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In October, Dr. Pete posted a nice image of a mega-SERP at Moz. The idea was to highlight and draw attention to 25 separate SERP features that searchers may see at any time for a search query. It’s truly enlightening.

These SERP features include:

  1. Local Carousel – You’ve seen this black strip with images when you conduct a local search.
  2. List Carousel – This carousel features a white background and includes menu items as links, such as songs on an album.
  3. Adwords Ads – These appear at the top of your SERP.
  4. Shopping Results – Image-based sponsored ads on the left side of the page.
  5. Answer Box – These include dictionary definitions, weather reports, and direct answers to search query questions.
  6. Image Mega-Block – Search for an image and you’ll see these.
  7. Local Knowledge Panel – Usually include a map and a local listing.
  8. Site Links – Often called 6-packs, these are subordinate links that are related to a website and point to internal pages on that website.
  9. Video Results – No explanation needed.
  10. Local Pack Results – Like the 6-pack, these 7-packs are internal pages related to a main page associated with a local search.
  11. Authorship Markup – Associated with a Google+ profile.
  12. Review Markup – Usuallay associated with recipes, products, and other review content.
  13. Local “Near” Results – Tells you what is near the location you actually searched for in Google Maps.
  14. Image Results – Standard image result.
  15. News Results – A pure vertical result under the News tab.
  16. Social Results – People you know because they are in your social circles.
  17. In-depth Articles – A new kind of result that features long in-depth articles that cover a topic heavily and could be considered evergreen.
  18. AdWords Ads – Appear on the bottom of search results.
  19. Related Searches – Self-explanatory.
  20. Shopping Results – Like the above, but these appear on the right of the page.
  21. Knowledge Graph – Wikipedia entries, nutritional information, and other big box information that appears on the right side of the SERP.
  22. Brand Graph – Like the knowledge graph box, these brand boxes are connected with a Google+ page.
  23. AdWords Ads – Appear on the right side of the SERP.
  24. Disambiguation Box – Google’s attempt to clarify your search intent.
  25. Google Map + Pins – A fairly new search feature, this features pinned results on a map.

Cutting out the duplicates, this is really 21 types of SERP features, but it’s a lot. These represent the various ways webmasters have of ranking in the search results, and there are multiple strategies for each type of SERP feature.

All this means that you shouldn’t spend most of your time tracking keyword rankings because there is a lot more to search now than there used to be.

Affiliate marketing icon Sugarrae posted a rant knocking Google and Matt Cutts off their conjoined high horse. Near the end of her post is this brilliant little gem:

From here on out, you work on generating traffic. From here on out, you work on generating branding. From here on out, you work on obtaining customers.

There’s more. You’ll have to excuse the profanity, but you should read the post. I’ll add this caveat:

This is really nothing new.

Your job has always been to build traffic and brand. That hasn’t really changed. The problem is, many online marketers got away from the real goal and started focusing on search engine rankings. Rankings are nice, but they’re not an end in themselves. They’re not the end goal. They are a means to an end.

With personalized search, Google+, and other late great algorithm changes, you can’t predict search rankings.

You might have a page rank #1 for a search phrase only to later in the day rank #10 for the same search phrase. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is because different searchers have different search profiles and Google is tracking them. You can’t control that. That’s why you shouldn’t focus too heavily on ranking in Google.

Online marketers now have a lot of reasonable avenues for attracting new traffic to their websites. You have:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Bing
  • Niche websites

And more!

Focus on building your brand and traffic through a variety of online promotional means. If you do that, rankings will take care of themselves – as long as you don’t get too spammy.

Yesterday, Bing announced the addition of some really cool features that should make it more competitive with Google. That’s not to say we can expect an immediate turn around in search market share, but Bing could gain 1% or 2% over a year with these new features unless Google responds with similar features. Historically, however, when Google follows, they choke. They are much better when they lead.

Here are the new features being offered by Bing now:

  • Discover TED Talks – TED Talks are very popular. If you search for a person who has given a TED talk, you’ll get a Snapshot pane with that person’s biographical information, including a list of their TED talks.
  • Famous Speeches and National Anthems – Listen to them online right from Bing’s search engine. If you search for a famous statesman, you can listen to famous speeches by that person with just one click.
  • Online Courses – Find free online courses from top universities.
  • University Rankings
  • Scientific Concepts – Search for a scientific concept and you’ll get the definition and explanation of it right in the search results, which is similar to Google’s dictionary listings and weather reports.
  • Historic Events – Looking for a historical event? Get information on it right in the search results.
  • Related People – If you conduct a search and get a string of snapshots, you can hover over the images of the people and see how they’re related to your search.
  • Animal Research – Search for an animal and get a list with images of subspecies of that animal.
  • Ask Bing – Ask Bing a question and get the answer in the search results.
  • App and Software Downloads – If you’re searching for a piece of software or a particular app, Bing will point you to the safest websites for download.

All of these are useful for searchers, but how will they assist Internet marketers in putting their products and services in front of potential customers? We encourage you to play with these features on Bing and get familiar with them. Then you can put together a strategy for improving your search rankings based on how Bing appears to rank pages for these particular searches.

Marketing your brand through YouTube is one of the most powerful media for marketing on the Internet, but what is the true value? Is it traffic? Rankings? Brand reputation?

The truth is, most of the benefit you get from marketing your videos through YouTube is with brand management, not traffic or rankings.

The Truth About YouTube Traffic

In the FAQ section of this lengthy blog post, the author gives an example of a YouTube video marketer who showed over 400,000 views on their YouTube videos in December 2012 but received only 19 referrals to their website as a result of those videos.

If that doesn’t shock you, it should.

The amount of traffic you can expect from your YouTube videos is relatively low. Why? Because people don’t go to YouTube to find videos that promote websites. They go there to find a video to watch for entertainment or informational purposes.

YouTube And Search Rankings

If you upload videos to YouTube hoping to increase your website’s search engine rankings, you’ll be disappointed. You could see a rise in your brand’s search rankings, but it will likely be your YouTube channel – especially if you upload a lot of videos and if you share them on your social media accounts or embed them on your website.

Video embeds from YouTube help YouTube’s rankings, not the site on which videos are embedded.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you want more rankings for your brand name, YouTube could be a place for you to make that happen. Just know that you’ll be ranking your YouTube channel, not your website.

YouTube And Branding

Your best bet for using YouTube for marketing purposes is to upload videos that have a strong branding message to them. Try to make your videos informative and entertaining. If you can do both and still get your brand in front of your audience, then you’ll be golden. That’s what YouTube is all about.

Every couple of years I read about exact match domains and how Google is clamping down on them or helping them out to some extent. I recently read a blog post published by a popular SEO company on the same subject. They’re essentially asking – and stopped short of outright saying it – that exact match domains are done for. But they went on to say that partial match domains are still good.

It just so happens that Google is always tweaking its search algorithms to reconsider its ranking criteria in fluctuating models of importance.

What that means is that on some days your exact match domain may very well push you higher in the rankings while on other days it may not help at all. Then, on other days it could actually hurt you.

This popular blog pointed to a recent Panda update that seems to be diminishing the effect of exact match domains on search rankings. But does it?

It’s possible that Google has re-ordered its search ranking algorithm to put more favor upon other ranking criteria such as inbound links, anchor text, or something else entirely. Or it could be that there was some initial fall out for some websites with exact match domains when Google did something that affected other search ranking criteria. Who knows?

We can’t really reverse engineer Google’s Panda updates with certainty. What we can do is offer some reasonable explanations about changes in behavior with search results based on careful observation. I still think that exact match domains have some search engine results effect. How much is the question.

If Google Panda and Google Penguin taught you anything, it should have been not to chase the algorithms.

A lot of search marketers spend the bulk of their time trying to figure out search engine algorithms and playing to those. They’ll test this and test that, then implement a new search strategy or link building strategy based on guessing what’s important to Google or Bing. This is a waste of time.

I’m not saying don’t run tests. But don’t rely on tests as a final authority on accurate search ranking. Algorithms can change. And they often do.

Instead, focus your content on your end user. Who do you want to attract to your website? Well, then write your content for that person. If you write your content with one person in mind who serves as the ideal customer, then you’ll get a lot farther in terms of marketing your website. Search rankings generally take care of themselves if you write your content with the end user in mind.

I’m not saying don’t optimize your content. You should use your keywords, write good titles and subheads, include alt tags, and take care of the basic SEO elements. But don’t make them the most important elements on your page.

The most important thing to good search engine rankings are your site visitors. What do they want? Give it to them.

A lot of sites today are falling in the search rankings because they have duplicate content issues. Now more than ever, duplicate content is causing major issues with search rankings. The good news is, in most of these cases, it’s a pretty easy fix.

Here are 3 reasons why your site may be suffering from duplicate content issues, and how to fix them:

  1. HTTP vs. HTTPS: If you have a secure side of your website for members or because you want to keep certain information secure from people who haven’t earned access, this can cause duplicate content issues. More often than not, it’s a byproduct of your CMS and how your pages are technically handled by it. Many content management systems use dynamic URLs that look like this:
      http://www.example.com/webpage.php?booklist_id=321548

    Then, the same page is indexed using a clean URL, and you suddenly have two pages with the same information on it. Duplicate content. Tweak your CMS so that only one of those pages is indexed. This can often be done in the settings, or you can simply use a robots.txt to prevent crawling of one of the pages.

  2. Same product fits into multiple categories: Another issue is you have products that are categorized in multiple categories. The search engine indexes the page under the category names, so the URLs are different but the content is the same. You can change the URLs on your website so that web pages are indexed without category names. You should also consolidate the pages and use 301 redirects to maintain the traffic.
  3. Language-specific pages: If you have your content translated, then you might have the same information on a primary page and also on the language-specific page. For instance, your English-language URL may look like this:
      http://www.example.com/en/literaryterms.html

    If that same page is also located at http://www.example.com/literaryterms.html, then you’ll have issues. Only store the content in one location and redirect one of the pages to the other.

Duplicate content issues are easy to fix in most cases. Don’t let them get you down.

Internet marketers, and SEOs in particular, are prone to making mistakes with their online marketing. Many times they make a bunch of little mistakes here and there, but they can often make big glaring blunders too. Today I’m going to talk about one of the most common mistakes new Internet marketers make with their websites and why you shouldn’t make this mistake.

So what is the biggest mistake Internet marketers make? It’s real simple. They freak out.

Specifically, new Internet marketers and SEO types are prone to freaking out when they see their search engine rankings go down. Don’t do this. It’s natural.

New websites usually get a big boost in search engine rankings when they first appear in the SERPs. Don’t ask me why, but it seems that once Google finds a website the search engine sends it straight to the top of the SERPs. Then, like a stock whose price was too high, a correction is in order. Rankings fall back to their natural levels.

This is nothing to get alarmed about. Keep focusing on the fundamentals of SEO – creating content, building links, analytics – and don’t do anything stupid like buy a bunch of low quality links.

From time to time you may see your rankings rise or fall sharply. This too is nothing to worry about. Google frequently updates its algorithms and sometimes these updates create a little dance in the search results. Sites rise, sites fall. After things settle down you’ll end up at your natural ranking level again. Just keep doing the fundamental things and you’ll be fine.

It used to be that all you had to do was write a decent page of keyword-based content, add some meta tags, and then start building links. If you were even halfway good at it, you could expect to achieve respectable rankings. SEO is a lot harder now.

Specifically, on-page SEO is a lot harder now. And it’s getting harder.

What’s making on-page SEO so hard? Why is it getting harder?

There are several reasons why on-page SEO is getting more difficult with each passing day. For starters, Google changes its search algorithms more than 50 times a day, so it’s near impossible to keep up with the changes.

Secondly, there are so many search factors to keep up with that no one can feasibly master them all. And we can’t be sure any more just how much weight is given to specific on-page factors such as keyword density, keywords in subheads, meta tags, page titles, etc. Plus, the addition of schemas and structured data means that some SEO factors may be subject to certain conditions and your rankings may or may not have to do with anything related to those conditions.

For instance, all else being equal, if you use a particular bit of structured data and your competitor doesn’t use any, your competitor could still rank higher for you on some search queries even if you rank higher than him on others.

SEO is getting to be more and more subjective all the time – subjective in the sense that each page is judged on its own merits without consideration for what’s going on in other parts of the web.

There are basics to on-page SEO that every webmaster should pay attention to, but beyond those, your best bet is to test, experiment, and measure. No two web pages are a like and no two search queries are either.

For the longest time now just about anyone you talked to in SEO circles would sing the praises of the No. 1 position in search results. But have you noticed that most PPC specialists – at least the ones who are worth their weight in salt – prefer to get their clients No. 2, 3, or 4 positions in the rankings? Why is that?

The truth is, No. 1 positions are the most clicked-on positions. That’s true for PPC and organic search listings. But those are not the most profitable positions.

The most profitable positions are the ones just below the No. 1 position. Why is that?

What most people don’t realize is that most searchers will click on that No. 1 position, but if it isn’t what they were looking for, then they hit the Back button and click on another search result. SEOs know this. Clients don’t necessarily know this. So everyone is scrambling to get that No. 1 position.

There’s nothing wrong with being No. 1. But you should be seeking to be No. 1 for the right search queries. What questions does your website answer? Those are the key terms you should seek No. 1 rankings for.

SEO results fluctuate. But they are also much more personal. Google now provides videos, images, and personalized results based on who your Google+ friends are your past search history. Your search results are not my search results. That makes the No. 1 position just about unattainable. Trying to get there is an exercise in absurdity.

The job for search engine marketers in today’s search climate is to produce the best content and promote it in the best places. Rankings won’t cure all your ills.

In the old days of SEO, all a marketer had to care about was whether or not he was building good content and building good links. If you wrote great content for your website using the right keyword mix with content that helped your audience, built links from good domains and with the right anchor text, and didn’t do anything the search engines didn’t like, then there was a good chance you’d rank well for the keywords you targeted. Those days are going away – fast.

SEOMoz has a great post on how Google looks at sentiment and how that affects SEO at the local level. You’ll be amazed at the technology the search engines now have.

Using something called stylometry, Google can determine whether your link from a third-party website is a positive endorsement, a negative endorsement, or neutral. And I find that amazing. It could affect your rankings.

Get enough bloggers to link to your website using negative references and you could see your search engine rankings plummet. On the other hand, get enough rave reviews and you could rise to the top. It’s pretty easy to imagine what you need to do to improve your rankings then, huh?

No, I don’t mean buy positive endorsements. I mean provide great customer service. Your reputation is more than just a few paid-for links. It’s how you do business.

In the world of search engine optimization, the robot can be good to you or it can diss you something fierce. The human reviewer, however, is more likely to kick you square in the big one. And it could hurt.

As Jennifer Ledbetter explains, you’ll only be reviewed by human eyeballs when you hit a respectable ranking on Google.

What that really means is you did a spectacular job with your SEO. Now you have to convince the human reviewer you deserve the spot you’ve worked so hard for. How do you do that?

The first thing you should keep in mind is that searchers are doing the same thing. The difference is that the searcher can’t ruin your day by knocking you down to page 10. But you know they’d like to. If only they could.

If you don’t want that big drop to happen, then you need to learn what those human reviewers are looking for. One thing that could make you fall in the rankings is obvious spam. Just don’t do it. You’ll pay for it.

What they are really looking for, however, is something positive. Is your page relevant for a search query? If so, you likely have nothing to fear.

Google is introducing its +1 button today. Hooray!

According to the WebProNews article, Google is saying that +1 votes will be used to determine search rankings. But will anyone use it?

I think this is an open-ended question, and will likely remain so for a while. Google has introduced many new developments that have gone nowhere. Need a list? Here are a few:

  • Google Wave
  • SideWiki
  • Social Search
  • Shared Spaces

These are just a few of Google’s attempts at social media, attempts that have gone nowhere and that are still lingering in the air. This time, Google is right up front that the effort is going to be used to help determine search rankings. That’s like an open invitation to become a spammer.

Think about it. Any time Google announces that a certain action is being used to determine search engine rankings, then everyone gets on the bandwagon. Remember link building? Or social bookmarking? Yep, the Google +1 button will likely become the next big SEO factor. All the SEO blogs will be talking about it – but they’ll be the only ones.

That may be what Google is hoping for. Call it the Google +1 trickle down theory. SEOs will talk about how wonderful the tool is for SEO. Their blog readers will take it as gospel and begin to use it themselves hoping to push their websites up in the rankings. When the rest of the Web sees the +1 button being used so much, they’ll begin to +1 sites they like and we’ll all be in search heaven.

But will it work like that? Only time will tell. Still, it’s a novel idea. I just hope it goes somewhere.

Your first impression is a big deal. And you only get a chance to make one. That’s why your web design has to be top notch, not just good.

There are three types of web design companies:

  • Search engine optimizers who also do web design
  • Companies that only do web design
  • Companies that design killer websites that are SEOd well

While web design is important, it’s not so important that you should forget about search engine marketing. In fact, a good web design actually takes into consideration the latest SEO techniques and tactics with search engine rankings in mind.

In truth, it’s a balancing act. You balance a beautiful image with great rankings. When you play this balancing act well, it will show in increased traffic to your website and your web pages ranking for the important content you want to rank for. It’s a two-tiered system where both parts are equal.

Web design firms that only do web design can make your site look good, but they won’t get you ranked. You’ll end up having to hire an SEO company to make it rank, and sometimes your SEO company has to make changes to the website.

If you hire an SEO to do web design, then you run the risk of a site that doesn’t leave a good impression. There’s no reason you can’t have both good SEO and awesome web design.

If you are a do-it-yourself website owner, then one tool that should be in your SEO toolbox is Google’s Webmaster Tools.  Inside this array of tools you’ll find handy features such as setting a region for your website, submitting sitemaps, and even checking how many pages have been indexed through your sitemaps.

Google’s Webmaster Tools goes much further than that, especially with the introduction of new statistics available to webmasters. You are able to review how often your pages appear in search results, what keywords or key phrases are used and how often your search listing gets clicked.  You are also able to see exactly where your pages rank in search results with the above data broken down for each search placement.

It can be a real eye opener to see one of your pages rank at number one for a search term and receive 1000 impressions yet only have a 2%-3% click-through while that same page may have 750 impressions and have a 10%-15% click-through – and you thought that getting that number one placement was all important.

You can see over time whether or not your search rankings are climbing, and whether or not your click-through rates are improving. If you have a low click-through rate, try rewriting your meta descriptions, then see if there is any improvement.

What makes Google’s Webmaster Tools even more attractive is that it is free. You will need to verify your website, but that too may play a small role in the overall SEO equation. Some people believe Google gives verified sites a small tick as part of it’s search algorithm. Whether it does or not is open to debate, but whether these tools are handy is not – I can assure you they are.

It can be frustrating managing a business with an online presence. You have a good website, easy navigation, top quality content, and your products and services more than competitive – yet you struggle to gain that front page listing in search results. Before throwing the towel in and looking at alternatives, a little competitive intelligence may alter the picture completely.

The factors that are going in to determining search rankings are always in flux. Some factors only need time, for example, inbound links. It is also important to understand that search rankings are so flexible that two different people entering the same search may see different results. Google is one search engine that also takes into account the surfing/searching history of the user.

Competitive intelligence can give you a snapshot of where your competitors are today. You can use this data to plot their progress over time compared to yours. Often, you will find that your competitors are only progressing slowly, if at all, while you are moving ahead at a faster rate.

This leaves you with two options, to either work a little harder at improving those ranking factors, or to let time deliver the fruit of your previous efforts. Competitive intelligence is never a one off factor. By continuously monitoring your competitors, you will gain a real insight into how far they really are ahead of you. A word to the wise, however: Don’t forget to look behind at those who may be trying to sneak their way past you. Remember, your competitors are not just those who appear in front of you; there are just as many following on behind you.

Todd Mintz on Search Engine Journal has an interesting post on whether or not it’s okay to break Google’s rules when it comes to optimizing your website for search. I am sure that over time it will cause a little stir in the search industry, especially with his conclusion advocating this practice. In his words:

Because Google’s guidelines do not have the force of law, how you manage your site and its tactics doesn’t involve ethical decisions (so long as you aren’t violating any laws) but business decisions. You should employ any and all tactics that can and will increase your revenue irrespective of Google’s guidelines.

To a certain extent, he is right. It is your business, and Google’s rules are not laws that you ‘must’ abide by. If a certain practice is good for your business, even though Google frowns on it, then it probably makes good sense to proceed with it. However, you do have to balance the possible effects of a Google search penalty – how much harm will that do to your business?

There is no doubt that Google is inconsistent when it comes to sites breaking the rules. What is dangerous about Google’s inconsistency is the way they apply these rules. Every now and then Google goes on a spree penalizing sites left, right and center for a particular group of breaches. Twelve months or two years later, they pick another group of rules to target. The last big target was paid links, and that caused a real storm.

We are probably overdue for Google to target a different set of rules to ensure they are being followed. By breaking those rules, you could be setting yourself up for a future penalty. Ultimately, it’s your business and your website. If you want to bend, twist, or even outright break some of Google’s rules, that’s your decision. Do your research first to see if other sites are also freely bending or breaking those rules. Better yet, do everything possible within the guidelines, then only bend the rules if you really need to.

For many years the name of the search engine optimization game has been to target Google. The more articles you read the more often you will come across references to Google, Matt Cutts or Webmaster Tools. Every now and then, Yahoo! or Bing creeps into the conversation.

The theory has been that Google gets the majority of traffic so that is the place to rank. It has been a reasonable theory too and most sites find that if they get it right for Google, they are close to getting it right for the others.

Yahoo! recently announced a new search design and at the same time made a little noise about targeting people search.  A search for a person will produce results which include profiles Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and FriendFeed.  Their aim, to be number one for people search.

It was not so long ago that reports indicated that Bing was doing well in the travel, retail and finance sectors when it came to searches.

If the search engines are going to target certain niches, perhaps the time has come to reassess our search engine optimization strategies. If your site is based on travel, retail or finance, it may be time to focus your search engine optimization strategies on areas that will help you rank well on Bing.

Many will argue that you can optimize for all three search engines, and you can. However, we still bring the focus back to Google – perhaps it is time to change that.