Category Archives for "SEO – Search Engine Optimization"

Aug 29

Can We Talk? The Role Natural Speech Now Plays in SEO and Customer Engagement:

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Natural Speech is Vital to Brands Seeking to Satisfy Search Engines and Customers

Language is the foundation of interaction between humans; and between humans and brands. Exponential growth of smart speakers, digital assistants and voice search, makes it more important than ever for brands to focus on speech that search engines and customers understand.

If you don’t use the same language your audience uses, you just may be talking to yourself or your inner circle.

Brand Communication

Advertising became common in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Political promotional material has been found in the ruins of Arabia and Pompeii. Papyrus, wall, and rock painting has been replaced with tweets, emails and SMS messages. Methods and speed have changed dramatically. There are more mobile devices in the hands of more humans than toothbrushes. In many ways, the way brands approach marketing has changed very little over the years. It is easier and more cost effective for brands to create mass media campaigns, controlled messaging, and scripted communication with customers.

Same as It Ever Was

Unfortunately, for brands, the demands and expectations of customers are outpacing their ability to keep up. Even market leaders like Amazon has experienced negative pushback for its customer service bots when they failed to evolve beyond the first level response. I experienced this myself after I turning to Twitter and tweeted to Amazon’s customer service when I experienced difficulty getting a human on the phone who I could understand. No matter how many times I responded, I kept getting the same response from different “reps”, providing the same link to resolve the issue, which didn’t work…and was why I was trying to escalate the problem to get help. Was I dealing with bad bots or really poor humans? I didn’t matter to me, or the countless others expressing their frustration with similar experiences. Amazon failed to meet expectations of its customers. And, customers are not shy about letting others know when they have a negative experience.

The Crowd is in Control

There will probably always be a place for some mass media messaging. However, in the social economy, broadcasting has been replaced with interactive engagement. Brands no longer control the majority of the message. A brand’s destiny is now heavily influenced by the media, reviews, clicks, shares, recommendations, and even competitors. Whether your business will survive the democratization of the brand depends on how responsive you are the needs and expectations of the crowd – your customers. Stop Talking, Start Listening

Relinquishing control to the people they serve is difficult for some brands. While brands invest resources to design what they will sell and how they wish to sell it, the ultimate control lies in the hands of customers who are seeking the perfect solution, the way they wish to buy it. Brands are learning that either respond to what the customers want or face failure. Or, even worse, watch a competitor fill the need with a better solution.

Answer the Question

When you want to know how to do something new, what do you do?
Most people Google it by asking Google a question.

Searches often begin with a phrase, such as; “how to”, “what is”, “where is”, “the difference between”, etc.

People (customers) are looking for an answer to their question – a solution to their problem.

Search is Much More Than Keywords

Since the late 1990’s I have been helping brands leverage the way search engines work to reach their customers. Most call this SEO (search engine optimization). However, the approach I developed was so different from the way short-sighted hacks worked and talked about SEO that it only appealed to brands who were truly interested in serving their customers (a great client qualifier). While most of the industry convinced brands to chase keywords, I have always emphasized answering the customer’s quest by answering the questions in a way that would help Google, Bing, and social search engines bring customers to their brand and their offer. I explain how this approach should drive the design and creation of website content in my book Million Dollar Websites.

Using natural language may seem like common sense. Yet, it is the exception rather than the rule in the way most brands approach SEO, marketing and sales communication. – Rebecca Murtagh

This approach has always been, and continues to be extremely powerful, and became especially relevant in 2008 when autocomplete became the default search method on Google search, mobile apps and browsers. The practice of completing queries (including #hashtag searches) has since spread across the internet on ecommerce websites like Amazon, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Instagram, and just about anywhere a search can be conducted.

The State of Digital Speech in 2017

When smart speaker owners (i.e. Alexa, Google Home, Siri, etc.) were asked what they use their device for most, a study conducted by Pandora and Edison Research found that personal, human-like interactions ranked especially high. Artificial intelligence is what drives the speech Apple, Google, and Amazon use to interact with users, based on mega-collection of voice and language data across their platforms.

Hmm, people prefer to speak to voices that sound like people. No big surprise here. Except, the language brands use is rarely written for the customer, as crazy as it sounds. All too often, brand communication is written to appeal and appease investors, media, competitors, internal management, etc.; rather than customers.

Talking Brands

If someone starts a conversation with you, how should you reply?

Imagine walking on to a car lot, asking a sales person to see a two-door convertible and being pointed in the direction of hundreds of cars to find your own way. Or, worse yet, being forced to listen to the salesperson’s spiel about the dealership’s history, manufacturer warranties, dealer hours, and service department specials before even getting close to the car you are searching for.

This is the experience your customers have if your website is not only search engine-friendly, but speech friendly. Search is just one mechanism that will utilize speech. However, it is likely the most common speech-centric action that connects brands with customers at this stage in the game.

Speech and Search

Answers are not merely a connection of possible results. Artificial Intelligence is turning data into real answers. Google now uses neural networks and deep learning to create “sentence compression algorithms” understand and respond to natural speech. Why is this so important?

Voice recognition accuracy is around 95% and continues to improve.

20% of mobile search queries in 2016 were conducted by voice.

70% of queries to Google’s assistant (Google Home) are made in natural or conversational language.

Takeaway: Everyday language is the most powerful way to connect a customer with a solution.

Digital Domination

The digital experience is the customer experience. It is not a pre-cursor to what will happen when a customer arrives on your doorstep. It how well you can communicate at that very first point of contact may very well determine whether you will advance to the next level of engagement with your brand.

Digital Commerce is growing for both retail and B2B (business to business). U.S. e-commerce sales grew 16.3% during Q2 2017, and Amazon was responsible for nearly half of that growth according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Investment in B2B Ecommerce are expected to reach $1.1 Trillion by 2019, which will be double that of B2C at $480B, according to Forrester. Bottom line, just about every type of business transaction has an online component.

What it All Means to Your Business

Question: What do recent trends in ecommerce and search technology mean for your business?

Answer: More of every phase of the sales process will take place online, 24/7, creating a greater demand more human-like engagement.

You must be willing to have a conversation that meets the need of your customer.

Speak the Language

Want to appear more often in search results, grow market share and increase sales? Recognize that you win each customer individually. Consumers don’t make a research a purchase decision as a group, they begin as an individual, seeking a solution, the way they want it, when they need it, (what Google calls Micro-Moments).

One of the most powerful things you can do to improve performance of your website, social media, and other channels to support marketing and sales is to speak the language your customers are speaking. This often means letting go of industry jargon and focusing on how you best solve a problem. In other words,

So, when you begin planning user experience, lead generation, website design, content, bots, Q&A, customer service scripts, or any interface with your customer, think of how you would like to be engaged…that just may be the most effective way to go.

Apr 23

Mobilegeddon Google Algorithm Mobile Update

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Expected to impact more website than recent Google algorithm updates than Panda and Penguin, ‘Mobilegeddon’ is expected to shake things up in search for all industries, worldwide.

Mobilegeddon Is Not a Date, It Is a Shift

Mobilegeddon is the name the digital industry has given to the algorithm update Google announced in February 2015 that will expand mobile-friendliness as a quality signal for websites in organic search. Google introduced ‘App indexing’ at the same time to leverage information collected from indexed apps as a factor for search engine ranking of apps for users who have the app installed and are signed-in to the app.

Mobile Websites Will Rule

If you have read my book, or my 2014 Search Engine Watch column “Mobile Now Exceeds PC: The Biggest Shift Since the Internet Began”, you know that mobile is not new to the search engine optimization discussion (SEO). Google has encouraged businesses and brands to embrace mobile for some time because internet users around the world are increasingly seeking content from search by way of mobile devices. Google’s decision to expand the influence of mobile in determining how to display websites in search engine results will make mobile-friendly websites winners, and non-mobile websites the losers.

When is Mobilegeddon?

Tuesday April 21, 2015 is the date Google identified as the ‘start’ of when the search engine algorithm will put more emphasis on mobile as a ranking or ‘quality website’ signal. Google’s goal is to make mobile-friendly content from websites and mobile apps easier to find in search. This date has effectively served as a line in the sand to motivate businesses and brands to become mobile friendly.

Truth is, mobile has a been a Google ranking factor for quality websites for some time. In fact, I shared Google’s position on mobile in my book on websites which was published in February 2013. So, mobile is not a new factor in the search engine algorithm, it is simply being emphasized more by Google in search engine results.

Mobile-friendly websites have been designated as such in Google search engine results viewed from a mobile device for some time.

Is Your Website Mobile-Search Friendly?

Want to know whether your website is mobile-friendly according to Google, or not?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a tech wizard to get a straight answer on whether Google considers your website to be mobile friendly. The Google Mobile-Friendly Test is quick, easy and absolutely free. It will scan your website and let you know whether your website is configured properly to be considered a mobile-friendly website by Google.

If your website meets Google configuration criteria, you will be congratulated, with a screen that looks like this;

website passing Google Mobile Friendly Test

If your website is NOT mobile-friendly, The Google Mobile Friendly Test will let you know. And, until you make the necessary updates to your website, you should be prepared for some level of penalization, or loss of traffic to any website that does not meet Google mobile criteria.

You will be presented with a screen like the one below of a website firm selling responsive (mobile-friendly) website design. This is just one of the many website design, SEO, advertising agency and marketing firms that sell mobile website solutions, but operate websites that not meet Google’s criteria.

Google Mobile Friendly Test Fail

You can use the Google tool to check any website URL. As demonstrated by the results above, a website deemed not mobile-friendly may not accurately reflect the work of the firm or agency, so be prepared to do your homework to insure any investment you make toward mobile will meet Google criteria.

This particular result was a random selection and surprised me, as this firm does create responsive, or mobile-friend websites…Which leads me to my final and perhaps most important recommendation: Be prepared to make informed decisions when it comes to website design, content, SEO and related marketing initiatives. Things are not always how they appear – and that goes for positive and negative perceptions.

What to Do if Your Website Is Not Mobile Friendly for Mobilegeddon

April 21st 2015 marks the beginning of the Mobilegeddon algorithm update. If your website is not mobile-friendly on that date, you have not completely missed your opportunity to meet Google’s requirements. Google is likely to recognize when your website does become friendly to mobile device users. However, in today’s highly competitive search environment, the sooner you comply the better.

How to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Do not rush into building a mobile app or separate mobile website until you have determined how, exactly, your website will best serve all customer types on mobile devices.

Of course, I highly recommend any business executive, marketing director, IT, entrepreneur or small business owner seeking to get better results from their website to read my book, Million Dollar Websites: Build a Better Website Using Best Practices of the Web Elite in E-Business, Design, SEO, Usability, Social, Mobile and Conversion, which emphasizes a holistic approach toward the website as a business asset using proven best practices, including Google recommendations on mobile-friendly websites, BEFORE making a decision about whether to build a responsive website, separate mobile website or mobile app, or investing in website design, re-design, SEO or content.

Mobile-friendly websites are not just good for Google – they are good for all businesses and brands because their customers expect a mobile experience.

Have you seen a shift in traffic or search engine position over recent days or weeks?

Comparison Grid of Google Bing Yahoo Search Engine Factors for SEO and Quality Website
Jan 24

Rebecca for Search Engine Watch: Comparison of Google Bing and Yahoo ‘Quality Website Guidelines’ for SEO

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Quality Website Guidelines – Infographic

This week on Search Engine Watch, I emphasized the importance of the ‘Quality Website’ in search engine optimization and performance of the website for users. Google, Yahoo and Bing have all confirmed the value of SEO, and more importantly, the value of quality websites.

The Quality Website is not a natural phenomenon. It requires proper planning, optimization and management, as I outline extensively in my book ‘Million Dollar Websites‘.

SEO Requires More Than On-Page Optimization

Search engines care about much more than content and meta data – they care about relevance, authority and a quality user experience by visitors. After all, the primary goal of search engines is to deliver the best possible result to a search engine query. If quality results are not provided, they lose the search function to other search engines. Loss of search traffic directly impacts ad revenues. So, you can bet the search engines have a vested interest in referring quality websites through search engine results.

Comparison of SEO Basic Guidelines for Google Bing and YahooComparison Grid of Google Bing Yahoo Search Engine Factors for SEO and Quality Website

Below is the grid I created to demonstrate the qualities that either contribute to the quality of the website, or put the website in jeopardy of being viewed as “spammy”, which can diminish search engine performance, or even result in disappearance (de-listing or blacklisting) from search engine results altogether.

Don’t think it can happen? Believe me, it does – every day. Even highly experienced website designers, agencies and developers have found themselves scrambling to make amends after breaking  suggested guidelines or rules of search.

There are many more factors that contribute to the performance of search. However, this grid offers a great foundation from which to evaluate the quality of your website.

You can view the full-size graphic on MillionDollarWebsite.TV


Click to view more of Rebecca Murtagh’s articles on Search Engine Watch.

Oct 17

Google Link Disavow Tool Helps to Ward Off Negative SEO and “Unnatural Links”

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Google Link Disavow Tool To Help Webmasters Improve Link Quality for SEO of Websites

If you’ve been among the many websites notified by Google of a manual spam action due to “unnatural links” pointing to your site, never fear, Google has created the Google Link Disavow Tool to improve your link relationships, which came under intense scrutiny in the recent Google Penguin Update. Matt Cutts announcement of Disavow Tool at Pubcon

The announcement by Google’s Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, was made at Pubcon yesterday during a luncheon presentation at Pubcon Search and Internet Marketing Conference in Las Vegas yesterday was met with enthusiastic applause.

Remove Un-Welcome Links

This is good news for those who have seen an increase of incoming links, only to learn that Google has designated some, or many, as “unnatural links” in the wake of the Google Penguin update. This recent algorithm update essentially punishes websites with links that appear to be manipulative or spam, including paid links, link schemes and links that violate Google’s Quality Website Guidelines. This had created a new challenge for Webmasters and SEO’s trying to determine how to increase website authority, especially those reliant upon link-building revenue streams in their SEO businesses.

Webmasters have been frustrated by the challenge to prevent others from linking to any website. Welcome or not, these links are one of the 200+ factors Google uses to calculate page rank and visibility in search engine results.

Google Link Disavow Tool Offsets Negative SEO

The Penguin update inadvertently created opportunity for negative SEO, essentially anyone could reduce one aspect of website’s overall search quality in the eyes of Google by directing unrelated links to specific (most often competitor) websites. Matt Cutts also references mutliple links created by low-quality articles, blog posts, etc., which will be of particular interest to those who pay for blog posts and articles to link t their website.

Until now, it has been difficult, if not impossible, to prevent unwanted links from impacting a website’s SEO. This tool enables webmasters and SEO professionals to notify Google of links they wish not to be considered in search rank calculation.

Details of the Disavow Tool and Process

  • As with anything Google enables webmasters to manage, they will take your link disavow requests as a “very strong suggestion”, but does not guarantee consideration.
  • A thorough link audit is recommended prior to submitting links to the tool, or a reconsideration request in the wake of recent black-listing or penalty in search.
  • The process will take a couple of weeks for Google to process according to Matt Cutts.
  • In the case of reconsideration requests, submission of disavowed links should be included.

Matt Cutts explains details of how the Disavow Tool works in this video:

Got links?
It may be time to evaluate and take action with this new management tool from Google.


UPDATE: Matt Cutts has since made the slides from his presentation available.
Click the image below to visit his blog and view the slide deck.

Matt Cutts Pubcon 2012 Presentation on Google Disavow Link Tool

Jul 30

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at the Origins of Google Knowledge Graph

By Rebecca Murtagh | SEO - Search Engine Optimization

Early Roots of Google Knowledge Graph

Early 2012 I shared with you Google’s roll out of the Knowledge Graph, explaining how Google search was moving from word-based index to connecting people, places and things to deliver more intuitive results.

Marissa Mayer revealed basis for Knowledge Graph years ago.

In 2007 Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of Search Products & User Experience stated in an interview with IDGNS: “Google is really good with keywords, and that’s a limitation we think the search engine should be able to overcome with time. People should be able to ask questions, and we should understand their meaning, or they should be able to talk about things at a conceptual level.”

Enter Google Now

The conversation continued to explore how Google created the 1-800-GOOG-411 service to advance its efforts in speech recognition because they needed to create a “great speech-to-text model”, which is undoubtedly the driving force of “Google Now”, the virtual assistant inherent to Android Jelly Bean 4.1, perceived to rival iPhone’s Siri, and Samsung’s “S”, but with one distinct advantage, access to Google’s Knowledge Graph.

View Google Now Video:

Don’t forget Google’s ability to translate and index audio (speech) from video to meta content to include in search results (also mentioned by Mayer in the IDGNS interview).

We’ve witnessed the roll-out of services that seem arbitrary to some over the years. Google Glass, Self-driving cars, etc. It surely does seem to be coming together, but that is another post.

Google is very good at tantalizing the media to keep their story fresh. Now that Marissa Mayer has left Google to be CEO at Yahoo, many are anxious to hear from the Yahoo camp.

Could Yahoo give Google Knowledge Graph a run for the money?


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