor match for that particular bid strategy, or perhaps there are ad or landing page optimizations you could make to improve its likelihood to convert.

You might also see trends that can inform other marketing efforts such as email send times. The screenshot above, for example, shows weekends are a strong signal. That could be a good time to test email flights rather than on weekdays.

More about pay-per-click advertising

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day to day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin writes about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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Google’s ‘Duplex on the web’ enables the Assistant to buy movie tickets for you



Google is making it possible to use the Assistant (via Duplex) to buy movie tickets online. Back in May at Google I/O, the company announced that it was expanding the AI-powered Duplex beyond restaurant reservations to booking rental cars and buying movie tickets.

Duplex on the web. Called “Duplex on the web,” users will be able to use the Google Assistant for new reservations and purchase categories. Movies is the latest example.

As shown below, Android users in the U.S. or U.K. can ask the Assistant for movie showtimes or search movies in the Google app. The Assistant will then lead searchers through a “buy tickets” process that involves theater selection, movie times and, if available, seat selection. A saved payment card needs to be in Chrome to work in this case.

Expanding to many more categories. It’s not clear that users will prefer this process to manually booking tickets. However, it illustrates how Google is bringing the sophistication of its Duplex technology to the broader mobile internet.

It’s also not clear how much back end integration needs to be done by publishers to enable this; I suspect not that much. Regardless, I’m sure Google has a roadmap that extends to many other categories where online scheduling, reservations and basic transactions are involved.

Rand Fishkin has been speaking, including at SMX East, about how Google has evolved from “everyone’s search engine to everyone’s competitor” and the SEO implications of this. My view is a bit different.

Why we should care. Google has now talked repeatedly about “helping users get things done in search and with the Google Assistant. This is about making search more transactional and owning the transaction. Google is doing this in shopping and across the board in local (e.g., food ordering).

Google is trying to remove friction and compress the process between search and a sale. It’s handing that process off much less and less to third parties and site owners. This helps Google 1) improve the consumer experience, 2) keep users within its system, 3) create a closed loop for analytics and 4) generate fees or revenue from commerce, which has implications for smart speakers.

If these capabilities (i.e., Duplex on the web) take off, publishers and brands will need to be partnered or integrated with Google actions/services or risk losing the transaction to a competitor. It will also mean that Google owns the customer.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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Google Search Console adds Product results filters to performance report



Google announced it has added new filters to the performance report within Google Search Console to show you how well your product results are doing in search. Google now captures and displays click and impression data when rich results display based on your use of product rich results markup.

The report. Find this data under the Performance report by clicking on “search appearance” and then on “product results.” You’ll see clicks and impressions and can further segment by device, geography and queries.

What it looks like. Here is a screen shot of the report:

What is a product rich result? Below is a screenshot of what a product rich result looks like, but you can learn more about this in this developer document. Product rich results typically show product ratings, price, availability and some description information. Note that product rich results are not new, just the report in Search Console.

An example of a product rich result in Google search results.

Why we care. The more data the better for SEOs and publishers, and this gives us more granular data on the impact of us adding product rich result markup to our pages. Google said this will show you how much traffic comes from experiences with rich data like price and availability and how does shopping traffic change over time, and the shopping search queries your website shows.

About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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