Are you prepared for the rise in voice search? Columnist Sherry Bonelli discusses how voice search will impact local businesses.

There’s one thing that remains true about SEO: it’s always changing. One of the big changes that we’re experiencing now in local SEO is the increasing popularity of voice search. Voice search used to be a novelty — now it’s a necessity, especially when you’re on the go with your smartphone or tablet.

If you’re a local business, how do you optimize your business for this new personal assistant-type search? Here are some tips.

Voice searches are on the rise

According to Google, 20 percent of searches on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches. The total number of voice searches overall is actually much higher when you take into account personal assistants like Amazon’s Echo (aka Alexa), Google Home (a direct competitor of the Echo), Siri and Cortana — tools that are solely based on voice recognition.

Why the uptick in voice search? First, using your voice to search is getting more accurate. Not too long ago, voice recognition simply wasn’t accurate. In many cases, it was more frustrating than helpful. Now, according to the KPCB Internet Trends 2016 report, the accuracy rate of voice search is up to 92 percent. That’s a huge improvement. As voice recognition becomes more and more accurate, the capabilities of voice search will expand, and consumers will reap the benefits as its popularity continues to rise.

Another reason voice search is becoming more mainstream is that these new devices (like Alexa and Google Home) are bringing voice search to the everyday consumer — and are actually living in your home. (If you tried to find an Amazon Echo to purchase around Christmas time, you know what I’m talking about. There were none to be found.) Consumers have more voice recognition technologies to choose from, and there are sure to be more on the horizon.

So, if you’re going to stay ahead of local search, you need to start thinking about voice search as you optimize your site — starting now.

Optimizing your local business for voice search

Many people use voice search to get information about local businesses they want to go to. They might say something like, “Where is the best pizza restaurant in Chicago?” (Now that’s a tough one!) In this case, you’d want to make sure that you optimize the content on your pages for “best pizza restaurant in Chicago.” Adding natural language to your site’s content will only help you with voice search results.

Another way to add natural language to your website is by creating Q&A pages — using words and phrases that people actually speak (versus words they type into a search box). Make these Q&A pages more conversational in tone, and the keyword phrases you use will probably resonate more with a person performing a voice search.

You also need to make sure that it’s easy for the search bots to crawl your site and know what your business is about. This can increase the chances that your content will show up in response to a voice search question. Make sure you submit your sitemap to Google and Bing. Additionally, start incorporating microdata, schema, rich snippets and so on. These little pieces of code give the search engines even more information about what your business is all about.

If structured data still scares you a bit, check out Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper, where you can see the different kinds of content you can mark up. It will also walk you through the process and make sure you’re including the right HTML on your site.

Now, if a person uses the common local search phrase “near me,” then your on-site optimization probably won’t impact the results much. Instead, the device will look at where the user is physically located when they perform the search and pull up listings that are on Google My Business, Bing Places for Business or other online directories. That’s just another important reason to make sure your business is claimed and optimized — and that your listings are accurate with regard to your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP).

Also, when you’re setting up Google My Business or Bing Places for Business, be as specific as you can when you pick your business category — that can increase the odds of showing up on voice searches that are targeted to your local niche.

In addition to Google My Business and Bing Places for Business, you also want to make sure that your online business directories (aka citation sites) are accurate as well. For instance, if your old address is listed on Yelp, and your new one is on Citysearch, the search engines won’t know which address is the correct one and will be less likely to pull your business up in voice search results.

Small changes: start today

Voice search doesn’t mean you need to overhaul your entire SEO strategy or the content on your site, but it does mean that you’re going to need to make some subtle changes that can help make you more successful in the voice search world.

First, consider the intent behind a voice search. Mobile voice searches will use natural language, which means long-tail keyword phrases are more important than ever. So start brainstorming about what naturally spoken questions may be asked about your business, product or service.

There are some helpful tools that make this brainstorming process easier. Try Answerthepublic.comStoryBase or Question Samurai (developed by the makers of the great SEO tool, Market Samurai). These tools give you some great natural language keyword phrases that you can incorporate into the content of your site.

Another trick is to take a look at your analytics. Google’s Search Console reports show you what queries are bringing people to your site. At this time, you can’t tell if the search query came from voice search or the good old-fashioned way — but the way voice search is going, that may change. Regardless, you can get some good ideas based on how people are finding you right now.

One final thought

Since most voice searches are done on mobile devices, you MUST have a mobile-friendly site. If a person does a voice search, goes to your site and has a bad experience, you’ve lost! This not only impacts that individual searcher, but a high bounce rate because your site is difficult to use on a smartphone can also (indirectly) negatively affect your rankings on Google. Go mobile, if you haven’t already.

What are your thoughts on voice search? Are you preparing now? I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make your site more voice-search-friendly.

Author: Sherry Bonelli
Source: http://searchengineland.com/essential-voice-search-strategies-2017-267054


Categorized in Search Engine

Whether you do SEO for a living or consider yourself a newbie, most people involved in search engine marketing know that there are two ways to go about it.

White hat and black hat.

White hat SEOs are the Jedi. We have tons of midi-chlorians in our bloodstreams and work for the forces of good in the universe.

This means promoting high-value content, engaging in deep keyword research to win in SERPS, and in general, promoting our websites or the websites of our clients using the methods that follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Black hat SEOs are the Sith. They are afraid that doing high-quality work to boost rankings takes too much time, so they take shortcuts that aren’t exactly laid out in Google’s best practices.

And we all know that fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…

sad dog

Some of these black hat techniques can be attractive to people who are new in the SEO space! Ranking well in search engines takes a lot of time and effort, and finding ways to hack the system is understandably appealing for those new to search engine marketing.

When I was starting out, I used a few of the techniques detailed below and guess what? I got no results! My websites were all indexed correctly, but I wasn’t able to get anything to rank for meaningful searches until I learned the ways of the White Hat Jedis.

So what happens when you try to implement black hat SEO strategies? You may make slow progress for some time, but you’ll eventually get hit with a Google Penalty.

If you’ve already been hit with a penalty, it’s time to read The Definitive Guide to Recovering From a Manual Search Penalty.

What Are Google Penalties?


The original Penguin update was launched in 2012. Google relies heavily on links from one domain to another to determine a website’s authority. The penguin update crawled the web for any website attempting to game the number of links pointing to their site.

Over 10% of search results were affected, some of which were removed from Google search results entirely.

Since then, website owners and professional SEOs have been keeping a pulse on Google’s search algorithm updates.


The Panda update is a bit different. Its goal is to filter search results to prevent “low quality” sites’ content from ranking. While the definition of “low quality” is subjective, Google has their own course on creating valuable content, so it’s easy to see what they consider to be high-quality when it comes to digital content.

What Do Google’s Penalties Do?

If your website gets hit with either a Penguin or Panda penalty from Google, the results are the same: the loss of your current ranking position in search results and a huge dip in your organic traffic. All because of a few black hat methods you used to try to promote your website.

And if your website relies heavily on organic traffic from Google, a penalty could result in a downward spiral that could put you down for good.

Black Hat Strategies to Avoid

While there are many strategies black hat SEOs use to try to game Google and rank well in search results, these are the most highly used and the most likely to get your website penalized by Google.


Getting in trouble with the internal links in your website or external websites linking to you could result in a penguin penalty. Here’s what you want to avoid when it comes to links.

Buying Links

Why most people do it: Arguably the most important ranking factor is the quality and quantity of links back to a website. It’s logical to think that buying links from websites with high Domain Authorities is the easiest way to get backlinks without putting in a lot of work.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Buying links is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It’s an easy way to get on Google’s bad side and receive an automatic or manual penalty. It’s unlikely you’ll get away with buying links without leaving a trail. Google tracks links that are likely purchased and those which are likely natural, so gaming Google is more difficult than you’d think.

Reciprocal Links

Why most people do it: When Website A offers to link to Website B, Website A might think it’s a good idea to ask Website B to link back to them as well. That way, they get a bit of link juice in return.

Why you shouldn’t do it: If there’s a purpose for both websites to link to each other, such as a partnership, then reciprocal links make sense. But if the entire purpose of the two-way link is “link juice,” you run the risk of getting penalized.

Footer Links

Why most people do it: A backlink from the footer of another website is seen as valuable because it’s a link back from every page on their website. Because all pages contain a footer, when you add the link just once, it’s like adding a backlink from every page on that site.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Similar to reciprocal links, if there’s a purpose, like telling readers who built the site, then it makes sense to include it. If the link is purely included to gain authority, is from a completely disconnected website or contains non-branded anchor text, the risk of a penalty is real.

Hidden Links

Why most people do it: By hiding text or links, some people think that you can include lots of links back to your site without Google even knowing about it.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Googlebots are smart and know when your website has any hidden text or links. Having hidden links is bad, but the double whammy comes in the fact that Google crawlers can see a different website than your visitors. That’s a big no-no and is one of the easiest ways to get penalized and drop in the rankings.

Comment Spam

Why most people do it: Some websites allow users to add a comment below a post, and sometimes those comment sections allow links. This is an easy way to link back to your site, right?

Why you shouldn’t do it: Wrong. Linking back to your site in the comment forms of other websites is spammy and something Google doesn’t want to see. In Google’s eyes, links should be earned through quality and valuable content, not posted in a comment form in just a few seconds. If you can add something to the conversation and a link back to your site in a comment is relevant and brings value to the readers, then it’s probably OK to include it. If not, try something a little less black hat.

Anchor Text Overuse

Why most people do it: Most SEO beginners are susceptible to this. When trying to rank a page or post for a specific search phrase, they try to link back to their websites using related anchor text. For example, someone trying to rank “brand new sailboats for sale” would link back to their website with 100 links, all with the anchor text, “brand new sailboats for sale.”

Why you shouldn’t do it: Again, Google sees what you’re trying to do. You’re attempting to rank well for a specific search phrase by using contextual anchor text. In the past, this worked pretty well! But not so much today. Google prefers branded anchor text instead of keyword anchor text — it’s more natural to link back using the anchor text, “Marty’s Boat Emporium,” because it’s more natural and suggests the link validates trust.

Malicious Backlinks

Why most people do it: To be clear, nobody does this to themselves on purpose. Nobody attempts to get links back to their website from malicious websites. Unfortunately, there are many black hat SEOs, spammers, and hackers out there who embrace the dark side and will try to damage another site by linking to it from a site that is spammy or even unindexed.

Why you shouldn’t do it: When a site that Google deems is spammy links to your site, it can hurt your ranking. If you see links from precarious websites coming to your website, it’s most likely they didn’t pick your site specifically, and they link to everyone. If you do find that there are suspicious websites linking to your website, use the Google Search Console Disavow Tool to ask Google to ignore the link.


Publishing content that doesn’t provide any real value to your website visitors is grounds for a panda penalty. Here’s what to avoid when it comes to content.

Duplicate Content / Content Theft

Why most people do it: Producing high-quality, valuable content takes a lot of time and effort. For that reason, some people think they can take content published on another website and reuse / repurpose it on their own. Now your website can have great content without the pain of producing original content, right?

Why you shouldn’t do it: Not quite. Google is very particular about duplicate content and, in general, doesn’t like to see the exact same content spread across multiple domains. If you find a piece of content that you think your audience would find really valuable, it is possible to republish that article on your website as long as you have the permission of the original author and fully disclose the fact that it’s being republished. But if you’re thinking about blatantly copying content from another site, you’ll run the risk of a Google penalty.

Over-Optimization / Keyword Stuffing

Why most people do it: This is another common error for those new to the SEO world. Some people think that the more they optimize a page, the better their page will rank, so they include ten H1 tags and repeat the keyword phrase they’re trying to rank for over and over again.

Why you shouldn’t do it: This actually used to work. In 2000, if you wanted to rank for “purple elephant,” all you had to do was include the phrase “purple elephant” a few times in your title, a few times in your H1 tags, and ad nauseam in your content. But in 2017, Google is looking for the content that provides the most value to searchers. That means over-optimizing is out and focusing on giving the most comprehensive answer to a user’s queries is in.

Hidden Content

Why most people do it: Similar to hidden links, some people think they can include content that’s the same color as the background of the site. They do this to include textual keyword phrases in the website without affecting their users’ experience.

Why you shouldn’t do it: Again, Googlebots know when your website has any hidden text or links. Google’s priority is the users, and hidden content definitely counts as a bad user experience because it’s something bots can see but your visitors can’t. This is a big no-no and is one of the easiest ways to get penalized.


While having an unsecured website can’t technically get you a Penguin or Panda penalty, it could result in the loss of your valuable rankings.

Hacked Website

If your website gets attacked or injected with malicious code and Google finds out, they can block your website for people using their search engine.

Not only will this cause you to lose the trust of anybody who visits your site from organic search, but it will cause your website to drop in the rankings just like a Penguin or Panda penalty would.

While it’s true you may receive a notification through Google Analytics that your site has been hacked, it still could mean a real penalty for your website in search results if Google knows your site contains malicious code.

To Wrap It Up

It should seem obvious that when it comes to black hat SEO, the numbers just don’t add up. Produce high-value content, follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and most importantly, don’t be in a rush.

Do yourself a favor and become a Jedi, not a Sith. It will pay off in the long run.

Author:  Joe Howard

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/11-black-hat-techniques-can-kill-seo-campaign/180601/?ver=180601X3

Categorized in Market Research

Building a cohesive search strategy can be difficult. There are a lot of factors to consider, including new search methods that are becoming increasingly popular such as altered reality and voice search and AI. But, other lesser known search strategies have the potential to increase engagement.

Learn more about overlooked search strategies you can use to get that much-needed boost in conversions.

The Benefits of Bing for Consumers and Advertisers

At Pubcon 2016 in Las Vegas, Brent Csutoras, SEJ’s Chief Social Media Strategist, sat down with Christi Olson of Microsoft to talk about the benefits of Bing for consumers and advertisers.

Here Are Some Key Takeaways from Her Interview:

  • Bing is finding ways to create a search results page that helps consumers take action right away. It’s not just about the links on the page anymore. It’s about what users are trying to do, the intent behind their query, and helping them get to their intended action quickly.
  • Bing presents more information and context based on user search behavior — what they’ve looked at in the past, how they’ve clicked, and how they engage with the search engine. A machine learning algorithm looks at user behavior over time. So, if you’re looking for your ad and do the same query repeatedly, your ad might not appear in search results because you’re not clicking on it. This teaches the algorithm that you’re not engaging with the ad so you might not be interested in it.
  • Bing’s audience skews slightly older than Google average audience (25 years old and up). Bing has also seen a 20% growth with its integration into Microsoft products, where it powers search on a user’s machine as well as across the internet.
  • The search engine also presents video in search results. Outside of text-based links, results that get good engagement include local search and shopping campaigns. Bing has a 30% market share, which means that one in three searches happens in Bing today. This opens up opportunities for advertisers.

Tips on Structuring Mobile Advertising Campaigns

In this interview at Pubcon 2016 in Las Vegas, Optmyzr CEO Frederick Vallaeys, shares a few strategies for structuring your mobile advertising campaigns.

Here Are Some Key Takeaways from the Interview:

  • The majority of search is now happening on mobile devices, so you must optimize for mobile search.
  • Google has created different bid modifiers for different devices: mobile bid modifier, tablet bid modifier, and desktop/computer bid modifier. If you want to advertise only on mobile, turn off your desktop traffic or set a different bid modifier for desktop traffic.
  • You can also create different landing pages. You can even have a mobile-preferred landing page. However, Google has taken away the ability to have a mobile-preferred ad.
  • Expanded text ads no longer have a mobile-preferred option. One way to get around this is using ad customizers to create mobile-preferred ads. Because of these new controls, you can think about account structure in completely new ways and you can reinvent it in a way that works best for you.

How On-Site Search Helps Boost Engagement and Conversions

JP Sherman of Red Hat discusses how on-site search can help boost engagement and conversions in this interview at Pubcon 2016 in Las Vegas.

Here Are Some Key Takeaways from His Interview:

  • People who are searching on your site are more likely to convert, since they’re already engaged and might even be looking for something you’re actually selling. Based on this, you can use on-site search as a force multiplier for conversion. On-site search is a way to establish brand identity, helping people remember who you are and encouraging return visits.
  • On-site search can help improve user experience based on the types of products you have, what your customers are looking at, and how they consume that information. Searching on your site is a way for people to get to your products so you need to understand what they’re actually looking for.
  • Key matches in on-site search can be seen as a stripped-down version of Google AdWords. It’s a way to promote something to the top of search results based on a keyword.

Source:  searchenginejournal.com

Categorized in Online Research


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