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By OppGen

Write, Review, and Revise: How to Adjust to Google’s New Core Update

Google’s aptly named January 2020 Core Update went live on January 13, 2020.

In a tweet, Google’s Public Liaison of Search Danny Sullivan referred to a blog post published in August 2019 regarding search algorithm updates for guidance.

Like previous core updates, Google didn’t share any specifics about what this update entails, leaving those discoveries up for dedicated SEO analysts and experts. 

The best way to stay on top of the January 2020 Core Update is to pay attention to search rankings for the following days and weeks.

If you notice your rankings were negatively affected by the core update, take the time to re-evaluate your website with the following items in mind:


1. Update and revise quality content

To quote Google’s August 2019 post about core updates: 

Pages that drop after a core update don’t have anything wrong to fix.

So, what’s the big deal, then? Why did your website’s page drop after the core update if there’s nothing wrong with it?

The answer to those questions might be found in a page’s content. You should try to offer the best content you can. The best content is thorough, up-to-date, and provides original information.

If your page had a high SERP position prior to this core update, it may be worth your while to see the last time your page was updated. It could be that some of the information the page provided is outdated.

If the websites that rank higher than yours have more recent information, it certainly would not hurt to get your content up to date.


2. Review search quality rater guidelines

Algorithms are very much works in progress. Google knows this, which is why the company hires search quality raters. These raters give Google further insights about algorithms’ effectiveness. If an updated algorithm isn’t coming up with better search results, the raters will inform Google.

Though the raters have no control over how pages rank, they do give feedback for how effective Google’s algorithms are working. Think of raters like customer service feedback request forms. If you fill one out after a shopping experience, the feedback shows what that business is doing well as well as areas of improvement.

Thankfully, Google has shared its search quality rater guidelines, so you can review what these search quality raters (and Google as a company) consider to be quality content.


3. Write for humans, not an algorithm

On October 25, 2019, Google introduced a search algorithm called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT for short. BERT reads searches and content like a human being would. 

Before BERT, Google’s search algorithms processed words based on the words around them. BERT reads each word one by one in order, allowing it to take the full context of a word into account. The way BERT “reads” gives it a better understanding of the reasoning behind a search query.

“It’s more important than ever to write like a person,” said Will Stockton, Senior SEO Lead at OppGen. “That may sound strange, but the days of tricking search engines by writing for a machine are over. Google is closer to reading like a human than ever before, and everyone should start writing content for who they should have been writing for all along — other people.”

By OppGen

Business Owners Still Don’t Understand SEO, and It’s Not Their Fault

How much do business owners know about SEO? The answer might surprise you.

Fractl surveyed 977 people, with 394 of them being business owners, on SEO knowledge. The majority of these business owners (219) ran companies with fewer than 5 employees.

This survey found that:

  • Nearly a quarter of business owners were either vaguely familiar or not familiar with SEO.
  • 55% of business owners reported being mostly or very familiar with SEO.
  • 1 in 3 business owners had little or no understanding of how Google determines search rankings.
  • When asked to describe common SEO terms, business owners were more confident than the general public, but…
  • …When quizzed over these basic SEO terms and concepts, both business owners and the general public failed. On average, business owners scored 48.7% while the general public scored 38.7%.
  • About 26% of business owners don’t see SEO as an important aspect of the health of their business while 18.4% think it is very important.

The gaps in SEO knowledge, particularly for business owners, are eye-opening. How is it that 55% of business owners said they were mostly or very familiar with SEO while failing to pass a basic SEO terminology quiz? Even though business owners’ average quiz results were better than the general public’s, a failing grade is still a failing grade. It’s easy to pin the blame on those surveyed for their lack of knowledge, but what if that is only part of the problem?

What if the digital marketing industry is doing a poor job of educating clients about SEO?


Bad and Good Teachers

Bad teachers are teachers who fail at their main task: educating students in a way that makes sense.

We’ve all seen our share of bad teachers. There’s the math teacher who insists there is only one way to solve a problem even though there are several other ways. Maybe you’ve had a chemistry professor who cannot explain complex concepts in a simple way — but instead uses a lot of scientific jargon with the assumption that the students understand.

On the other hand, you may have been fortunate enough to encounter a good teacher. Good teachers simplify confusing or difficult concepts, encourage multiple ways of problem-solving, and inspire their students by revealing what can be achieved with a thorough education.

Just as there are good and bad teachers, there are also good and bad digital marketing agencies. A good digital marketing agency is a lot like a good teacher. They both educate and communicate with the items below in mind.


Being Transparent and Honest

If a digital marketing agency says it has a secret formula or won’t disclose a list of its clients, that’s a red flag. That might mean they don’t value educating clients, they don’t feel comfortable educating clients, or they have a reason to work in secrecy.

There is no reason to keep SEO ranking factors a secret, especially when some factors can easily be found in a Google search. However, there are still aspects of SEO that may require an agency’s expertise, so don’t go waving off a partnership with one immediately. Some organic search ranking factors weigh more heavily than others, and that isn’t necessarily information business owners can glean from just anyone’s blog.

Ideally, a digital marketing agency will teach clients as much as they know about SEO so their business can meet their goals, whether that be lead generation, booking more appointments and consultations, or increasing sales.

Hiding any of that information could have a negative impact on a client later down the road, leaving them worse off than they were before.


Encouraging Growth to Succeed

The most experienced digital marketing agencies want to see their clients succeed. They won’t string people along with vague answers. They’ll do whatever it takes to see their clients rise to the top.

The best digital marketing agencies will create a customized SEO strategy that’ll help clients meet their unique goals. They also know to communicate that it takes time to see the effects of any optimizations that have been made to the client’s website and content.

Growth does not happen overnight. It may take months before a client sees an increase in sales or consultations. An agency that tells its clients that growth will be immediate may not be the most honest or experienced agency.


Creating Personalized Strategies

Everyone learns differently. In an ideal world, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education.

Business owners who receive “cookie-cutter” services from their digital marketing agency may want to look elsewhere. It doesn’t matter if this agency has some of the highest organic keyword rankings for their clients. Just because they had great success with a few clients using the same strategy does not mean they’ll be able to boost your business to achieve the same results.

Before starting a marketing campaign, a strategic marketing agency performs a digital audit and analysis so they can figure out the areas where SEO and/or PPC clients succeed and the areas in need of work.


Bringing It All Together

It is imperative to educate business owners about SEO and PPC campaigns and what sets apart the best digital marketing agencies from their counterparts.

For business owners:

If you work with an agency, ask them to explain topics in more depth instead of giving summaries. If you don’t understand something, ask them to slow down or give another example. 

Just as business owners tend to be knowledgeable about their respective industries, digital marketers have some expertise in theirs, too. They might not know the ins and outs of what running your business entails or certain terms, but that doesn’t mean you think they’re complete buffoons. Marketers don’t think that about you. They know you’re seeking their help and won’t think any less of you for asking what you might feel is a stupid question.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so ask anything that comes to mind.

For digital marketing agencies:

Explain things on a basic level before getting too deep into the lingo of SEO and PPC. If your client looks or sounds confused or frustrated, stop and ask an open-ended question like, “What can I make more clear?”

Asking “Does that make sense to you?” makes it easy for clients to nod along, even though they have no idea what you’re saying. Open-ended questions encourage you to listen carefully to clients, which shows you take them seriously. That can strengthen your relationship with clients.

Business owners and digital marketing agencies are not enemies. They are partners that could not exist without the other. Educating one another is key to successful marketing campaigns, and by utilizing all this information and transforming them into strategies, we can start to close the SEO knowledge gap.

By OppGen

Google My Business Practitioner Listings & How To Effectively Manage Them

Before we dive into the best method of managing and optimizing your Google My Business Practitioner Listings for local SEO, let’s begin with the basics.

Who Is Eligible for a Google My Business Practitioner Listing?

Google outlines an individual practitioner as “a public-facing professional, typically with his or her own customer base. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial planners, and insurance or real estate agents are all individual practitioners. Listings for practitioners may include title or degree certification (e.g. Dr., MD, JD, Esq., CFA).”

Essentially, an individual practitioner is eligible a dedicated Google My Business listing if:

  • He or she operates in a public-facing role. Support staff should not create their own listings.
  • He or she is directly contactable at the verified location during stated hours.

What Are for Google My Business Practitioner Listings?

Now that we’ve identified who is eligible for Practitioner Listings, let’s discuss what Practitioner Listings are. Practitioner Listings are simply authorized individual Google My Business listings allowing practitioners the ability to now leverage their personal brand on Google search. Local businesses have utilized Google My Business listings for years to help improve search engine rankings. As an individual practitioner, you absolutely should now be leveraging the same strategy for your personal brand. Many clients and patients will search for your name organically and without a well optimized website, and a Practitioner Listing, you could be at risk of missing out on the opportunity.

How To Effectively Optimize Your Practitioner Listing

Below are several common scenarios you or your practice may be facing in regard to effective listing management.

Solo practitioners that belong to branded organizations…
According to Google, if a practitioner is the only public-facing practitioner at a location and represents a branded organization, it’s best for the practitioner to share a listing with the organization. In this scenario, you should create a single listing in the following format:

[brand/company]: [practitioner name]

For example: “BigCity Medical: Dr. Joe Smith, MD

So, you may be wondering, are there advantages, as a solo practitioner and member of a medical clinic, to create or manage two separate Google My Business listings? The answer is: potentially. We first recommend you check your local keyword rankings to determine how you rank for your primary targeted keywords. Let’s say you rank well for “plastic surgery clinic” but not for “plastic surgeon”. This would be a great case to separate your Practitioner Listing and your business listing. However, if your business listing is ranking well, we would recommend not developing a separate listing as a solo practitioner. Just be very careful that your Practitioner Listing down not compete with your business listing!

Multiple practitioners at one location…
Ok, so what if you’re one of several practitioners at this location? In this case, leverage following setup:

  • Have the business or clinic create a listing for the location, separate from that of the practitioner.
  • The title of the listing for the practitioner should include only the name of the practitioner and shouldn’t include the name of the organization.

In this scenario, you will create a Practitioner Listing separate from the business. The listing will look something similar to “Dr. Joe Smith, MD”. There’s also an opportunity to create separate listing for each business location or clinic the practitioner works at. If Dr. Joe Smith works as a plastic surgeon at one clinic, but a general doctor at another, Dr. Smith should create multiple Practitioner Listings, one for each business location to help improve local SEO.

What Sites Should You Begin Creating Practitioner Listings For?

• Google
• Bing Places
• Apple Maps
• Yelp
• YellowPages
• Manta

What Website URL Should You Link To?

Now that you’ve begun developing your Practitioner Listings you may be wondering, what URL should I be linking to for my citations? Best practice is to link Practitioner Listings to your website’s practitioner page or about us page. Continue linking your business listing to your website homepage.

Hopefully this quick summary of how Practitioner Listings helps assist your business or medical clinic as you work towards optimizing your organic business listings.

If you’re still feeling a little lost, do not hesitate to reach out to our experts for further local SEO guidance.

By OppGen

5/23 – This Week In Digital Advertising

This Week In Digital Advertising

Google Search Results Page Getting New Design

Over the next few days be on the lookout for changes to Google’s search results page on mobile. Google announced on Wednesday that the search results page will start to feature the favicon at the top of results cards on organic listings. Google says this will help users to identify results and scan pages.

If Google is showing you a relevant advertisement you will start to see a bolded ad label at the top of the card alongside the web address so you can quickly identify where the information is coming from.

This update shows that Google will continue to evolve how we look at the search results and even more. “As we continue to make new content formats and useful actions available—from buying movie tickets to playing podcasts—this new design allows us to add more action buttons and helpful previews to search results cards, all while giving you a better sense of the web page’s content with clear attribution back to the source.”

Our team internally will be watching traffic numbers for mobile as this roll out happens. As search continues to develop we want to make sure our clients information is quick and easy to identify. Adding the favicon to search results can bring your brand front and center in this digital space.

Hey Siri! Let’s talk voice search.

Using voice search and digital personal assistants is becoming second nature to many of us.

A new study released this week finds that 21% of people use voice search on a weekly basis. We all know how convenient it is to say “Hey Google, What restaurants are near me?”

With the power of Artificial Intelligence, these searches grow smarter with every interaction. The conversational phrases we ask these machines start to understand the context of messages and continue to build on the information we provide.

The study also found that among those who use voice search frequently, most are using it in their home (37%), in the car (34%), or while walking to a destination (11%).

Our team has had many internal conversations around voice search. Something we’ve considered is that voice search uses more conversational and longer words for searches. These type of searches are more likely to contain questions phrases. With voice search optimization taking off, it’s important to make sure you understand how your end user speaks about your brand. Ask yourself, what questions are people asking about my brand?

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Google Search Console Dashboard View
Top 10 Local SEO Audit Insights from 2019
person using phone
Write, Review, and Revise: How to Adjust to Google’s New Core Update
Business Owners Still Don’t Understand SEO, and It’s Not Their Fault
Google My Business Practitioner Listings & How To Effectively Manage Them
5/23 – This Week In Digital Advertising