Archives January 2020

How to Get Client Buy-In for Keyword Recommendations

One of the first big deliverables in an SEO campaign is Keyword Research. At Seer, we leverage a wide variety of data to identify target keywords. We leverage audience insights, paid search data, and 3rd party search data to identify three core attributes:

  • How much demand does each keyword represent? In other words, if we can rank for this keyword, how many sessions can we drive?
  • What is the intent of those keywords? What problem is the user trying to solve with this search, and how should that inform the content on the page?
  • What is the value of these keywords? Based on Analytics and Paid Search data, what is the likelihood the user will find us and perform an action on the site that results in business impact, or a step towards business impact?

It’s a rigorous and collaborative process. It’s a lot of fun to start, and then you’ll find yourself buried in what feels like an insurmountable amount of data. But then you organize it, analyze it, and submit it for review. You look at it in ten different ways and prepare to defend it and sell it. When you’ve got your final recommendations prepared and vetted it is a great feeling.

That feeling sometimes sinks away when your client doesn’t agree with the keywords you’ve selected. Every SEO has been through a tough conversation with a client or their internal team: you’re recommending something that feels so obvious but you’re being met with blank stares and shaking heads.

Here are some tips I’ve collected over the years that can help SEOs level up their ability to win their client’s approval.

Example 1: The client is data-driven but doesn’t buy our keyword recommendations

This is one of the best problems to have. If your client and their culture are data-driven but they’re not giving you a stamp of approval on your recommendations, you’re likely not bringing the right data to the table. Consider:

  • Have you told them what you’re going to tell them? Often we’re in a rush to ‘get to the good stuff’ and we gloss over metrics and abbreviations. Take a moment to consider the digital maturity your client has and how much education they may need to help set the stage. Take a few minutes to define your assumptions, metrics, and objective.
  • Have you clearly communicated the value? Maybe you aren’t connecting the dots in a clear way. Do they understand the data you’re leveraging and how we can leverage those assumptions to define potential value for these keywords?
  • Have you shared your methodology? If the relationship is new consider that you haven’t made many or any deposits in the trust bank yet. If you’re presenting to folks who didn’t choose you or your agency for this work, what reason do they have to believe anything you’re telling them? To address this, start with your methodology. Walk through the different data sets that served as inputs, where you got it, how you organized the data, how you analyzed it, and how you came to your final selections. What were the keywords you considered but didn’t include? What was included in your first draft but removed in internal review?

Example 2: The client is 100% sure [insert keyword] doesn’t make sense for their brand.

This is a tough one, but it starts with empathy. It’s easy to enter the conversation thinking, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and I’ll convince you of that.” That’s not the right move. Instead, put yourself in your client’s shoes. Unpack what might be driving that belief so you can address it head-on. Consider:

  • Have you shown the potential business value the keyword represents? Using a set of assumptions, what could a top 3 ranking drive for their business? Money talks, and while this might not be the *only* thing they need to hear to believe you, it will certainly help.
  • Have you shown your client competitor examples? If there are other players in your client’s space using the keywords that you believe to be valuable, show them! It’s critical that you highlight examples that the client really considers to be their competition – it can’t be anyone tangentially related to their industry. Showing how a tangentially related website uses these keywords only shows you know how to rank for that keyword. It doesn’t prove that the client should care. If you can find a true competitor optimizing for some of your recommended keywords, pull up their website and walk through it. Show your clients how they are optimizing their metadata. Do a site search on Google to show how often they mention a certain word on their site overall, or specifically on blog or product pages. Connect the dots between these findings and that competitor’s visibility in search.
  • Have you considered testing with Paid Search? There’s a very quick way to see who’s right and who’s wrong, but it’s not free. Ensure you’ve got an appropriate landing page setup and proper tracking to validate your hypothesis. For an eCommerce client or business with a *very* short lead cycle, this can lead to relatively quick results. For longer lead cycles, you might agree upon leading indicators (i.e. form fills) that indicate there’s valid interest in the term.
  • Have you considered testing with Audience Research? This is a key reason why we start each SEO campaign at Seer with customer interviews and analysis of existing audience data. There’s a powerful “Don’t take my word for it!” angle to use here if you can show customers navigating search or your client’s site, corroborating your claims for what keywords resonate with them.

Example 3: The client is 100% sure [insert keyword] does make sense for their brand, but your data disagrees.

The client has a theme or phrase that they are positive should be a top keyword for their site, but it wasn’t included in your initial research. Consider:

  • Have you considered they may be right? Going into the keyword research process with an open and collaborative mind is key. Ultimately, your client knows their business better than you do. So don’t be defensive about missing an opportunity, instead dig in and see if they’re right.
  • Have you showed your client the SERP for this keyword? Do it live! Sometimes a keyword makes sense in theory but is unrealistic to rank for based on what Google is showing for that search. Maybe the intent is off and Google’s results are purely informational, not transactional. Maybe the competition is off the charts and we have no shot at ranking for that keyword anytime soon. Regardless of the ‘why’, pulling up Google and walking through the SERPs can be a simple but powerful mechanism to lead to nodding heads and a-ha moments.

There you have it. I hope those examples spark some ideas and solutions to leverage in order to gain Client buy-in on your keyword recommendations so you can get to optimizing! If you have additional experiences beyond the three examples above, ping me on twitter at @alisa_scharf and share!

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2020 Prediction Month: Google Aims to Acquire More of Amazon’s Ecommerce Territory – Collin Colburn // Forrester

Episode Overview: We’re only a month into 2020 and Google is already squaring up with ecommerce heavyweights like Amazon, releasing two updates with one vastly improving the Google Shopping Experience. As Google makes inroads to acquire valuable ecommerce territory, Amazon remains a stalwart competitor as the preferred performance marketing channel with consumer package companies. Join host Ben and Forrester Analyst Collin Colburn as they analyze Google’s new plan of attack, how Amazon may respond and who could emerge the victor in the battle for ecommerce territory.


  • Google is innovating features where Amazon can’t compete, such as providing users the ability to search and book flights on its platform.
  • Amazon should remain owning a significant share of ecommerce queries as consumer packaging companies continue contributing ad dollars. It’s the one performance marketing channel where CPCs can see direct conversions from their investments.
  • One problem facing consumer packaging companies is the inability to access user data from both Google and Amazon, preventing them from retargeting customers and making it difficult to acquire more information.


Ben:                 Welcome back to 2020 predictions month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re looking into the crystal ball to tell you SEOs and content marketers what you can expect in 2020. Joining us again today is Collin Colburn, who is an analyst at Forrester, which is one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world. Collin’s research focuses on current and future trends in performance marketing, including strategies and best practices for SEO, paid search advertising, Amazon advertising, voice search, mobile advertising, local marketing and emerging marketing trends. Today Collin and I are going to talk about his predictions for the ecommerce landscape. Okay. Here’s my conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester. Collin, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Collin:              Great to be here again.

Ben:                 Very excited to have you on the show. We’ve covered a lot of ground already. We talked about some of your predictions for SEO, how the channel is becoming more of a priority in terms of the greater landscape. Yesterday we talked about some of the changes in the overall marketing landscape and how they could affect SEOs, where paid advertising is going to get more expensive because of the 2020 election here in the United States. We’re going to see more impact and focus on influencer marketing that affects people’s linking strategies. Also podcast advertising and content is going to become more of a priority in 2020, which allows SEOs to potentially have another tool to play with to be able to transcribe their podcast content and reuse other forms of new media.

Ben:                 Today I want to double-click down into one specific industry that you focus on, which is ecommerce. In our conversation when we talked about what’s going to happen with SEOs, you said that Google is mostly interested in keeping people on the domain and building more functionality into the search experience, something we’ve also seen in ecommerce. Talk to me about some of your predictions for what’s going to happen in the ecommerce space, and how is Google trying to keep more of the shopping and conversion traffic on their site?

Collin:              Yeah, I mean, I think that Google is trying very hard to compete with Amazon in areas where Amazon literally cannot compete. Google is investing a lot in things like being able to book flights, for instance, and some other areas outside of the traditional product ecommerce that Amazon so dominates. I think that we’re going to see more and more of that going forward, where Google is going to try and look at things from a very industry vertical specific point of view and see where can they make inroads against Amazon to better influence how ad dollars are going to be spent by companies that have an ecommerce component, but it might not just be around physical products that they could sell on Amazon.

Ben:                 It seems to me that this is where there’s the most risk for Google is that for most things when people start a search they think, “I’m going to go into Google and I’m going to look for the answer or the product.” Now it looks like more and more people are increasingly going to Amazon to do their product search and they’re not even thinking about what their ecommerce options are. They’re just going to buy directly from the marketplace. How do you think Google can combat this or what do you think the trend is? Are they actually going to try to compete in product search or has that ship sailed?

Collin:              I think the ship has sailed. I think that that’s sort of why I went down the path that I went down at first, which is I think Google is going to just try and find other industries to dominate, and things in the CPG industry they’re just going to leave to Amazon, because like you said, people are just going there without even thinking as sort of their search destination, which is why you’ve seen so much in ad budget, ad dollars go to Amazon from CPG companies is because they’re treating it as their one performance marketing channel where they can see direct conversions happening because of their investment.

Ben:                 Talk to me about some of the things that you anticipate happening on the Amazon platform that are going to affect product search and visibility.

Collin:              Yeah, I think if I had to make one prediction about Amazon, sort of this ecommerce stuff going into 2020, especially with an SEO spin on it, I think that 2020 is going to be for any company that has an ecommerce website and you are selling products or some products through Amazon, Amazon SEO is going to have to be part of your remit. You can’t just focus on your own website. I think it’s going to have to be working with merchandising or ecommerce teams within your organization and optimizing those product pages for search results within Amazon. I see this so much, where companies are struggling because it’s the merchandiser team that is optimizing this stuff and they don’t really know like what are the keywords you should be using, what are the different tactics you can use from the description of the product to the product title page, so all these other different things. I think that would be one of my predictions for 2020 is you’re going to see more SEO, especially in the retail, ecommerce, CPG space, have to take over through Amazon SEO.

Ben:                 It seems like from the vendor perspective, that also means that there’s going to be more competition focused on people understanding how to optimize their SEO specifically for Amazon. There’s a host of tools and services that are obviously doing this for Google already. Searchmetrics, the sponsor of the podcast, is one of them, but there’s an opportunity for vendors to start building Amazon-specific tools that may or may not already exist.

Collin:              Totally. I think that that is a huge area of opportunity if you’re in the vendor space. I know that there are some niche Amazon-only kind of vendors that only do this for Amazon that are out there, but if you’re one of the major SEO platforms or technologies that are out there, I think that’s a great area of opportunity.

Ben:                 One of the things that surprises me when we think about how Google and Amazon are going to compete, and one of the problems that I have with Amazon, if you’re a consumer package company you don’t get access to the user data. You don’t have the ability to re-target to your customer, or at least it’s very difficult to be able to do. One of the ways that I assume Google would be able to compete is by enabling the vendors to get access to the conversion data to do re-targeting. As you think about who owns the relationship with the vendor in ecommerce, do you see an opportunity for the merchants to start working with different platforms, or essentially pushing back on Amazon owning the user data and entire experience? Is there any risk for Amazon basically keeping their walled garden closed?

Collin:              Is there any risk? I think that Amazon would argue that, yes, there is risk, and that they own the relationship with the customer. I think that is probably the angle that they would take is that this is a risk about our relationship with our customer if we share this data with outside providers. I don’t really see a reason why Amazon would open up their walled garden, unfortunately. That kind of goes for Facebook and Google as well. I think that marketers as a whole, it can’t just be one brand, it can’t just be one marketer, I think as a whole, as an industry, really have to put the pressure on these walled gardens, I think, to demand this data, this information, and make the case for why, yes, Google and Facebook and Amazon own part of the relationship with the customer, but so does the brand and so does the manufacturer, whatever the situation is, also has right to that ownership of that relationship with the customer.

Ben:                 Can I give you my SEO prediction for 2020?

Collin:              Sure.

Ben:                 That ain’t happening.

Collin:              Yeah.

Ben:                 Not this year.

Collin:              I agree. I think it’s a long time coming.

Ben:                 As we think about product and SEO, what other predictions do you have for the CPG companies? Are there any products or any verticals that you think are specifically notable or developing?

Collin:              I think that it will be very interesting to see how as a lot of these CPG companies, you would assume, will invest more in digital advertising, digital marketing, because the impact that Amazon is having on their business, it’ll be interesting to see how they work with or sort of rebalance themselves across all marketing formats. You look at CPG companies, they have some of the most complex marketing programs out there, whether it’s trade marketing, shopper marketing, co-op marketing with retailers, and then obviously digital being a part of this, and then more traditional formats, but how are they going to balance their budgeting and their resource allocation across all of those types of marketing? Then more importantly, how do they take data and information and insights from each of those channels, if you will, to enrich others?

Collin:              For me, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for an SEO at a CPG company to work more closely with shopper marketing teams to better understand what are they seeing in terms of what is incentivizing shoppers to go to retailers and how can that influence the content that is being created on the website and being optimized for on the website?

Ben:                 Well, Collin, I think that the ecommerce space is interesting. This is really a battle of the titans in my mind, where you have Amazon and Google trying to pick off a few various verticals, but also the people that are playing in the ecommerce space for the most part are also really large, really important companies, you mentioned the CPGs, large marketing budgets. It’s really complex and really interesting. Any last comments or predictions for the ecommerce landscape that might be relevant to SEOs?

Collin:              No, I think we covered it all.

Ben:                 Okay. Well, Collin, I appreciate you coming on and being our guest this week. Thanks so much for sharing the insights, not only for SEO, for the general marketing space and ecommerce.

Collin:              Yeah. Thank you for having me. Great to be here.

Ben:                 All right. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester. If you’d like to get in touch with Collin, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is CollinColburn, C-O-L-L-I-N-C-O-L-B-U-R-N, or you can visit his company’s website, which is Just one link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you can apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.

Ben:     Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter, or you could reach out to me personally. My handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes four to five times a week, so hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Google News Digest: Google Rocks the Boat Big Time

Google News Digest: Google Rocks the Boat Big Time

January has seen a lot of changes from Google, and everyone is just trying to keep up. SEMrush has tried to get insights from experts that could help, but at this point, everyone is still watching the fallout and studying data to determine if these changes will help or hurt them. Some are reporting improvements in traffic, and some are not — we all need time for evaluation.

LSI Keywords: What are They and Do They Matter?

People say that LSI keywords have the power to boost Google rankings. Is this true, or is it yet another SEO myth?

Read almost any article about LSI keywords, and you’ll be told two things:

  1. Google uses a technology called LSI to index web pages.
  2. Using LSI keywords in your content helps you rank higher on Google.

Both of these claims are technically false.

In this guide, you’ll learn why that is and what to do about it.

But first, the basics…

What are LSI keywords?

LSI keywords are words and phrases that Google sees as semantically-related to a topic—at least according to many in the SEO community. If you’re talking about cars, then LSI keywords might be automobile, engine, road, tires, vehicle, and automatic transmission.

But, according to Google’s John Mueller, LSI keywords don’t exist:

So what’s the deal here?

Before we answer that question, we first need to understand a bit more about LSI itself.

What is Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)?

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), or Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), is a natural-language processing technique developed in the 1980s.

Unfortunately, unless you’re familiar with mathematical concepts like eigenvalues, vectors, and single value decomposition, the technology itself isn’t that easy to understand.

For that reason, we won’t be tackling how LSI works.

Instead, we’ll focus on the problem it was created to solve.

Here’s how the creators of LSI define this problem:

The words a searcher uses are often not the same as those by which the information sought has been indexed.

But what does this actually mean?

Say that you want to know when summer ends and fall begins. Your WiFi is down, so you go old school and grab an encyclopedia. Instead of randomly flicking through thousands of pages, you lookup “fall” in the index and flick to the right page.

Here’s what you see:

lsi keywords fall down 1

lsi keywords fall down 1

Clearly, that’s not the type of fall you wanted to learn about.

Not one to be defeated that easily, you flick back and realize that what you’re looking for is indexed under “autumn”—another name for fall.

lsi keywords fall season 1

lsi keywords fall season 1

The problem here is that “fall” is a synonym and polysemic word.

What are synonyms?

Synonyms are words or phrases that mean the same or nearly the same thing as another word or phrase.

Examples include rich and wealthy, fall and autumn, and cars and automobiles.

Here’s why synonyms are problematic, according to the LSI patent:

[…] there is a tremendous diversity in the words people use to describe the same object or concept; this is called synonymy. Users in different contexts, or with different needs, knowledge or linguistic habits will describe the same information using different terms. For example, it has been demonstrated that any two people choose the same main keyword for a single, well-known object less than 20% of the time on average.

But how does this relate to search engines?

Imagine that we have two web pages about cars. Both are identical, but one substitutes all instances of the word cars for automobiles.

If we were to use a primitive search engine that only indexes the words and phrases on the page, it would only return one of these pages for the query “cars.”

car automobile synonym 1

car automobile synonym 1

This is bad because both results are relevant; it’s just that one describes what we’re looking for in a different way. The page that uses the word automobile instead of cars might even be the better result.

Bottom line: search engines need to understand synonyms to return the best results.

What are polysemic words?

Polysemic words and phrases are those with multiple different meanings.

Examples include mouse (rodent / computer), bank (financial institute / riverbank), and bright (light / intelligent).

Here’s why these cause problems, according to the creators of LSI:

In different contexts or when used by different people the same word takes on varying referential significance (e.g., “bank” in river bank versus “bank” in a savings bank). Thus the use of a term in a search query does not necessarily mean that a text object containing or labeled by the same term is of interest.

These words present search engines with a similar problem to synonyms.

For example, say that we search for “apple computer.” Our primitive search engine might return both of these pages, even though one is clearly not what we’re looking for:

apple computer polysemic 1

apple computer polysemic 1

Bottom line: search engines that don’t understand the different meanings of polysemic words are likely to return irrelevant results.

How does LSI work?

Computers are dumb.

They don’t have the inherent understanding of word relationships that we humans do.

For example, everyone knows that big and large mean the same thing. And everyone knows that John Lennon was in The Beatles.

But a computer doesn’t have this knowledge without being told.

The problem is that there’s no way to tell a computer everything. It would just take too much time and effort.

LSI solves this problem by using complex mathematical formulas to derive the relationships between words and phrases from a set of documents.

In simple terms, if we run LSA on a set of documents about seasons, the computer can likely figure out a few things:

First, the word fall is synonymous with autumn:

fall autumn 1

fall autumn 1

Second, words like season, summer, winter, fall, and spring are all semantically related:

semantically related words 1

semantically related words 1

Third, fall is semantically-related to two different sets of words:

polysemic fall 1

polysemic fall 1

Search engines can then use this information to go beyond exact-query matching and deliver more relevant search results.

search engine relevant result 1

search engine relevant result 1

Does Google use LSI?

Given the problems LSI solves, it’s easy to see why people assume Google uses LSI technology. After all, it’s clear that matching exact queries is an unreliable way for search engines to return relevant documents.

Plus, we see evidence every day that Google understands synonymy:

1 rich knowledge graph 1

1 rich knowledge graph 1

And polysemy:

2 mouse knowledge graph 1

2 mouse knowledge graph 1

But despite this, Google almost certainly doesn’t use LSI technology.

How do we know? Google representatives say so.

Don’t believe them?

Here are three more pieces of evidence to back up this fact:

1. LSI is old technology

LSI was invented in the 1980s before the creation of the World Wide Web. As such, it was never intended to be applied to such a large set of documents.

That’s why Google has since developed better, more scalable technology to solve the same problems.

Bill Slawski puts it best:

LSI technology wasn’t created for anything the size of the Web […] Google has developed a word vector approach (used for Rankbrain) which is much more modern, scales much better, and works on the Web. Using LSI when you have Word2vec available would be like racing a Ferrari with a go-cart.

2. LSI was created to index known document collections

The World Wide Web is not only large but also dynamic.

This means that the billions of pages in Google’s index change regularly.

That’s a problem because the LSI patent tells us that the analysis needs to run “each time there is a significant update in the storage files.”

That would take a lot of processing power.

3. LSI is a patented technology

The Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) patent was granted to Bell Communications Research, Inc. in 1989. Susan Dumais, one of the co-inventors who worked on the technology, later joined Microsoft in 1997, where she worked on search-related innovations.

That said, US patents expire after 20 years, which means that the LSI patent expired in 2008.

Given that Google was pretty good at understanding language and returning relevant results much earlier than 2008, this is yet another piece of evidence to suggest that Google doesn’t use LSI.

Once again, Bill Slawski puts it best:

Google does attempt to index synonyms and other meanings for words. But it isn’t using LSI technology to do that. Calling it LSI is misleading people. Google has been offering synonym substitutions and query refinements based upon synonyms since at least 2003, but that doesn’t mean that they are using LSI. It would be like saying that you are using a smart telegraph device to connect to the mobile web.

Can mentioning related words, phrases, and entities boost rankings?

Most SEOs see “LSI keywords” as nothing more than related words, phrases, and entities.

If we roll with that definition—despite it being technically inaccurate—then yes, using some related words and phrases in your content can almost certainly help improve SEO.

How do we know? Google indirectly tells us so here:

Just think: when you search for ‘dogs’, you probably don’t want a page with the word ‘dogs’ on it hundreds of times. With that in mind, algorithms assess if a page contains other relevant content beyond the keyword ‘dogs’ – such as pictures of dogs, videos or even a list of breeds.

On a page about dogs, Google sees names of individual breeds as semantically related.

But why do these help pages to rank for relevant terms?

Simple: Because they help Google understand the overall topic of the page.

For example, here are two pages that each mention the word “dogs” the same number of times:

cats dogs 1

cats dogs 1

Looking at other important words and phrases on each page tells us that only the first is about dogs. The second is mostly about cats.

Google uses this information to rank relevant pages for relevant queries.

How to find and use related words and phrases

If you’re knowledgeable about a topic, you’ll naturally include related words and phrases in your content.

For example, it would be difficult to write about the best video games without mentioning words and phrases like “PS4 games,” “Call of Duty,” and “Fallout.”

But it’s easy to miss important ones—especially with more complex topics.

For instance, our guide to nofollow links fails to mention anything about the sponsored and UGC link attributes:

4 nofolloow post 1

4 nofolloow post 1

Google likely sees these as important, semantically-related terms that any good article about the topic should mention.

That may be part of the reason why articles that talk about these things outrank us.

With this in mind, here are nine ways to find potentially related words, phrases, and entities:

1. Use common sense

Check your pages to see if you’ve missed any obvious points.

For example, if the page is a biographical article about Donald Trump and doesn’t mention his impeachment, it’s probably worth adding a section about that.

In doing so, you’ll naturally mention related words, phrases, and entities like “Mueller Report,” “Nancy Pelosi,” and “whistleblower.”


Just remember that there’s no way to know for sure whether Google sees these words and phrases as semantically-related. However, as Google aims to understand the relationships between words and entities that we humans inherently understand, there’s something to be said for using common sense.

2. Look at autocomplete results

Autocomplete results don’t always show important related keywords, but they can give clues about ones that might be worth mentioning.

For example, we see “donald trump spouse,” “donald trump age,” and “donald trump twitter” as autocomplete results for “donald trump.”

5 autocomplete 1 1

5 autocomplete 1 1

These aren’t related keywords in themselves, but the people and things they’re referring to might be. In this case, those are Melania Trump, 73 years old, and @realDonaldTrump.

Probably all things that should be mentioned in a biographical article, right?

3. Look at related searches

Related searches appear at the bottom of the search results.

Like autocomplete results, they can give clues about potentially related words, phrases, and entities worth mentioning.

Screenshot 2020 01 20 at 21.56.57 1

Screenshot 2020 01 20 at 21.56.57 1

Here, “donald trump education” is referring to The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania that he attended.

4. Use an “LSI keyword” tool

Popular “LSI keyword” generators have nothing to do with LSI. However, they do occasionally kick back some useful ideas.

For example, if we plug “donald trump” into a popular tool, it pulls related people (entities) like his spouse, Melania Trump, and son, Barron Trump.

7 lsi tool 1

7 lsi tool 1

5. Look at other keywords the top pages rank for

Use the “Also rank for” keyword ideas report in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer to find potentially related words, phrases, and entities.

8 also rank for 1

8 also rank for 1

If there are too many to handle, try running a Content Gap analysis using three of the top-ranking pages, then set the number of intersections to “3.”

This shows keywords that all of the pages rank for, which often gives you a more refined list of related words and phrases.

6. Run a TF*IDF analysis

TF-IDF has nothing to do with latent-semantic indexing (LSI) or latent-semantic analysis (LSA), but it can occasionally help uncover “missing” words, phrases, and entities.

9 tf idf 1

9 tf idf 1

7. Look at knowledge bases

Knowledge bases like and Wikipedia are fantastic sources of related terms.

Google also pulls knowledge graph data from these two knowledge bases.
12 knowledge base 1

12 knowledge base 1

8. Reverse-engineer the knowledge graph

Google stores the relationships between lots of people, things and concepts in something called a knowledge graph. Results from the knowledge graph often show up in Google search results.

13 knowledge graph 1

13 knowledge graph 1

14 knowledge graph 2 1

14 knowledge graph 2 1

Try searching for your keyword and see if any data from the knowledge graph shows up.

Because these are entities and data points that Google associates with the topic, it’s definitely worth talking about relevant ones where it makes sense.

9. Use Google’s Natural Language API to find entities

Paste the text from a top-ranking page into Google’s Natural Language API demo. Look for relevant and potentially important entities that you might have missed.

15 natural language api 1

15 natural language api 1

Final thoughts

LSI keywords don’t exist, but semantically-related words, phrases, and entities do, and they have the power to boost rankings.

Just make sure to use them where it makes sense, and not to haphazardly sprinkle them whenever and wherever.

In some cases, this may mean adding new sections to your page.

For instance, if you want to add words and entities like “impeachment” and “House Intelligence Committee” to an article about Donald Trump, that’s probably going to require a couple of new paragraphs under a new subheading.

Do you have any other questions about LSI keywords?

Leave a comment or ping me on Twitter.

Pop-ups, Overlays, Modals & Interstitials Best Practices

Pop-ups, overlays, modals and interstitials are similar website elements that can be used to engage users, increase conversions, and prompt other website actions. However, Google understands that these elements impact the user’s experience on a landing page and has implemented ranking penalties to deter websites from using these in a way that is bad for users.

Key Takeaways:

  • Make pop-ups as non-intrusive as possible.
  • Use overlays and modals. Avoid new window pop-ups and interstitials.
  • Don’t show pop-ups immediately to organic or paid search users.

In this document, we’ll explain the different types of “pop-up” elements and how Google values each. We’ll also explain the known penalties surrounding these and other best practices to consider.

Types of “Pop-Ups”

There are four types of “pop-up” elements, each with a unique user experience:

Traditional, “New Window” Pop-Ups

A traditional pop-up opens in a new window, outside of the main browser window. These are bad for the user experience and hurt website navigation as it forces the user into an unsolicited session in a separate browsing window.

These are rarely used nowadays outside of spamming websites, and Google and other search engines penalize sites that use these types of new window pop-ups on their landing pages.

new window popups


An overlay is what we now commonly call a pop-up. These are not new windows or tabs but rather displays or lightboxes that appear overtop of the main content on the page. These are generally acceptable for SEO, however there can be penalties associated with using these on the first load of an organic or paid landing page.

Pop-Up Overlays

A pop-up overlay is typically a window, lightbox, or full-screen takeover and can be used for email capture, traffic conversion, promotional marketing, and website messaging/navigation. These overlays are effective and SEO friendly when implemented properly.

Notification Bars & Banners

A bar or banner is a type of overlay that sits at the top or bottom of the browser window and is a great tactic for displaying important messaging, bringing attention to certain pages, and capturing emails on mobile browsers.

Overlay gif


A modal pop-up is similar to an overlay but is often used for important or required actions. Cookie usage agreements, age verification, and login windows are all considered modals. These are generally SEO friendly as required actions and important notifications are integral to the user experience.


Interstitials are typically windows that cover the page content and require users to wait a set duration of time before being allowed to view the content. Google has penalized sites for using interstitials because they restrict access to the content Google wants to serve users. You can hear more about this around the 3:05 mark of Rand Fishkin’s Whiteboard Friday talk on Pop-Ups.

pasted image 0 78

Conclusion: Use overlays and modals. Avoid new window pop-ups and interstitials.

Other Factors to Consider

When using overlays and modals, there are important factors to consider to avoid algorithm penalties and ensure a positive user experience on your website:

Content Accessibility & User Experience

Google is heavily invested in delivering both high-quality content and a good user experience to users. For these reasons, Google penalizes sites which obstruct users from accessing content it shows in paid or organic search. To avoid penalties, make sure your landing page content is available to users on the first-page load from the SERPs, and wait until users have had time to engage with the content before displaying a pop-up.

Additionally, pop-ups should be easy for users to close if they choose. If the pop-up cannot be closed easily and immediately, as is the case with interstitials, it creates a negative user experience. Users should be given the option to engage with the pop-up or exit it immediately.

Timing & Triggers

Pop-ups can appear immediately upon page load, after a set duration, or after actions including clicks, page-scroll percentage, and even exit intent. It is important to consider timing and triggers when implementing pop-ups as this can impact engagement with the element and the user’s subsequent actions.

For example, a user who is hit with a pop-up that blocks the content he or she was reading may exit the pop-up immediately simply to finish reading. Whether the pop-up was valuable is irrelevant if the reader hasn’t had time to digest the content on the page.

This is also true for pop-ups that are not easy to exit out of. If the user has to search around the screen for a small or hard to recognize exit button, he or she may be forced to close out of the page entirely to exit the pop-up.

Consider page-scroll percent and delayed pop-up triggers to help to extend session duration while allowing users to digest the page content before being asked to click to another page through the pop-up. Triggering a pop-up upon exit intent (or when the user’s mouse nears the edge of the browser window, presumably to exit) can help to minimize bounces and lost sessions. Depending on the capabilities of your CMS, this may be a tactic worth pursuing.

Traffic Source

While Google may penalize sites for displaying pop-ups on organic and paid landing pages (especially ones that load immediately), it does not penalize interactions with users from other sources, such as social media, email, direct, etc.

As Google’s John Mueller explains:

“What we’re looking for is really interstitials that show up on the interaction between the search click and going through the page and seeing the content. So that’s kind of the place we’re looking for those interstitials. What you do afterwards like if someone clicks on stuff within your website or closes the tab or something like that then that’s kind of between you and the user.”

In essence, Google takes responsibility for the landing page content they serve to users, so they don’t want sites covering that content with popups. How a site treats its users after their initial landing page is up to the webmaster. That’s also why it’s a grey area of whether or not to have any pop-ups on landing pages at all, or delaying the pop-up will avoid this penalty. Since google only sees your content for a short period of time (5-10 seconds to load everything) the googlebot wouldn’t know if you have a delayed popup if it shows up after the bot is gone.

Recap: Do’s and Don’ts

When using pop-ups on your website, follow the rules below to avoid penalties:

  • DO use pop-ups that open within the same window that a visitor is browsing.
  • DO NOT use pop-ups that open in a separate window outside the window the visitor is browsing.
  • DO NOT use pop-ups on the first-page load from organic or paid SERPs.
  • DO make the pop-up easy for users to exit if they choose.
  • DO NOT cover up content on mobile devices with a pop-up. Use a banner instead.
  • DO be cognizant of pop-up sizing and clickability on mobile. Make sure the exit button is clickable on all devices.

Additional Resources

Also, be sure to sign up for Seer’s newsletter to stay up to date on all things digital!

Word of advice on exactly what to expect from SEO in 2020

Between 2010-2015 the SEO industry went from being seen as a shady backroom box of tricks to a leading and essential marketing channel, driven by data, trends and user behavior statistics.

With ongoing changes Google kept SEO agencies, freelancers and internal teams on their toes by releasing update after update to hone and shape not only what they want search results to look like, but how they want us to act and work within them. This included the once-famed Penguin Update, aimed at webspam and link building practices, supposedly impacted around 0.1% of searches when originally launched, but went on to shape the importance of positive link building, utilization of tools and data and birthed job roles around SEO content strategy while strengthening the importance of content marketing.

Long term with the development of RankBrain and (perceived) closer to real-time algorithm changes, more core updates on a regular basis and the journey through ‘Content is King’ to UX – SEO has become theorized in some sense, with many of us having our own opinions and approaches to the same end result.

As we’ve reached 2020 we have in some parts see new developments from Google slow down, with the company’s focus seemingly on updating reporting suites and core updates that offer little more than ‘an improvement to search results’. We’re no longer beholden to the next big Penguin or Panda updates, but more to the inner workings of Google and sporadic updates to its Search Quality Guidelines – with this in mind, what exactly can we expect from SEO in 2020? Adhering to Google guidelines becomes harder, or easier?

We all know how SEO works and many of us will have specialisms or approaches to SEO we feel get results quicker, but with vague updates and unannounced tweaks to algorithms, is it becoming harder to adhere to Google’s guidelines?

Certainly, the unpredictability is a factor at times – with the recent updates to search guidelines on YMYL and E-A-T being announced, there’s a perception the goalposts are moving ever so slightly, every so often.

This means that if you’re scoring just inside the post on Monday, you might be wide of the mark by a fraction on Tuesday. For websites where the SEO team is at the mercy of web development or other factors outside of their control, this can prove a challenge.

Of course, any SEO agency or specialist worth their weight in gold will be able to outline and approach any issues with a solution in hand.

The flipside to this is, however, is that we all have a clear idea of what a good website looks like and what is going to rank page 1 for chosen keywords. With guideline updates, an industry that shares knowledge like no other and a focus on developing strategies that are future proof, there is no reason for every update to send SEO campaigns spiraling.

In 2020, we predict that the next wave of guidelines will be released, and our prediction is these again will be focusing on trust and authority – not a million miles away from where we’ve been for the last few years.

Actioning and adhering to search quality guidelines

Google Search Quality Guidelines regularly update – these guidelines reflect how Google wants you to work within a website and the process the search engine’s algorithm will take to evaluate the relevance of the website for keyword usage.

These guidelines take into account:

  • E-A-T – The Expert, Authority, Trust of the website in relation to the target subject
  • Page Quality – How the page is laid out, how it works and whether it has the user’s best interests at heart
  • Needs Met – Factors around whether the page ANSWERS the needs of the query

The page quality is assessed to identify where the text is placed, the wording used, content used and the quality of the content.

Google’s most recent updates put E-A-T elements at the heart of the Page Quality section of its guidelines, based on industry and type of product.

The blanket approach, and the actions needed to adhere to (or in fact exceed) Google guidelines are that the page should be “more specific than the query, but would still be helpful for many or most users because” the company is reputable in the area.

Top nine factors content managers should audit for on-page SEO

Element to Optimise Definition
Landing Page URL URL of the landing page (after the website name)
Meta Title This is the blue link that shows in Google
Meta Description The text that shows under the blue link in search results – to draw a user to click
Heading 1 Tag A title that shows at the top of a page
Heading 2 / 3 Tags Additional titles which are placed within the content of a page
Content The physical content on the page needs to meet particular criteria
Keyword Density The percentage of keywords to total text ratio on a page
Images The size, name, and title of an image on the page
Internal Links Links which point to other pages on the website

Dependence on technical SEO reduced but is still important

Technical SEO has been on the rise for a number of years but the buzz behind it has somewhat plateaued in the last 12 months or so – although it is still essential to audit from a technical perspective regularly. Traditionally, technical SEO would include web structure, speed, hosting and so on – with JSON, mark up and structured tagging following on from this.

Across client bases we’ve seen the need for technical SEO regularly drop by just under 50%, with wider-ranging audits, working with web development on new site builds and regular crawls on health being the norm.  Working in this way allows for time to be split effectively across multiple areas of SEO and better use of budget. Education on the technical aspects client-side also means SEO agencies and professionals can focus time elsewhere.

Within semi-regular technical SEO audits, there are some core elements to check, all of which will help identify issues and improve the technical performance of a website, without impacting the day-to-day of search marketing.

Top eight factors you should audit for technical SEO

Element to Optimise Definition
Web structure and URL Structure Essentially the folders in use website is built
HTTPS/SSL Security for customers or users visiting the site
HTML Build Code-behind core elements of a website
CSS / Javascript Code behind the theme and functionality of a site
Schema / JSON Code that allows websites to send additional information to search engines
Server Speed The speed in which servers respond to requests from users
Sitemaps/Robots Used by Google to crawl websites
Accessibility Are all pages able to be found

2020 and beyond

As always, Google is likely to throw a couple of curveballs – However, the SEO industry is coming of age again and it’s no longer an area of expertise that “anybody” can have a go at. There’s a need to understand the market of your clients, their customers, their collateral and the demands of Google to achieve success. Following clear structure, regular audits and systematic approaches will allow all of the above to be achieved.

Keith Hodges, Head of Search at POLARIS, is an SEO expert with over eight years’ experience in the industry. 

The post Word of advice on exactly what to expect from SEO in 2020 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

2020 Prediction Month: Identifying Macro-Marketing Trends in SEO – Collin Colburn // Forrester

Episode Overview: It’s no surprise that macro-economic trends significantly impact the SEO industry. What is surprising is the sources of these significant trends – 2020 presidential candidates. Join host Ben and Forrester Analyst Collin Colburn as they continue their 2020 Prediction Month series discussing how 2020 presidential candidates’ campaign ads negatively affect brands’ visibility and how traditional marketing efforts still retain high value in a digital marketplace.


  • 2020 election candidates buying campaign ads on Facebook will likely diminish the effectiveness of brands’ reach and visibility efforts until campaigns conclude.
  • Influencer marketing channels are becoming a more lucrative marketing option because of the relatively low costs and abundance of creative options they affords.
  • Podcast advertising is increasing in popularity with brands that host podcasts as it’s an excellent channel to deeply explore brand products or services, build brand stories and reach highly-engaged listeners.
  • Traditional spend still remains as the majority of growth in digital advertising, but Colburn advises there’s still value in traditional advertising with billboards and TV.


Ben:                 Welcome back to 2020 Predictions Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re looking into the crystal ball to tell you SEOs and content marketers what you can expect in 2020.

Ben:                 Joining us again today is Collin Colburn, who is an analyst at Forrester, which is one of the most influential research and advisory firms in the world. Collins’ research focuses on current and future trends in performance marketing, including strategies and best practices for SEO, paid search advertising, Amazon advertising, voice search, mobile advertising, local marketing, and emerging marketing trends.

Ben:                 And today Collin is going to share some of his projections for the greater marketing landscape that could affect SEOs. Okay. Here’s the second part of my conversation with Collin Colburn analyst at Forrester.

Ben:                 Collin, welcome back to the voices of search podcast.

Collin:              Yeah. Thanks for having me again.

Ben:                 Excited to have you back on the show. Yesterday we talked about what’s going to happen specifically for SEOs and the headline was SEOs should get more priority. At least that’s your prediction for 2020. More visibility from some of the largest companies in the world. Hopefully, more money, more opportunity for SEOs as well. We talked a little bit about Google, not necessarily prioritizing driving traffic to websites, but trying to keep more of the search experience owned on Google, which changes the channel to be more of a brand channel than a performance marketing channel. Today I want to take a step back and take a little bit of a broader view on what’s happening at marketing that SEOs need to know about at a macro scale. When you think about 2020, what are some of the trends that you expect to see broadly in marketing and how do they relate to some of your predictions for SEO?

Collin:              Yeah. So, I think that looking at 2020 there’s a couple of really big topics, I guess trends that are happening overall even from a macro-economic perspective that are going to impact marketing and eventually impact SEO. I think first and foremost, 2020 is an election year. For most brands, these election years, presidential election years in the US are really, really difficult because you’re competing against politicians that are spending millions and millions and millions of dollars. There’s a great article in The Wall Street Journal.

Ben:                 Politicians, competing against foreign governments, all sorts of people are buying Facebook ads this year.

Collin:              Yeah, that’s right. But you look at, I mean Michael Bloomberg has spent, I can’t remember what the number is, but it’s some obscene, obscene number in advertising already. So this is just a prelude to the rest of the year. It’s going to be a cluttered, chaotic experience to get your brand and your voice out there, but at least through advertising. So what that means to me from an SEO perspective, it’s a great time to laud the importance of earned media. I would say SEO is a form of earned media, like PR is the most typical cited form of earned media, but you also think about word of mouth and other things within social. These earned media channels, if they are going to get a thing of priority because regardless if you’re talking about TV or paid search or paid social or programmatic, it’s just going to be such a cluttered experience for the user that I don’t think there’s going to be much opportunity for brands to really get their message out there through advertising, so I think earned media is really going to be kind of the crutch for a lot of brands.

Ben:                 So because of the influx in capital from the political because of the election, your expectation is that there’s going to be more competition across all of the paid channels, which means higher costs to drive performance, which means that SEO is going to have essentially a better bang for their buck in terms of investment for brands. Talk to me about some of the other channels, you mentioned PR, influencer marketing is also something that’s on the rise. What are some of the other channels that you see increasing in importance?

Collin:              Yeah, we made a prediction in our team, our B2C marketing team here at Forrester made a prediction that in 2019 that marketers are going to shift 10% of their budget to influencer marketing. I think that’s a great example of an area where there’s increasing popularity and it’s relatively low cost and if you do it correctly, the creative can be pretty authentic in terms of partnering with the right influencers. And so I think that that’s one channel that’s a great example.

Collin:              I think another one that is going to really be showcased in 2020 and I’m already seeing it even though we’re only three weeks in, is podcast advertising. Maybe there’s something you’ve got to think about Ben.

Ben:                 Something near and dear to my heart, trust me.

Collin:              Potentially putting some ads on here.

Ben:                 We’re already working on it, Collin.

Collin:              I think that this is going to be an area of increasing interest by advertisers and as marketing tools, so I want to really get into that really quickly here.

Collin:              Advertising is obvious. If you’re a brand where there is a podcast series that’s going on that aligns nicely with the story, the message, the product, the service that you’re trying to sell or get in front of consumers, it’s a great way to be able to engage highly engaged users. People that are attentively listening. And the podcast ad is actually typically given by the host so it feels very natural. And then the second thing that’s even more interesting is we have data that shows that the majority of podcast listeners are typically high income earners over $250,000 in annual household income. So there’s a lot of really attractive reasons to advertise on podcasts.

Collin:              The second thing though is more from a brand own marketing perspective. We have more and more brands that are coming to us asking about, “How do I create my own podcast? How would we put together a series?” Or, “What would that look like? Would it be on our site? Would it be in an app? Would it be something that we’d have to partner with Apple for example with or do we partner with another brand or another co-partner to be able to put together our own podcast?” So I think that is an area that is really going to accelerate because of the popularity of being able to listen to things on the go through digital devices, whether it’s a voice assistant, a smart speaker, or your mobile device.

Ben:                 Two things to say related to that Collin, sing it louder, podcast advertising is going to be, and anybody that’s interested in, I don’t know, reaching the SEO and content marketing community, I’ve heard of a couple of great podcasts, this one, which “Hey, we’re just starting to do some advertising on this show, but not to make this a sales pitch for the people that are leading, but call me.”

Ben:                 The other thing to think about is from an SEOs perspective, when you’re working with this type of new media, when you’re working with audio content, there actually is an SEO tie back into this. One of the things that I’ve focused on with my podcast network is not only taking podcast content and taking advantage of the audience that is there, but it allows you the ability to translate your content, to summarize it, to turn it into blog content, to create short form content, turn it into Twitter, into tweets and all the other types of media and marketing that you’re going to do.

Ben:                 You can repurpose a lot of the audio content you’re creating for a podcast and really get creative with how you’re applying it from an SEO perspective. I think that’s one of the big lessons is as your marketing team is focused on influencer marketing, hey great, we have this relationship with somebody that has a huge following. That’s a signal to Google that this person and company is talking about our brand. It’s not going to hurt you from an SEO perspective. If we’re creating audio content, how do we repurpose that? So one of the key takeaways here for the SEOs that are like, “What the hell do podcasts have to do with me other than I’m listening to one right now?” You have to get creative about leveraging the things that your marketing team is doing outside of the SEOs sphere and make it relevant to you.

Collin:              It’s a great point. It’s actually something that we just talked about internally here. We have our own Forrester podcast that lives in front of our pay wall and we had a client advisory board a couple of weeks ago and I know that one of the clients said “It’d be great if you guys could do a transcription of the podcast.” And I said, “That’s a great opportunity for our prospecting website because it’s in front of the paywall. You’ve optimized that content nicely enough and it’ll have a great SEO impact.”

Ben:                 Absolutely. Unpaid promotion,, but they actually just raised their prices, but it’s a $1.25 cents per minute to get a word-for-word translation and they have a quick translation product, which is good enough to give to your team to have them write a summary or a recap, which I believe is now 25 cents a minute. It used to be 10, but is a great resource if you’re going and wanting to do transcriptions quickly. If you’re doing them at scale it’s a wonderful service that we’ve used here for the Voices of Search podcast and all my other shows as well.

Ben:                 Collin, as we think about some of the other trends in marketing, influencer marketing is important. Podcast advertising is on the ride. The PPC and performance marketing is getting more expensive. That all leads to other tools for the SEOs to play with and SEO becoming more of a priority.

Ben:                 What about some of the offline channels and how do you see some of the more traditional marketing channels and vehicles being leveraged? Is everything still staying digital or are marketers doubling back to billboards and television and the old gray hair type of marketing?

Collin:              Yeah, I mean, look, the majority of growth in digital advertising is still coming from traditional spend. So marketers shifting budget from offline media channels to online digital media channels. With that said though, there is still a lot of value, and I see this with brands, looking at things like TV advertising, radio advertising, digital billboards, or even traditional billboards as a means to increase reach and awareness. You look at sort of what you can do from a digital marketing strategy today. It’s difficult to drive awareness and brand perception because of a lot of what I was talking about with the election, but it’s still true even with even non-election years. It’s just a crowded space.

Collin:              I mean, you think about 50% of our time or more is spent on our mobile device. It’s a small screen. There’s only so much that can get on there. So I think that you’re still seeing brands invest a lot in things like TV and billboards, because it’s still a good way outside of our digital lives, to still reach consumers when they’re not hooked on their phone, hooked on their computer.

Ben:                 It’s funny, I think of it a little differently. There’s the notion of location-based data and some of the analytics that you can get for offline channels which are becoming more advanced and so I think of it less about, “Well there’s only so much you can do with digital and it’s becoming more competitive.” Yeah, that’s 100% true. It’s also that the offline channels are now more quantifiable, so everything is essentially a digital channel. You can run a billboard and understand with a high degree of certainty how many people were exposed to the ads and then track those essentially mobile phones and understand whether they converted in real life or came to a website. There’s more that’s possible with analytics making these other channels relevant, which ties back into SEO because you can run all these other campaigns and then start looking at your direct and organic traffic and to attribute value and understand what’s driving the increase to your visibility.

Collin:              I would totally agree, and I think that there’s a lot of work that’s being done too with integrating online and offline media better to drive people to the next action, whether that is through a search and then going onto the website organically from a TV ad or from a billboard ad.

Ben:                 At the end of the day in terms of the pecking order, when you think about where SEO lives in the greater landscape of digital marketing and marketing as a whole, I think the arrow is green and pointing up, but where do you see in 2020 SEO ranking in terms of priority channels? Is it now top over paid advertising? Are we still bottom of the barrel? Where do you think it lives?

Collin:              Paid advertising is still, I mean you just look at the sheer spend, it’s still going to be a top priority because it’s the biggest amount of spend. It’s where marketers are looking to get their greatest return out of because of that hefty amount of spend and it’s most quantifiable. I mean you look at some of these channels like SEO you could put in, but also social, whether you’re talking about organic social or paid social or word of mouth, whatever. It’s hard to quantify so advertisers are inherently going to say, “Well, it’s just slightly less of a priority because we don’t know what the actual down to a click or conversion impact that it has is.” But I would say that, from an SEO perspective, I think that the priority is increasing. I mean, I certainly feel it on my end in work that I’m doing with a lot of brands of sort of this avalanche effect I think of more and more brands are coming on to, “Hey, we haven’t really done a whole lot in SEO. We haven’t invested a lot of time, a lot of people, a lot of resources, a lot of money into it. Maybe this is a channel that really can drive a lot of what we’re trying to do in paid media that we just can’t anymore.”

Ben:                 No longer just the geeks in the corner, but we’re not quite to the mountaintop folks.

Collin:              That’s right.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester. In the last part of our conversation, which we’re going to publish tomorrow, Collin and I are going to discuss some of the changes in the ecommerce landscape and how they affect SEOs.

Ben:                 If you can’t wait until our next episode and you’d like to contact Collin, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is Collin Colburn, C-O-L-L-I-N-C-O-L-B-U-R-N. Or you could visit his company’s website, which is Just one link in our show notes I’d like to tell you, about if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening.

Ben:                 Head over to We have summaries of all of our episodes, the contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topics, suggestions or your SEO questions or you can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch, V-O-I-C-E-S-O-F-S-E-A-R-C-H on Twitter. And you can also reach out to me directly. My handle is benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of our conversation with Collin Colburn, analyst at Forrester, we’re going to publish an episode four to five times a week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and check back on your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Google Product Search and Learning about New Product Lines

It’s interesting seeing patents from Google that focus on ecommerce topics. The last one I recall had Google distinguishing between products and accessories for those products in search results. I wrote about it in Ranking Search Results and Product Queries.

New Product Lines in Product Search

A new patent from Google is about when new products appear in existing product lines, like a laptop that comes with more Ram or a bigger hard drive, or a camera with a zoom lens that it didn’t have before.

This patent is about determining in product search whether a query is looking for a particular product line, from within a specific brand.

Searchers frequently search for products offered for sale. Google is trying to understand the intent behind shopping-related search queries.

For Google to be able to do that well, it has to understand different aspects of product categories. This can include such things as:

  • Whether a product as an association with a brand
  • Whether a product is in a specific product line

The patent tells us it is essential to detect terms designating product lines from within product queries from searchers.

That includes associating detected product line terms along with their corresponding brands, to let Google keep up with new product lines and retiring product lines soon after changes occur.

Under the new Google patent is a process aimed at determining product lines from product search queries:

  • A product query might be classified to identify a product category
  • A brand may be identified for the product query
  • The brand may be chosen from a list of known brands for the product category

Unknown Product Lines

The patent tells us that unknown product line terms may be identified within a product query.

A metric may indicate how well the unknown product line terms correspond to an actual product line within the brand.

The metric may be compared to a specified threshold. The unknown product line terms may be designated as a new product line of the brand if the metric compares to the specified threshold.

A product search may be performed using the product query. Product search results may be returned according to the product search.

This product lines patent can be found at:

Detecting product lines within product search queries
Inventors: Ritendra Datta
Assignee: GOOGLE LLC
US Patent: 10,394,816
Granted: August 27, 2019
Filed: December 27, 2012


Systems and methods can determine product lines product searches.

One or more computing devices can receive a product query of search terms. The product query may be classified to identify a product category. A brand may be identified for the product query. The brand may be selected from a list of known brands for the product category.

One or more unknown product line terms may be identified within the product query. A metric may be computed to indicate how well the unknown product line terms correspond to an actual product line within the brand. The metric may be compared to a specified threshold. The unknown product line terms may be designated as a new product line of the brand if the metric favorably compares to the specified threshold. A product search may be performed on the product query. Product search results may be returned according to the product search.

High Precision Query Classifiers

This patent shows Google trying to identify new products and product lines, so it can distinguish them from older product lines.

Interestingly, Google is looking at search queries to identify products and product lines. As the patent tells us:

Product lines associated with product brands may be determined from analyzing the received product search queries.

The patent refers to a “high-precision query classifier,” which is the first time I have seen that mentioned anywhere at all.

How does a “high precision query classifier” work?

As described in this patent:

  • A search query may be automatically mapped to a product category
  • A list of known brands within the product category may be used to identify terms within the product query specifying the product brand
  • Similarly, a list of known category attributes may be used to identify terms within the product query specifying attributes of the product being searched
  • Attributes of Products

    Product Attributes

    The patent provides some examples of attributes for products:

  • A number of megapixels for digital cameras
  • An amount of RAM memory for laptop computers
  • A number of cylinders for a motor vehicle

Product Query Forms

We are told that the forms that a product query may take may vary a bit, but we are provided with some examples.

A product query could take the form “[B] [PL] [A].”

In such a query form, one or more terms [B] may indicate a brand that is a known brand within a list of known product brands, and one or more terms [A] may indicate attributes that are known attributes of the category. One or more unknown terms [PL] may then be identified as a potential new product line. Such an identification may be strengthened where [PL] is in a form associated with product lines. The identification may also be strengthened where [PL] is found with brand [B] frequently over time within various product queries. The identification may be further strengthened where the terms [PL] are infrequently, or never, found with brands other than the brand [B] throughout many product queries over time.

A metric is calculated by comparing what might be the attributes of products from a new product line, with attributes of a actual product line associated with a brand.

This metric may consider the number of unique product queries containing the terms [PL] having the correct structure and/or category along with the extent to which [B] dominates among every query that has a brand preceding [PL].

Why would Google be looking at Queries to learn about new product lines from brands instead of from product pages that describe the attributes of products?

Identifying Product Lines

How this identification process may work:

  • Software for product line resolution may identify product lines associated with brands for product categories determined by the query classifier
  • Product line resolution may use a category attribute dictionary and a product brand dictionary to establish pairings between brands and product lines
  • The product query and the determined brands and product lines may then be provided to a product search engine
  • The product search engine may then provide search results to the searcher
  • The query classifier may map the product query to a product category
  • Product line resolution can use product category information with the category attribute dictionary and the product brand dictionary to identify terms from the product query about specific product lines relate to product lines
  • The unknown terms identified by the product line resolution module for a category may be fed back into the category attribute dictionary as attributes for that category
  • Each identified product line may also be related to a particular brand listed in the product brand dictionary
  • The product brand dictionary can provide a list of known brands within various product categories
  • The known brands may be used to determine and resolve terms associated with product lines within each brand
  • The product line terms may then be used to identify a potential new product line

The identification of a new product line may be strengthened:

  • When unknown terms information is in a form associated with product lines
  • Where the unknown terms are found with a brand frequently over time within various product queries
  • Where the unknown terms are infrequently, or never, found with brands other than the brand identified throughout many products queries over time

Identifying When Unknown Terms Maybe in a form associated with product lines

Here are some observations about the form of product lines:

  • Product line terms generally start with a letter
  • Product lines generally contain few or no numbers (differentiating product line terms from model numbers or serial numbers
  • Product lines may be related to a category or a brand (One brand may generally have single word product lines while a second brand may use two word product lines where the first word relates to performance and the second word is a three-digit number

These kinds of patterns or forms about product lines could be used to associate unknown terms within a product query as product line terms.

Using a Category Attribute Dictionary to Resolve Product Line Terms within Product Queries

The category attribute dictionary can provide a dictionary of attributes associated with various product categories and brands.

Terms from the category attribute dictionary may be used to resolving product line terms within the product query.

When unknown terms are often found within product queries along with brand information, those unknown terms could be seen as product line terms associated with a specific brand. When known attribute terms are found in the category attribute dictionary to be consistent with brand [B] or the category associated with the product query by the query classifier.

Product Query Processing

The patent includes this flowchart to describe the process behind the product search patent:

Where does Google Learn about product lines?

The patent doesn’t mention product schema, or merchant product feeds. It does tell us that it is getting a lot of information about product lines from searcher’s queries.

Google also collects information about products and product attributes from web sites that sell those products, in addition to looking at product queries, as described in this patent.

Collecting such information from site owners may be the starting source of much information found in the product and category dictionaries and product attribute categories that are mentioned in this patent.

The process of updating information about products and product lines from product queries from searchers is a way to crowdsource information about products from searchers and get an idea of how much interest there might be in specific products.

It is quite possible that Google can learn a lot about products from product data feeds that merchants submit to Google. Google is trying to get merchants to submit product feeds even if they don’t use paid product search, to make those products visible in more places on Google in Surfaces across Google as described on this Google Support page: Show your products on Surfaces Across Google.

We saw that Google is using product feed information to help it distinguish between product pages and accessory pages for those products as I wrote about in the blog post I linked to at the start of this post.

Google also describes product markup on their developers page Product. Google tells site owners that they should include that markup for their products because:

Product markup enables a badge on the image in mobile image search results, which can encourage more users to click your content.

By collecting information about products from product feeds, Product Schema, product web pages, and product queries from searchers Google is collecting a lot of data about products, which could enable it to be pretty good at providing answers to product queries, and to understand when new product lines are launched.

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Caught in the Middle: How to Effectively Manage a Vendor Relationship for Your Client

Managing vendors on behalf of clients is a part of agency life. Whether it’s a tool provider, search engine or social network, we’re often asked to serve as the intermediary between the client and the vendor, but this can be a tricky minefield to navigate. Since the client is ultimately paying for both of our services, this often results in an interesting dynamic. But fear not, we have some tips to make sure that your vendor-client relationship is set up for success.

Communication is Key 

As with any relationship, communication is key. Arguably, your job as a liaison between the two parties is to make sure you keep the lines of communication open.

  • Schedule check-ins between you, the vendor and the client at a regular cadence. This can be bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever works for you. The point is to have time blocked off where you can discuss any open projects, challenges or shifts in goals
  • Bonus Tip: At least once every six months, use these meetings to have a frank and open conversation around what’s working, what’s not and how you can improve in the next six months– on all sides of the relationship
  • Clearly communicate deadlines and expectations. Your vendors and partners are not mind readers, so if you need them to support you on a specific task or hit a deadline, you have to tell them
  • When emailing with your vendor POC, make sure the client is cc’d on the message, unless they have specifically requested not to be. This ensures they are kept in the loop
  • Bonus tip: When in doubt, overcommunicate. Make sure you reply by email to confirm next steps and timelines. This can prevent headaches down the road, as if there are any disputes or discrepancies, you can point back to your email

Be Collaborative, Rather Than Combative 

Remember, you and the third-party vendor are both on the same team: the client’s. It’s important that you both work together to meet their goals and objectives. You should be fostering an environment built on collaboration, trust and transparency.

  • Be willing to share information, data and goals (within reason). Holding back information or keeping things siloed only makes it more difficult for everyone to do their jobs
  • Consider bringing the vendor in on more strategic conversations. They might be able to offer a fresh perspective or show you a way that their tool can help solve a problem you’re having. As they say, two heads are better than one

Be Solution Oriented 

If something isn’t working with the vendor, make sure that you bring solutions to the table rather than just identifying problems.

For example, if you feel that joint meetings are lacking purpose, a tactical and solution-oriented way of handling it would be to start putting together agendas and recaps for calls.

If you’re having an issue with the tool or platform itself, make sure you’re clearly outlining the issues you’re having and what you’ve done to troubleshoot to your vendor POC, so that you can have a more productive conversation with their team and get to a resolution sooner.

If at the end of the day, the problem is insurmountable and the solution is that you need a new solution (or vendor), that’s OK too. But, if that’s the case, you should take a proactive approach. If your recommendation is that the client should move to a new vendor, make sure that you’re providing at least high-level recommendations on potential replacements. Businesses are constantly evolving and that often means that you need different tools to get to where you’re going next.

Ultimately, our job as an agency is to keep the client happy and help them meet their goals. In most cases, this also aligns with keeping the vendor happy. But when the two are at odds with one another, you have to do what is in the best interest of the client.

Have any good tips on how to manage vendor-client relationships? Share them in the comments below or tweet them to me @up_for_grabs89.

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