The second we started this interview I knew it was going to be one for the history books! Marty is a creative, imaginative, strategic thinker AND technical in how he understands data, and the intersection of people with search engines – top it off with years of experience helping companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Square and more with his company Aimclear
Some of the topics we discussed!
The value of BRAND searches as “lakefront property”
Marketing “unknown unknown” disruptive products
Keywords vs Psychographics
Why you need to use keywords in your social creative
How to tell who is searching certain keywords
How to leverage the cyclical nature of search
Do facebook ads help rankings?
How to build links through paid social
And questions from Twitter!
(Quick note: you may notice a slight difference in audio quality on this episode. It’s still very listenable, but my audio interface died and we had to use Skype call recorder for this one.it will be back to normal soon!)
BuzzSumo – One of my favorite tools for coming up with content ideas, finding people who share content in an industry, and tons more (like alerts to keep an eye on your competitor’s links). Also, check out their new Question Analyzer Tool (formally Bloomberry!) Listen to the show for a special code to get 30% off BuzzSumo for 3 months.
Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.
SubCat content is the first born child of it’s parent; category content. Ranking SubCategories is almost as important as Categories in that the search volume opportunities are likely less, but the commercial intent will be greater.
Content-based resources may sound a bit redundant, and it probably is, but I needed a way to represent that these kinds of resources contain more than just lists of stats, or historical timeline type stuff (think Wikipedia) and instead are more representative of higher-end production, both in terms of research but also aesthetics.
For the purposes of content for Ecommerce, there are 2 flavors of content-based resources:
Content-Based Resources for Outreach
Content-based resources for outreach are those that are unlikely to rank on their own; think infographics and big interactive web experiences. The nuance here is these kinds of resources exist to build links, but those links must be built by pitching and promoting the underlying asset.
Content-based resources for SEO are pages built to acquire traffic (and links) organically, i.e. they don’t require outreach to begin performing both in search engines but also in terms of link acquisition.
The best way to think about this style of ecommerce content is to think about how many people do research for resources and use Google to find references to cite and link to (to back up their claims).
Solution-focused posts deliver recommendations or provide answers to common problems or frustrations within your niche. These are the true definition of “funnel content” as they often represent keyword targeting at a specific stage in the funnel.
What’s important to remember here is that your customers problems can arise as any stage in the conversion funnel, top (no commercial consideration), middle (awareness and decision phase), and the bottom (price shopping and ready to purchase).
When this type of content is being designed, the focus should be on blowing out your on-page SEO to get these pages to rank for as many relevant and related terms as possible.
Trending news is not something you usually think about when it comes to creating strategic content for your ecommerce website, however, it can be a great source of short term rankings and traffic and lead to a significant bump in links if syndicated or mentioned in press outlets piggybacking off your research.
Scholarships are a popular way to get high trust .EDU links. Now scholarship link building is not what it once was.. and we have even seen some Google Search Console warnings for “unnatural links” for sites going to hard with their .EDU link building campaigns, but if your brand is big enough – this can still be a great way to land links from the thousands of pages on the internet that link to scholarship offers.
After Google publicly slammed guest posting via Matt Cutts in January of 2014 many SEO’s abandoned the practice immediately.
To offer some insight from real world, in the trenches experience; it’s not dead – thin, craptastic guest posting is dead.
Guest posting, i.e. publishing posts on 3rd party websites, when done using hyper-relevant content for hyper-focused audiences not only is still a wonderfully effective way of building links, but of acquiring qualified traffic.
Below are some examples of putting in the time to write relevant content for the publishers audience, and linking to resources that are also relevant to the topic.
This is a case study involving dejanseo.com.au domain and impact of link disavow file removal on its vulnerability to ongoing algorithm updates. Our reasoning for this test was that brands “Dejan SEO”, “Dejan Marketing” and domain “dejanseo.com.au” had enough recognition and organic link authority that a few weird links couldn’t possibly harm its status in search results.
We observe over a year worth of Algoroo SERP flux data against the Search Console position data for “SEO”.
23 May 2017: Deleted link disavow file
07 January 2018: Multi-week update. Impact: Negative
21 February 2018: Unknown update. Impact: Negative
09 March 2018: Multi-Day update. Impact: Positive
01 April 2018: Unknown update. Impact: Positive
25 April 2018: Unknown update. Impact: Positive
24 May 2018: Unknown update. Impact: Penalty-Level Event
10 July 2018: Uploaded new link disavow file
3 August 2018: Core algorithm update. Impact: Recovery-Level Event
Between disavow file removal and June 2018, no content or layout changes were made. We conducted one content test in the first week of June (with zero impact).
It appears that some core algorithm updates at Google changed how they evaluate link signals and in the absence of link disavow file, our rankings were a roller-coaster.
The key event was the 24 May update which caused a massive drop. No other convincing reasons were found other than some questionable links in our otherwise organic link profile.
At this point I’m inclined to think that link disavow file did its job and provided a convincing partial recovery with the last core algorithm update.
Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.
In addition, I’ll share an exciting development I discovered; a workaround to still use Keyword Planner like you used to.
Keyword Planner Workaround
This workaround will allow you to still use Keyword Planner without having to run an AdWords campaign (yes, you read that correctly – there’s a workaround that let’s you still use Keyword planner without inputting any billing information).
This was shared with me by one of my master keyword research customers, Andrew McWhaw.
But – since SEO’s can’t have nice things, and I would like for this to continue to work – I’m not going to share it publicly.
UPDATE: Reports are that the workaround has already been shutdown by Google.
Onto the other alternative tools you can use.
Free Keyword Tools (with account)
The following keyword tools are free to use, and deliver some real value – though some advanced features may require a paid account.
Not only will you need to create a free account to get any of the keyword data with this tool, but to unlock the real power here you’ll have to also verify your account either by phone or SMS (both automated) – but it’s still free. From there it may take 1 business day for them to manually verify your account – but again, it’s not that bad for free data.
Once in you’re limited to 10 results per query and 50 queries per month.
A free keyword idea generator that includes functionality for positive and negative filtering as well as an option to download essentially unlimited results. I also published a guide on how I’m going to rank for keyword tool.
Wonderful (pun intended) tool that scrapes Google for people also ask and people asl search for results, and then pulls back the average monthly search volume, average cost per click, and ad competitiveness, all of which can be selected as you desire and quickly (almost instantly) downloaded into a CSV.
It’s as free Chrome Extension that adds keyword search volume and CPC data right on the screen for other tools including Google Search Results pages, Google Analytics, UberSuggest, Soovle, Answer the Public, Keyword Shitter, Majestic anchors and MOZ’s Open Site Explorer.
Easily one of my favorite features of this tool is the list builder. This is functionality that TermExplorer’s latest version also has (but is paid only) and I find really useful for building targeted term and topic lists quickly.
Just an FYI – you’ll get a modal window asking you to create an account (still free) but you can close it by clicking the “no thank you” gray linked text at the bottom.
Another decent tool that you can dive right into, like keyword.io it also lets you build a list of saved keywords and export to CSV – my only gripe is the dataset is very limited – likely due to either 1) an smaller index overall or 2) a limited index for free users.
Paid Keyword Tools
The following keyword tools provide results in some limited form without payment, but provide pretty much no useful data for free. With that said, I’ve paid for each of these tools at some point in the past and did find them each to offer their own unique value.
What initially caught my attention about this tool was the individual scraped indexes from both YouTube, Amazon, and the AppStore – and while other tools now boast similar data, this is still my go to source for AppStore keyword research.
In addition, it has a built-in “questions” feature that’s wonderful for digging into TOFU topic content.
Wordtracker definitely has some cool features, my favorite of which is probably KEI. The only issue I have with the tool is the data seems to be sort of stale.. maybe it’s daily data they’re reporting on which is why all the volume estimates always seem low; but it’s not clear.. which is my only gripe.
If you’re an SEO Consultant (or work with one) maybe you struggle with things like:
charging project vs hourly
how much to charge
dealing with difficult clients
how to acquire clients and sell SEO
problems with “snake oil” SEO selling
how to stand out in the SEO industry
how to grow from a solo consultant into scaling an agency
Marie and I chatted about these struggles and much more on today’s show.
BuzzSumo – One of my favorite tools for coming up with content ideas, finding people who share content in an industry, and tons more (like alerts to keep an eye on your competitor’s links). Also, check out their new Question Analyzer Tool (formally Bloomberry – just launched within BuzzSumo!) Listen to the show for a special code to get 30% off BuzzSumo for 3 months.
Related Episodes You Might Like
Show Agenda and Timestamps
Show Introduction [0:19]
Marie’s introduction [1:23]
How Marie got into SEO [1:30]
Does Marie believe it is important that people associate her with Penguin and Panda? [5:23]
How to do SEO services well [6:44]
Is Marie trying to move beyond the perception of being the Penguin and Panda expert? [10:40]
Twitter Question: Client Aquisition and combatting the promise of #1 Google ranking spam emails [12:00]
Marie’s guest posting secret [15:55]
Dan’s optimizing LinkedIn profile advice [16:59]
Twitter Question: How do you talk about successes (or failures/learnings!) without breaching client confidentiality? [18:43]
BuzzSumo Sponsor Break with Discount Code [21:34]
How does Marie respond to people that say SEO is too expensive [22:27]
How does Marie feel about giving away things for free to land a client [29:20]
Twitter Question: Pros and Cons of consulting on an hourly basis versus retainers versus packages? [34:55]
How does Marie think about pricing the projects and packages? [36:47]
Does Marie increase prices for longterm clients? [38:40]
Twitter Question: Ideal ways to establish billing processes? [39:53]
Twitter Question: Any useful advice when you have completed your keyword research, the process of mapping tons of keywords into the content of a page for SEO 2018 best practice? [43:08]
Twitter Question: When you’re diving into a successful SEO project that’s already thriving, where is the BEST place to begin so that you add value and “do no harm”? [46:20]
Twitter Question: How to explain the amount of time spent on work and how different projects vary. [48:10]
Has there been an instance where Marie was unable to help a client recover from a penalty and how does she deal with charging for that work? [50:10]
Twitter Question: How much reporting is enough (or too much)? [52:50]
Twitter Question: Keeping your cool with some of the worst clients (and people) you’ll ever meet. [54:20]
When did Marie make her first hire and why did she decide to start hiring? [58:12]
Twitter Question: What to look for in staff hires and what does Marie’s interview process look like? [59:47]
Are their certain attributes Marie looks for in a potential new hire? [1:01:25]
Twitter Question: How to Scale Your Agency & Train New People [1:03:23]
How does Marie deliver work to clients? [1:05:12]
How much time do Marie and her team spending doing phone calls and meetings with clients? [1:07:54]
Twitter Question: What’s the best advice you can give to someone starting out? [1:08:52]
There are some other pages about Google Ranking Signals that don’t consider up-to-date information or sometimes use questionable critical thinking to argue that some of the signals that they include are actually something that Google considers. I’ve been blogging about patents from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple since 2005, and have been exploring what those might say are ranking signals for over a decade.
Representatives from Google have stated that “Just because we have a patent on something, doesn’t mean we are using it.” The first time I heard them say that was after Go Daddy started advertising domain registrations of up to 10 years, because one Google patent (Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data) said that they might look at length of domain registration as a ranking signal, based on the thought that a “spammer would likely only register a domain for a period of one year.” (but actually, many people register domains for one year, and have their registrations on auto-renewal, so a one-year registration is not evidence that a person registering a domain for just one year is a spammer.).
I’ve included some ranking signals that are a little older, but most of the things I’ve listed are from the past five years, often with blog posts I’ve written about Google rankings, and patents that go with them. This list is a compilation of blog posts that I have been working on for years, taking many hours of regular searching through patent filings, and reading blog posts from within the Search and SEO industries, and reading through many patents that I didn’t write about, and many that I have. If you have questions about any of the signals I’ve listed, please ask about them in the comments.
Some of the patents I have blogged about have not been implemented by Google yet but could be. A company such as Google files a patent to protect the intellectual property behind their ideas, the work that their search engineers and testing teams put into those ideas. It is worth looking at, reading, and understanding many of these patents because they provide some insights into ideas that Google may have explored when developing Google rankings, and they may give you ideas of things that you may want to explore, and questions to keep in mind when you are working on optimizing a site. Patents are made public to inspire people to innovate and invent and understand new ideas and inventions.
I have added a section to this post that covers Additional Ranking Signals, after realizing that I missed at least one that I thought was really worth including, and anticipating adding more to this page. At some point in time, I may have to create a part 2 to this post, but I will decide that when it seems to make sense to do that.
Organic Search Google Ranking Signals
Organic Ranking Signals can impact and influence the order of pages appearing in Web-based search results. Those are the search results that aren’t narrowed down into more specific niches such as News or Local. Chances are that News Results and Local Results are influenced by different ranking signals than most other organic results, and understanding the differences can be helpful when you try to increase the visibility of sites in search results. It isn’t unusual to see Organic search results blended with non-organic search results because of Google’s Approach to Universal search and their use of a one box at the top of search results. This means that there may be a number of different ranking signals types being used for any one query. You may also see sites that focus upon providing informational results and transactional results for a query as well also blended together.
1. Domain Age and Rate of Linking
Google does have a patent called Document scoring based on document inception date, in which they tell us that they will often use the date that they first crawl a site or the first time they see a document referenced in another site, as the age of that site. The patent also tells us that Google may look at the links pointed to a site, and calculate what the average rate of links pointed to a site may be and use that information to rank a site, based upon that linking.
Action items: Create evergreen content that people will find value in over time, and continue to link to. As people continue to link to it, Google will continue to see value in that content.
2. Use of Keywords
Matt Cutts wrote a newsletter for librarians in which he explained how Google crawled the web, making an inverted index of the Web with terms found on Documents from the Web that it would match up with query terms when people performed searches. It shows us the importance of Keywords in queries and how Google finds words that contain those keywords as an important part of performing searches. A copy of that newsletter can be found here: https://www.analistaseo.es/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/How-Google-Index-Rank.pdf
Action items: Perform keyword research for every page of a site, and make sure that you use the keywords you have mapped out to specific pages upon those pages in important parts of the pages, such as the page titles, main headings, anchor text pointed to the pages, body content on the page. There doesn’t need to be a specific percentage of usage on the page, but you need to include the keywords you have selected for a page to have the page rank for that term or phrase. Do
audience and keyword research, and use keywords that your targeted audience will use to search for your pages, and expect to see on your site.
3. Related Phrases
Google Recently updated its first phrase-based indexing patent, which tells us in its claims that pages with more related phrases on them rank higher than pages with less related phrases on them. That patent is: Phrase-based searching in an information retrieval system. Related phrases are phrases that are complete phrases that may predict the topic a page it appears upon is about. Google might look at the queries that a page is optimized for, and look at the highest ranking pages for those query terms, and see which meaningful complete phrases frequently occur (or co-occur) on those high ranking pages.
Action Items: Look up the query terms that you have mapped out to pages on your site, and identify the most commonly occurring phrases on those pages. Consider adding some of those to your pages, so that you capture semantic themes that happen on those pages. You can use some of those phrases as anchor text where appropriate, which will have the impact of acting as if they are expert links from your pages. Don’t imitate the pages you find related words upon, but be inspired by them.
Techniques are disclosed that locate implicitly defined semantic structures in a document, such as, for example, implicitly defined lists in an HTML document. The semantic structures can be used in the calculation of distance values between terms in the documents. The distance values may be used, for example, in the generation of ranking scores that indicate a relevance level of the document to a search query.
If a list in page has a heading on it, the items in that list are all considered to be an equal distance away from the list. The words contained under the main heading on a page are all considered to be an equal distance away from that main heading. All of the words on a page are considered to be an equal distance away from the title to that page. So, a page that is titled “Ford” which has the word “motors” on that page is considered to be relevant for the phrase “Ford Motors.” Here is an example of how that semantic closeness works with a heading and a list:
Action Items: Make Sure that titles, main headings, and headings for lists on pages are descriptive of the content they head, and include keywords and related phrases that fit in with the content on the pages that they appear upon.
The load time of an online resource can be based on a statistical measure of a sample of load times for a number of different types of devices that the page or resource might be viewed upon.
A page may contain video or images or audio, and a watch time for those may make a difference too. Here’s a screenshot from the patent showing some examples:
Action Items: Keep on eye on the watch times reported upon for videos that you make to see if people stop watching them early, and identify where they might stop watching those. Make changes to make watching full videos something that people do.
The patent tells us that it may look at words that have more than one meaning in knowledge bases (such as a bank, which could mean a building money is stored in, or the ground on one side of a river, or what a plane does when it turns in the air.) The search engine may take terms from that knowledge base that show what meaning was intended and collect them as “Context Terms” and it might look for those context terms when indexing pages those words are on so that it indexes the correct meaning.
Action Items: Visit knowledge base pages about the specific meanings of words, and find terms on those pages that might give your pages about the same meanings of those words more context. For example. if you are writing about Jaguars, and it could be the Jacksonville Jaguars, the breed of Cat, or the Apple Operating system, make sure to use words that help explain the context of the meaning of Jaguars that you have intended to write about. Getting that context right can help the search engine to know what you meant when you optimized your page for that term.
8. Language Models Using Ngrams
Google may give pages quality scores based upon language models created from those pages when it looks at the ngrams on the pages of a site. This is similar to the Google Book Ngram Viewer.
The closer the quality score for a page is to a high-quality page from a training set, the higher the page may rank.
Action Items: Creating content that is high quality should become a priority. That may require hiring experienced copywriters or proofreaders or the use of editing programs such as Grammarly or Hemingway.
Here is an ngram analysis using a well-known phrase, with 5 words in it:
The quick brown fox jumps
quick brown fox jumps over
brown fox jumps over the
fox jumps over the lazy
jumps over the lazy dog
Ngrams from a complete page might be collected like that, and from a collection of good pages and bad pages, to build language models (and Google has done that with a lot of books, as we see from the Google Ngram Viewer covering a very large collection of books.) It would be possible to tell which pages are gibberish from such a set of language models. This Gibberish content patent also mentions a keyword stuffing score that it would try to identify.
Action Items: Google has been performing ngram analysis on lots and lots of books and documents. There are programs that will spit out gibberish that you can purchase, or you can hire someone to produce content for you, but chances are good that Google and visitors to your site will be able to recognize low-quality content, and that may cause Google to consider your site to be low quality, and not rank it highly. If you have quality content, people may find value in it, and return to your pages, and refer others to your site.
If they do, the authoritative results may be merged into the original results. The way it describes authoritative results:
In general, an authoritative site is a site that the search system has determined to include particularly trusted, accurate, or reliable content. The search system can distinguish authoritative sites from low-quality sites that include resources with shallow content or that frequently include spam advertisements. Whether the search system considers a site to be authoritative will typically be query-dependent. For example, the search system can consider the site for the Centers for Disease Control, “cdc.gov,” to be an authoritative site for the query “cdc mosquito stop bites,” but may not consider the same site to be authoritative for the query “restaurant recommendations”. A search result that identifies a resource on a site that is authoritative for the query may be referred to as an authoritative search result.
Action Items: Google has been publishing Quality Raters Guidelines where they define what they mean by such terms as Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It can be really helpful to go through those guidelines and understand what they mean by those terms. They do update those guidelines on an occasional basis, and it is worth keeping an eye out for when a new version comes out, so you can keep aware of any changes they may make to those.
11. How Well Databases Answers Match Queries
This patent doesn’t seem to have been implemented yet. But it might, and is worth thinking about.
If they are, it might rank results from those sites higher. The patent also shows us that it might include the database results from such sites within Google Search results. If you start seeing that happening, you will know that Google decided to implement this patent. Here is the screenshot from the patent:
Action Items: Google doesn’t appear to be using this patent yet, but they could. It ranks sites (potentially large site such as job sites and travel sites) on the databases that supply answers to visitors of those sites. If the answers it returns are to queries that are similar to the queries that users of a search engine perform, then the sites those databases are on will rank higher. You can get a sense of the questions that people may ask using Google’s keyword prediction tool. It is impossible to tell whether or not Google will implement this patent, but it is possible.
It tells us about a transition rank that Google may assign to a site where they see activity that might be suspicious, such as keyword stuffing. Instead of improving the ranks of pages, they might decrease them, or rerank them randomly. The motivation behind it appears to be to have those people making changes to do more drastic things. The patent tells us:
Implementations consistent with the principles of the invention may rank documents based on a rank transition function. The ranking based on the rank transition function may be used to identify documents that are subjected to rank-modifying spamming. The rank transition may provide confusing indications of the impact on rank in response to rank-modifying spamming activities. Implementations consistent with the principles of the invention may also observe spammers’ reactions to rank changes to identify documents that are actively being manipulated.
Action Items: Learn about the Google Webmaster Guidelines, and avoid doing things that Google might consider to be manipulative. If you make changes to your site to try to improve the SEO of the site, and you don’t see any impact from those changes, don’t panic, and don’t take any actions that Google might perceive to be negative.
13. Popularity Scores for Events
Might Google rank pages about events higher based upon how popular it might perceive that event to be? I wrote the post Ranking Events in Google Search Results about the patent Ranking events which told us about popularity of an event being something that would make a difference. The following Screenshot from the patent shows some of the signals that go into determining a popularity score for an event:
Some patents provide a list of the “Advantages” of following a process in the patent, as does this one:
The following advantages are described by the patent in following the approach it describes.
Events in a given location can be ranked so that popular or interesting events can be easily identified.
The ranking can be adjusted to ensure that highly-ranked events are diverse and different from one another.
Events matching a variety of event criteria can be ranked so that popular or interesting events can be easily identified.
The ranking can be provided to other systems or services that can use the ranking to enhance the user experience. For example, a search engine can use the ranking to identify the most popular events that are relevant to a received search query and present the most popular events to the user in response to the received query.
A recommendation engine can use the ranking to provide information identifying popular or interesting events to users that match the users’ interests.
Action Items: The things mentioned in the patent drawing are worth paying attention to Times mentioned, Page selections (in search results), entity popularity, ranking score, venue score. Finding ways of increasing those things might help increase how your event may rank in search results.
14.The Amount of Weight from a Link is Based on the Probability of Clicks On It
I came across an update to the reasonable surfer patent, which focused more upon anchor text used in links than the earlier version of the patent, and told us that the amount of weight (PageRank) that might pass through a link was based upon the likelihood that someone might click upon that link.
identifying: context relating to one or more words before or after the links, words in anchor text associated with the links, and a quantity of the words in the anchor text, the weight being determined based on whether the particular feature data corresponds to the stored feature data associated with the one or more links or whether the particular feature data corresponds to the stored feature data associated with the one or more other links, the rank being generated based on the weight; identifying, by the one or more devices, documents associated with a search query, the documents, associated with the search query, including the particular document; and providing, by the one or more devices, information associated with the particular document based on: the search query, and the generated rank.
Action Items: When you find ways to link to other pages, the more likely it is that someone may click on those links, the more weight those links will likely pass along. One of my favorite pages on linking is one that focuses upon User Experience because it aims at creating links that people will find value in clicking upon. The post is Getting Confidence From Lincoln, about using the right trigger works as anchor text in a link and giving confidence that they will find what they are looking for on your pages. Placing links in places such as footers instead of in the main content of a page may also be something that could give them less confidence about clicking through, and decrease the likelihood that they will.
Action Items: How people react to seeing your site in search results may have an impact, as described in this patent. Even if this patent isn’t implemented, having people respond positively to seeing your site in search results could increase the numbers of people clicking through to those results. So make sure that your page titles and snippets (meta descriptions that contain the query terms your page is found for) are engaging and persuasive. Finding ways to have those snippets be rich ones can also increase and improve satisfaction with people seeing your page in search results. Target that as a goal for your site.
Rand Fishkin sent me a message saying that his experience has been that clicks were counting as ranking signals, but he was also seeing thresholds of around 500 clicks before clicks would make a difference. It’s difficult to tell with some signals, especially when Google makes statements about them not being signals in use.
And Rand responded about what I said in the post about thresholds as well:
Action Items: There are a few ways to potentially improve click-throughs to your site. These can include making your titles and your snippets more persuasive, and engaging. Making sure that site links show for your site in search results. Making sure that a knowledge panel might show for your site. Building your brand to be one that people recognize and look forward to seeing something from.
17. Site Quality Scores
If you search for “seobythesea named entities” it is a signal that you have an expectation that you can find information about named entities on the site seobythesea.com.
If you do a site operator search such as “site:http://www.seobythesea.com named entities” you again are showing that you expect to be able to find information about a particular topic on this site. These are considered queries that refer to a particular site.
They are counted against queries that are considered to be associated with a particular site. So, if there are more referring queries than associated queries, the quality score for a site is higher.
The site quality score for a site can be used as a signal to rank resources or to rank search results that identify resources, that are found in one site relative to resources found in another site.
Action Items: If your site can be perceived as one where people can find answers to questions that they may have in your industry, it may be targeted by queries that are intended to find information about specific topics, as if people might have expectations that they can find information or answers on your site. That is the sign of a high-quality site that this patent aims at uncovering. So, look for the kinds of questions that people who might be in your audience may want to know more about, and work on answering the questions they may have, or writing about topics that have an interest in. The more you are capable of doing that the higher the quality of your site might appear to be.
18. Disambiguating People
Like the patent about covering terms with more than one meaning by including context terms on their pages, when you write about people who may share a name with someone else, if they are also on sites such as Wikipedia, and disambiguated entries, make sure you include context terms on your page that makes it easier to tell which person you are writing about.
Action Items: If you are going to write about a person, search to make sure there aren’t other people with the same name on the Web, and if there are include information about them that makes it easy for a search engine and visitors to understand which person you are writing about. You could include person schema on that page that helps to identify which person your page is about as well.
19. Effectiveness and Affinity
If you search for something on a phone such as a song, and you have a music app on that phone that has that song upon it, Google may tell you what the song you are searching for is, and that you can access it on the app that you have loaded on your phone.
Action Items: There may still be value in using places such as Google+ and Twitter to share and show off your expertise on specific topics that you may be known for and connected to other people on those networks. Google authorship markup was something that they were showing for people whom they considered to be authoritative on specific topics for. It’s possible that you may not get value for that authoritativeness from search results anymore, but it is possible that word of mouth may still have some value. Google was still holding on to authoritativeness in the patent I wrote about in the post Has Google Decided that you are Authoritative for a Query?. Google still shows that they value expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in the Quality Raters Guidelines, so if you build those traits into the social media sites that you maintain, and that crosses into your website, that may have continuing value.
Google seems to know who said what and has a patent on it.
Action Items: The claims for the patent tell us that they might try to understand whom the entity is from, by looking at Google’s Knowledge Graph, so using Schema to identify that entity might not be a bad idea.
21. Category Duration Visits
Could visits to specific categories of a site have a positive effect on the rankings of those visited sites? We know that people from Google have said that use behavior signals like this tend to be noisy; but what are you to think when the patent I was writing about describes ways to reduce noise from such signals?
Action Items: Finding relevant and meaningful information and images and video that might cause people to stay on a page longer, which can create a positive visitor experience, may be a good idea. We see Google doing this in search results with “People also ask” questions and answers. If people are having their informational and situational need met and having positive experiences on the pages that Google sends them to, that seems to be a positive experience.
22.Repeat Clicks and Visit Durations
I want to believe when Google Spokespeople say that Google doesn’t use click data to rank pages, but I keep on seeing patents from Navneet Panda that Google’s Panda Update was named after which describes user behavior that may have an impact.
Action Item: The Patent tells us that repeat clicks are from when the same people perform the same searches and select the same pages in search results, to return to a page that they had visited before. The patent takes that kind of search behavior as a positive sign, and also long durations of visits on pages as well. Do you have content on your site that people might perform the same searches for, and revisit your pages to get to? It might be worth creating some content like that if Google is going to consider it to be high-quality content.
23 Environmental Information
Google can listen to a television playing, and respond to a question such as “Who is starring in this movie I am watching?
Action Items: I asked Google Now three times this morning if it knew what song was playing on my desktop computer. It didn’t have an answer for me. I keep on trying because I expect that it one day will. It’s impossible to tell when features like this might possibly happen, but interesting seeing when Google might be able to recognize songs you listen to or Movies that you might watch, and I anticipate it will develop an ability to do something like this. Until it does, I plan on testing Google occasionally.
24. Traffic Producing Links
Google might attempt to estimate how much traffic links to a site might bring to that site. If it believes that the links aren’t bringing much traffic, it may discount the value of those links.
Action Items: Pursuing high-quality links to content on your site should ideally target places that might deliver traffic to your site, rather than just link equity. This might work effectively by pitching content to media sources or sharing information about content to places that might consider sharing a link to others. Ideally, a link that delivers traffic would be the best places to receive links from.
Action Items: I was reminded of how John Kleinberg defined burstiness, and how Microsoft came out with a similar patent in the past. Burstiness is a good concept to know if you do SEO.
26. Media Consumption History
If a person has a history of interaction with specific media, such as watching a particular movie or video or listening to a specific song, their searches may be influenced by that media, as I described in Google Media Consumption History Patent Filed.
Action Items: This is another patent that doesn’t appear to have been implemented yet. But thinking of the possibilities of Google featuring celebrities in knowledge panels, which sometimes have advertisements in them, and a possibility of cross-channel advertising, this does seem like something we will see implemented if possible. It’s possible that apps such as Google Lens may be leading in this direction, as well as actions associated with voice searches. Plus Google has patents on things such as Google Cross-Device Tracking and Audio Watermarks.
The claims from the patent were updated to include many mentions of “Geographic Coordinates” which indicated that including Latitude and Longitude information in Schema for a site might not be a bad idea. It’s impossible to say, based upon the patent that they use those signals in ordinary websites that aren’t knowledge base sites like a Wikipedia or an IMDB or Yahoo Finance. But it seemed very reasonable to believe that if they were hoping to see information in that form in those places that it wouldn’t hurt on Web sites that were concerned about their locations as well (especially since knowledge bases seem to be the source of facts for many sites in places such as knowledge panels.)
A post that looks at links pointed to a site, such as from footers of other sites, and might discount those, and links from sites that tend to be redundant, which it may not count more than once is the one at How Google May Classify Sites as Low-Quality Sites.
Action Items: If you have control over the links that are used from one site to another one, reviewing those may be a good idea. The links from Page footers or that appear on every page in redundant ways may have been discounted, and may have very little to no value.
Action Items: Google may become much more aware of what is playing when on television where you live. That awareness may impact what you see when searching for something that may be related to that television content. That may be worth testing and being aware of.
30. Quality Rankings
We know that Google uses Human Raters to evaluate sites. Their rankings of pages may influence the rankings of pages, which I wrote about in the post How Google May Rank Web Sites Based on Quality Ratings The post identifies and explains a few quality signals that might be included in raters evaluations, such as whether it has a broad appeal or a niche appeal, what the click rate or blog subscription rate or PageRank Score might be.
Action Items: I recommended this above, but it fits well here, so I’ll make the same recommendation. Read the Google Quality Raters guidelines about how quality raters review sites. It seems to make sense to understand what they are judging sites on as you build them.
Semantic Search Google Ranking Signals
31. Searches using Structured Data
Google recently published a patent which showed how Structured data in the form of JSON-LD might be used on a page and might cause Google to search for values of attributes of entities described in that structured data, such as what book was published by a certain author during a specific time period. The patent explained how Google could search through the structured data to find answers to a query like that. My post is Google Patent on Structured Data Focuses upon JSON-LD, and the patent it covers is Storing semi-structured data.
Action Items: Visit the Schema.org website and look at some of the example Schemas and the different types of markup examples of those. Also, consider joining the Schema.org community and joining the community mail list. There are Schema extensions which will make schema grow, and being part of the community gives you a chance to be part of that, and to learn about how it happens.
Action Items: it is worth doing some searches for different entities, and seeing what else is included in knowledge panels for those, such as the ones for Tom Hanks and William Shakespeare.
33. Nearby Locations
I stood in front of a statue in my town and asked my phone what the name of the statue in front of me was. It didn’t give me an answer, but I suspect we may see answers to questions like this in the future (and information about stores and restaurants that we might be standing in front of as well. I wrote about how this might work in the post How Google May Interpret Queries Based on Locations and Entities (Tested). It is based upon the patent Interpreting User Queries Based on Nearby Locations. This is worth testing again, I am traveling to Italy in November, and I’m hoping it works for my trip then, so I can ask for reviews of restaurants I might stand in front of when there.
Action Items: Google will keep track of the locations of different entities (points of interest and local entities, such as businesses). It’s worth opening your phone in front of places and asking it if it knows what entity you might be in front of. I know that Google has an idea of what I am near when I take some photos because it asks me if I would like to submit my photos taken at a place or just outside of it, to Google Maps. If Google knows a location for Google Maps, it can know what is at a location for Google Search with some work. We will see how long it takes Google to start returning search results based upon locations.
34. Attributes of Entities
Asking questions about facts from entities such as movies or books, and Google being able to answer such queries is a good reason to make sure Google understands the entities that exist on your web pages. I wrote about such searches in the post How Knowledge Base Entities can be Used in Searches.
Action Items: It is possible to ask questions about books and movies, and facts related to them. and get search results that sometimes search results, and sometimes featured snippets, or carousels. One of the best ways to learn about these may be to ask lots of questions about books and movies, such as “What town did the movie Footloose take place in? or “Who Starred in Barney Miller?
35. Natural Language Search Results
Featured Snippets may be answered from high authority Pages (ranking on the first page for a query) that show the natural language question to be answered, and a good answer to that question. The questions are ones that follow a common pattern for questions ask on the web, such as “What is a good treatment for X?” I wrote about such search results in the post Direct Answers – Natural Language Search Results for Intent Queries.
Action Items: Google Spokespeople have hinted that there have been a few different approaches behind the display of featured snippets. My post and the patent that goes with it is just one approach. There likely are other approaches, and this is an area that is still in its infancy when compared to link-based rankings of search results.
Would you drive an hour away for a slice of pizza? If so, it must be pretty good pizza. The abstract from the patent tells us this:
…the quality measure of a given location may be determined based on the time investment a user is willing to make to visit the given location. For example, the time investment for a given location may be based on a comparison of one or more actual distance values to reach the given location to one or more anticipated distance values to reach the given location.
Action Items: Sometimes Google Maps navigation doesn’t work correctly, and will tell you in the middle of a highway that “You have arrived.” The place you were trying to get to isn’t in sight. Try it with your business and make sure that it is working correctly to get people to your business. Showing up highly in search results in Maps listings is good, but not if Google is losing people trying to get to your door. It’s worth checking upon if you haven’t. It does work correctly most of the time, but not all of the time. If it is having problems getting people to your door, make sure that the directions to your business on your site are very easy to follow, and that signage for your business is easy to see from the street.
37. Reverse Engineering of Spam Detection in Local Results
This patent is slightly different from the Rank modifying spammer’s patent, in that it only applies to local search, and it may keep a spamming site from appearing at all, or appearing if continued activity keeps on setting off flags. As the patent abstract tells us:
A spam score is assigned to a business listing when the listing is received at a search entity. A noise function is added to the spam score such that the spam score is varied. In the event that the spam score is greater than a first threshold, the listing is identified as fraudulent and the listing is not included in (or is removed from) the group of searchable business listings. In the event that the spam score is greater than a second threshold that is less than the first threshold, the listing may be flagged for inspection. The addition of the noise to the spam scores prevents potential spammers from reverse engineering the spam detecting algorithm such that more listings that are submitted to the search entity may be identified as fraudulent and not included in the group of searchable listings.
Action Items: The Google support Page titled Improve your local ranking on Google introduces the things that Google looks at when ranking Local results in Google Maps. A little different way of looking at rankings in Google Maps can be found at Was Google Maps a Proof of Concept for Google’s Knowledge Base Efforts?, which focuses upon structured data. When specific facts about a local entity is spammed, it throws off consistency of those facts.
38. Surprisingness in Business Names in Local Search
This patent targets keyword stuffed business names that include prominent business names to try to confuse the search engine. Examples include such names as “Locksmith restaurant,” and “Courtyard 422 Y st Marriott.”
Action Items: The Google Local Guides program puts feet on the street to answer questions about places with unusual names, which is something that Google didn’t have, and which can be helpful. If you haven’t looked int the local guides program, you should think about joining. Participating in it will give you an idea of the questions that they ask about businesses. It’s worth checking out.
Action Items: People do perform searches to find reviews. If there aren’t reviews about a business type that I might be interested in, I will sometimes ask people whose opinions I value. Word of mouth can be pretty valuable, and people often will look for opinions from people whom they perceive to be like them. One of the last reviews I left a place was at a tire store, which had a sign suggesting that people leave a review on their yelp page. The service was good, and they gave me a good deal. I left a review. This was interesting that Google might consider some reviewers to be local experts.
Action Items: It’s good knowing that Google is willing to show similar businesses in searches that you might search for. Finding something that makes your business stand out in a way that could cause people to drive further to get to you is probably a good idea. I see that happen near me with many restaurants that are located on Historic Highway 101, and are modeled after diners or historic places. Not necessarily an SEO approach, but what do you do to stand out?
Action Items: If your business is located near a busy corridor that many people travel down for their daily commutes, your business may show up as near them, when they search for different types of businesses if Google is showing them places based on a distance from a location history. I like having a directions page that shows how to visit from local area landmarks – this doesn’t necessarily help your ranking, but it may help deliver visits to you from people who are familiar with the area, and know where the local highways and airports are.
42. What People Search for at Locations Searched
Search for a place that you might visit, and the query refinements that you might see may be based upon what people at that location you are considering visiting may have searched for when they were visiting that place. The “Leo Carrillo” example above is for a ranch that was converted into a state park where many people get married at, and chances are the queries shown are from people searching from that park.
Action Items: If you are considering visiting a place that you haven’t been to before, looking at the query refinements that appear at the bottoms of searches can give you ideas on what else people might search for when they are at that location. Knowing that may surface ideas for content that you create on your site or marketing that you might do in your area. It is a good thing to know, about your location.
Action Items: There may be ways of including geographically relevant content on the pages of your site that can help it rank better for organic searches. Having your business rank well for maps results and organic results can make it more likely that your business is seen in search results. Aim for both.
A voice query asks: “Who was Alexander Graham Bell’s father?”
The answer: “Alexander Melville Bell”
A followup voice query: “What is HIS birthday?”
The answer to the follow-up query: “Alexander Melville Bell’s birthday is 3/1/1819”
Action Items: If you are interested in voice search at Google, you should read a case study they published in 2010: Google Search by Voice: A case study It is about some of the technological issues that Google faced when setting up voice search. It also discusses some of the metrics that Google uses to determine the quality of their voice search. Language modeling and location impact on those language models makes a difference, too.
News Search Google Ranking Signals
45. Originality in News Search
Google has a few patents that focus specifically on ranking signals for news results. They have updated some of those patents with continuation patents that have rewritten claims in them. I came across one that used to once focus upon geography as a very important signal but appears to pay much more attention to originality now. I wrote about that change in the post Originality Replaces Geography as Ranking Signal in Google News
Action Items: The patent says “originality” but tells us that freshness and recency are also important. It looks like being the first to get a scoop on a topic, and having the most original takes on that story still has a lot of value in news results. That probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone covering the news. Making sure that translates well to the written word is important.
Additional Google Ranking Signals
46. Global and Local Scores, Relevance, and Reliability
Part of this approach is one that reminded me of Topic Sensitive PageRank. Some of it is based upon a global ranking for a site, and onsite rankings for pages of a site. Different types of relevance may matter under this approach including Topical Relevance to other sites, Authoritative Relevance to other sites, and Off-site factors that indicate authority on site. Reliabilty is also a concern as well. This does appear to be an alternative to PageRank that is worth considering as a ranking signal.
Action ItemsCarefully consider the themes presented in the site, and how much of the site covers each of those. Work to improve relevance and authority, and reliability of all parts of a site.
Google Ranking Signals Conclusion
I have mostly focused upon including google signals that I have written about in this post going back five years. It’s quite possible that I missed out on some, but I ideally wanted to provide a list that included ranking signals that I have written about and could point to patents about. I’ve mentioned that Google spokespeople have sometimes said that “Just because Google has a patent on something doesn’t mean that they are using it.” That is good advice, but I do want to urge you to keep open the idea that they found certain ideas important enough to write out in legal documents that exclude others from using the processes described in those documents, so there has been a fair amount of effort made to create the patents I point to in this post.
I will be thinking about going back more than 5 years to cover some other ranking signals that I have written about. I did want to include some posts I had written about ranking factors that search engines use when they might rerank search results:
Google Ranking Factors versus Google Ranking Signals – It was a little difficult deciding what to call this post because I have heard both factors and signals I remembered a Search Engine Strategies Conference session with a number of search engioneers speaking, and I asked a question during the Q&A section about a certain search ranking factor. They started to answer by telling me that they always referred to search ranking factors as search ranking signals. I try to use search ranking signals since learning about that.
I do look forward to hearing your thoughts about the ranking signals that I have covered in this post.
We have discovered that out of over 200 ranking factors that Google takes into account, 67 of them are related to content creation. So the challenge for content marketers is to create compelling content and optimize it at the same time. But how does one optimize a piece of content effectively? We can help!
My team admittedly has a distinct advantage when it comes to link building and making connections. Our company has worked with bloggers in our niches (cooking and crafting) for years, making it easy for us to reach out often for a shout out or small promotion from our trusted blogger network. Surprisingly enough, however, this does not always lead to quality links.
In the past year, we have decided to dedicate a team to audience development. This team focuses on creating longform content, building reader relationships, and (of course) link building. Over the past year, our 35 websites have earned 707 links total from bloggers. 405 of those links were to our top websites. These are the links I examined for this article.
Links We Earned This Year
From January 1, 2017 until April 26, 2018, our editorial team has earned over 700 links to our websites and content that our bloggers told us about. My company manages 35 websites, meaning each site received around 10 to 20 links. For the purposes of this blog post I examined the incoming links to the 6 top sites. I looked at the first 300 of these links to see what our network was linking to and found the following:
Branded links, or links directly to the homepage, made up a bulk of these links at 29.14%
This was closely followed by project and recipe roundups or lists (23.71%). Working with a strong blogger base means this time-honored linking tradition is still going strong for us.
The other big chunk of these links were to the blogger’s own content on our site or their profiles (18.36%).
While a wide variety of content earned us links this year, we discovered three strategies that consistently brought in high-quality, long-standing links.
1. Appreciation and Best Of Posts – Earning Links from Your Network
Nearly 9% of all of the links we earned in 2017 and 2018 thus were to a handful of “best blogger” pages to our sites. These lists are not simply round ups of bloggers we like in the industry, but instead are round ups of bloggers we work with on a regular basis. These collections prominently feature our favorite video channels, collaborators, and more. Instead of reaching out for the first time, these pages leveraged our existing relationships. They promoted our friends and told their stories.
This content worked because it utilized pre-existing relationships with our contributors instead of just wishing for a link-for-a-link relationship with a stranger or new connection. We work closely with our blogger network and these posts were initially designed as a thank you and a shot out. Since this content was about them instead of simply mentioning them flippantly, people were excited to announce that they made they list. Creating content about your users, contributors, and connections shows you appreciate them and that genuine content and connection encourages linking. You’re telling their story. Not just baiting them with a PR mention.
How it Could Work for Other Brands
While we run a pretty specific type of website with a heavy amount of user-generated content, this process and general concept could easily be applied to plenty of other brands. Consider creating content about your users and customers. SaaS companies, for example, could utilize case studies to highlight the work their favorite customers are doing. Blog posts like 5 Ways Our Customers Are Transforming Their Industry with XYZ gives them a genuine, interesting brand mention that will likely lead to links and shares. Retailers could easily create content around particular branches and stores, earning local links and media mentions. What do you really love about your customers? What story do they have to tell? These stories are engaging, interesting, and linkable!
2. Hyper Specific How To and Q&A Articles- High Quality Linking Practices
While this type of content did not earn us a high volume of links (about 3%), it did earn us the highest quality of link. Rather than linking to our homepage or a simple brand mention, our reference and how to content outperformed all other links when it came to the link itself. These pages are consistently linked to with their title or exact keyword matching for our intended keyword cluster. If you’re hoping to boost your authority in your niche or a particular topic, this is the way to go.
Our top content for this particular content type was NOT a general or all encompassing topic like how to cook steak or how to crochet. Instead, the content that did the best here was for hyper specific skills and techniques or specific questions that are not often answered in those other general, higher level content. It helped solve one particular problem.
Why it Worked This content works on several levels. First and foremost, it is addressing an obscure question that by and large has yet to be covered on its own. While many articles on no bake cookies, for example, may mention issues with consistency and texture, a thorough explanation of them is a unique and engaging piece of content. These always do well on social. It answers a question that might have have been answered already.
Secondly, this content is much easier to link to than the dreaded listicle. This article provides a unique value that makes it very linkable. When reaching out, we are able to mention that we have a thorough explanation for a technique or recipe that might be worth mentioning.
We have also had success with the gentle nudge that the blogger failed to mention something in their recipe and providing the research for them. “I noticed you didn’t mention whether or not to thaw the frozen potatoes for your casserole. Is this something you would recommend? We actually just wrote an article about this since some of our readers were asking.” This allows you to create content that is adding to their own and participate in a conversation.
This type of content also does an awesome job of earning links naturally over time.
How it Could Work for Other Brands
What is often called pillar or reference content is not a brand new concept for any content marketer. We have all worked on creating this higher level, long-form content at one point or another. What is important to note about this strategy is the specificity. It solves a short-term and very specific problem a user might have, something that might be mentioned in these longer form pieces of content (and linked to)! Finding these topics can be tricky, but there are resources out there. Try perusing the “people also ask” sections of the search engine result page or the tool AnswerthePublic.com.
The trick here is to find a great topic that aligns with your goals. Our readers for our knitting site, for example, are generally retired women with limited income. Condo knitting is a vintage style of knitting that was popular in the 70s, so it offered a nice #throwbackthursday vibe. Our readers don’t tend to love higher end materials, so writing an article about how to care for expensive alpaca or cashmere yarn would not have done as well for our intended audience.
SaaS companies could do this by writing a shorter, snackable article about a specific solution their platform offers (like Buzzstream locating email addresses). Retailers can easily create articles on how to care for their product. Remember to find a specific topic. We’re not looking for “how to care for a mattress” and instead looking for something like “how soon after buying a new mattress should you flip it” or “can sleeping on a short mattress cause back problems”. As an added bonus these low stake, content snacks tend to do fairly well organically when you find the right topic. This article about thawing frozen hash browns we created last week is already receiving about 10 or more organic clicks a day and it took the team about an hour to put together. Staffing wise, it will likely pay for itself pretty quickly in leads and ad dollars.
3. Collaborative Content and Promotions – Working with your linkers!
Two of our biggest projects every year are National Craft Month and National Sewing Month. These month-long promotions and content calendars provide 30 days of new content to our readers as well as a myriad of giveaways, freebies, and more. Our entire editorial team gets on board to create the content, finding bloggers to help with projects, and promote the content. These large scale projects are link-earning machines. This year alone National Sewing Month earned us about 25 links while National Craft Month(on our biggest site) far exceeded that by earning around 3-5 links per project, earning us just under 90 links in total! These promotions consist of brand new high quality content created by our editorial staff as well as collaborators. With such a big group working together, the link building is natural and expected.
Rather than focusing solely on bringing links inward, these month-long promotions focus on creating content with creators we love. They share projects on our sites in full as well as promote them on their blogs. Readers have the option to win a ton of prizes. We send out social media blasts, tag everyone, and create a community around one promotion. Rather than just linking to us, collaborators on these projects feel as if they are part of something. They submit project ideas and applications to be apart of the promotion, giving it just a little exclusivity. It is something they are proud to be apart of and want to share. This means promoting their projects on our domain is also promoting their very own brand.
How it Could Work for Other Brands
While brands might not have as strong as a collaborator or blogger network to pull from, the overall idea of creating a community and an event instead of single pieces of content is easily transferable. Depending on your goals and resources, it would be just as easy for companies to create week-long promotions showcasing new content from talented collaborators and freelancers. Digital promotions like this one give collaborators a feeling of community. If they are part of something, they’re likely to promote and link to their own content as well as those within their network. SaaS companies could easily create a week of webinars and retailers or brands could easily borrow from influencer campaigns to create a week of DIY ideas or recipes using their products.
Creating week-long or month-long content calendars also has the added bonus of inspiring internal promotion. If your company does something new and exciting, your staff is more likely to share the engaging content on their personal channels and blogs. Organic social promotion is just as useful for brand promotions as link building even if it is a little more ephemeral.
Build Relationships and Links Will Follow
My team creates a wide variety of content with several goals in mind. We’ve created a lot of longform and reference articles for our site to add value for our readers and promote our Youtube content and videos. We’ve created shorter listicles for users who are just looking to browse. We’ve even created content focused solely on building links that involved a lot of ego-baiting within listicles. Many bloggers are willing to link back and share the love, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is because of our existing relationships and not the content itself.
After a year of link building and hundreds of reach outs, our main takeaway is that curating excellent content and working closely with the collaborators we love is the best way to earn links. Working with other content creators to create content either through shared promotions or offering them something extra (like a niche reference article) is going to earn you more links than a 1,000 cold emails ever will.
We’ve helped dozens of clients work through this complicated process – in this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about properly implementing hreflang tags on your site:
Let’s get into it.
What is an hreflang Attribute?
An HTML ( rel="alternate" hreflang="x") markup that denotes the language or region your webpage is targeting. The attribute makes sure Google knows which page to rank, in which language and in which location (i.e. in Google US, UK, etc).
The hreflang tag is important because it can help your website get more exposure for international search queries.
It’s important to note, hreflang will NOT:
If your website is only in 1 language, the tags will not improve performance.
Transpose rankings across SERPs. For example, ranking for “Nike shoes” in Google US will not translate into equal rankings in Google Mexico.
Fix errors with duplicate content. The hreflang tag does not function like a canonical tag.
When to use hreflang Attributes
Hreflang attributes should be used for content that’s specific to a local audience. The tags help Google understand the relationship is between your pages in alternate languages and regions.
If your pages are in the same language, but different markets (i.e. pages are in English, but targeting US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc)
If you have the same pages translated into different languages (i.e. you translate a page(s) into Spanish, French and German)
If you translate sections of your website into a different language (i.e. if you have a forum with UGC and multiple languages spoken)
How to use hreflang tags
The hreflang tag gets added to the head of each relevant page. A simple example could be:
link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/" hreflang="en" link rel="alternate" href="http://example.com/en-gb/" hreflang="en-gb"
The attribute tells Google that http://example.com has an “alternate” (i.e. duplicate) page. That page can be found at http://example.com/en-gb/ and it’s written in British English.
There’s 2 elements of the tag:
Without these, Google understand won’t understand what you’re trying to communicate. These are standardized codes in ISO format. You can find them here:
Before hreflang tags, the common practice to capture international searchers was to use multiple Top Level Domains (TLDs). If you have multiple top level domains, you’ll still want to link them with hreflang tags.
ASOS uses a combination of TLDs, subdomains and subfolders to manage their international presence.