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Google Posts With Special COVID-19 Updates

If you login to Google My Business, click on Posts, you have a new option to write a post specific with COVID-19 information about your business. Google said on Twitter "COVID-19 update posts will appear at the top of your business profile in local search."

Google: We Are Not Filtering Out Sites For Coronavirus Searches

Google's John Mueller was asked if Google is filtering out web sites for searches related to the coronavirus. John said no, he isn't "aware of anything where we're manually filtering out sites specifically around health terms." He did say that Google wants to show a higher level of sites for health related terms and he also said Google does have special one boxes of information.

Helping health organizations make COVID-19 information more accessible

Health organizations are busier than ever providing information to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. To better assist them, Google has created a best practices article to guide health organizations to make COVID-19 information more accessible on Search. We’ve also created a new technical support group for eligible health organizations. Best practices for search visibility By default, Google tries to show the most relevant, authoritative information in response to any search. This process is more effective when content owners help Google understand their content in appropriate ways. To better guide health-related organizations in this process (known as SEO, for “search engine optimization”), we have produced a new help center article with some important best practices, with emphasis on health information sites, including: How to help users access your content on the go The importance of good page content and titles Ways to check how your site appears for coronavirus-related queries How…

How to pause your business online in Google Search

As the effects of the coronavirus grow, we’ve seen businesses around the world looking for ways to pause their activities online. With the outlook of coming back and being present for your customers, here’s an overview of our recommendations of how to pause your business online and minimize impacts with Google Search. These recommendations are applicable to any business with an online presence, but particularly for those who have paused the selling of their products or services online. For more detailed information, also check our developer documentation. Recommended: limit site functionality If your situation is temporary and you plan to reopen your online business, we recommend keeping your site online and limiting the functionality. For example, you might mark items as out of stock, or restrict the cart and checkout process. This is the recommended approach since it minimizes any negative effects on your site’s presence in Search. People can…

Help Your Community from Six Feet Away: Non-Marketing Tips from Mozzers

Posted by morgan.mcmurray

For the last few weeks, you’ve probably experienced an influx of emails from companies detailing how COVID-19 is affecting them and thus you, their customer. It's... a lot, isn't it? So today, we want to take a departure from the world of "how this affects us" and focus instead on actionable things we can all do to make things brighter for ourselves and our communities. This won't be your regularly scheduled programming — we won't be discussing SEO or marketing. Instead, we're sharing ideas and advice from the folks at Moz who've been finding ways to be helpers as we all navigate this new normal.

Donate and shop

For those who have steady income during this time of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to support local businesses and charitable organizations. Many employers, Moz included, offer charitable donation matching to make use of as well.

Food banks, shelters, and charities

You can donate money or call local organizations (like homeless shelters, food banks, and animal rescues) to see what items they most need. Mozzers have found several creative ways to contribute, including a super helpful spreadsheet of all the food banks in our area shared by Britney Muller. A few of us have volunteered to be pet foster parents, and Skye Stewart has even seen neighbors turn their “little free libraries” into pantries for those in need! 

Skye has seen little free libraries stocked as pantries throughout the Wallingford and Fremont neighborhoods of Seattle. This one belongs to Clay and Elli Stricklin.

Blood banks

If you’re healthy and able, consider signing up to donate blood. The blood banks in our area have received so many volunteers that they’re scheduling appointments weeks in advance — what a fantastic show of community support!

Buy gift cards or shop online

All of our favorite local salons, restaurants, bars, or home goods stores are likely suffering from recent closures. Gift cards give them support now and give you the option to shop later (or have your holiday shopping done a little early). Many local businesses also have online shops for you to browse from home. Shipping times are likely impacted, though, so be understanding!

Order take-out

Local restaurants are shifting to take-out and to-go order business models. If you can’t go pick up food, apps like DoorDash and Grubhub are offering no-contact delivery options.

Grocery shop

Stock up only with what you need for two or three weeks for yourself. You can also volunteer, like Mozzer Hayley Sherman, to make grocery runs for at-risk friends or family.

Stay healthy

This sounds like a no-brainer — of course we’re all trying to stay healthy! But it has to be said, as now we have to be a bit more creative to keep up our healthy habits.

Online workouts

With recent closures, local gyms and studios are offering online classes. Have you ever wondered what a yoga or dance class is like via Zoom? A few of us at Moz have found out, and it’s definitely different — but also surprisingly fun — to connect with all the other students in this new way.

Walk or run

We’ve been enjoying some unseasonable sunshine in the Pacific Northwest, making it the perfect time to fight cabin fever with a walk or run outside. Weather permitting, you can do the same! Just make sure to maintain social distance from other walkers and runners (even if they have a cute puppy with them — tough, we know).

Meditate

Meditation can help calm the anxiety many of us might be feeling right now. Dr. Pete recommends the Ten Percent Happier app for assistance, and apps like Insight Timer and Calm have dozens of free meditation options for you to choose from, too.

Keep eating fresh fruits and veggies

While it’s tempting to only stock up on non-perishable food like mac and cheese (I’m guilty of having several boxes stored in my pantry) and rely on supplements or Emergen-C, fresh produce is still one of the best options to get necessary vitamins and boost your immunity.

Go offline

Several of us at Moz have found it helpful to disconnect from the news cycle for a while every day, and we try to only pay attention to news from reputable sources. With so many voices in the conversation, this can be hard, which is why going offline can be so helpful.

Stay connected

Human connection remains important for maintaining morale and good humor, even if we can’t share the same physical space.

Check in

Call people you would normally see regularly, and reach out to those you haven’t seen in awhile. Mozzers are staying connected by calling into morning coffee hangouts and virtual team lunches — it’s been great to see everyone’s smiling faces!

You might start a weekly virtual happy hour or book club using free video conferencing software like Google Hangouts or Skype, or schedule some time to watch movies together with the new Netflix Party extension.

Join online communities

Social media groups or apps like Nextdoor allow you to meet your neighbors, share memes, and check to see if anyone needs anything like a grocery run, medicine, or just a virtual hug.

We’ve created channels in our company Slack for topics like parenting, wellness, gardening, and just general fun. These groups have really helped bring light and friendship to our shared situation. In the parenting channel, specifically, Moz parents have banded together to share resources and suggestions to help support each other in this new world of homeschooling.

Lean into empathy

We're living through an unprecedented time, and one of the best things we can do is understand that sometimes, humans just need to be human. If you're leading a team that's working from home, you might find your employees keeping unorthodox working hours with school closures, disrupted schedules, and technical difficulties. Flex your empathy muscle, and consider enacting flexible policies that will reduce stress on your employees while making sure the work still gets done.

Let everyone know it’s okay to sign off during normal working hours to prioritize family time and child care. You can also schedule non-work-related check-ins, or build relaxation time into your schedules. Moz CEO Sarah Bird gave all employees a “Take a Breather” day to give everyone time to relax, make “quarantinis”, and adjust to our current reality. We all really appreciated that time!

This list of ways to help is by no means exhaustive, and we’d love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment or send us a tweet. We’re in this together.


What we're doing

We're committed to keeping as much normalcy in the routines of our community as possible, and that includes minimizing the impact of this crisis on our customers and employees. There will be no interruptions to our tool functionality or to our support team’s ability to serve our customers. We will also continue to publish helpful, actionable content — even if that means you see a few Whiteboard Fridays from the living rooms of our experts!

Employees at Moz have already been trained as a distributed team, which has prepared us well for a life of working from home — now a mandatory policy. We're also given paid time off, including sick leave, and are encouraged to sign off from work when we’re feeling under the weather to rest and recuperate.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!

You Can Now Take Moz Academy Courses for Free

Posted by Roger-MozBot

The well-being of our community — from our customers to our readers to our team members — is of the utmost importance to us here at Moz. The ongoing situation around the spread of COVID-19 is ever-changing. Many of you are experiencing the impact of this pandemic, and we want to address the difficulties you’re facing and acknowledge how you might be feeling.

The state of the world and current events bring significant, often crushing, impact to businesses large and small. While it can be really hard to focus on work and on what is happening in the SEO industry during this difficult time, we also know that your work can’t stop.

Whether you’re reading this as a small business owner concerned about your traffic, or an agency with clients who are hurting financially — we’re here to support you.

Today through May 31, you’ll be able to access the courses in Moz Academy for free. Hopefully you can use this resource to level up your skills, learn a new discipline, or simply channel your energy into a productive distraction.

There's something for everyone:

  • SEO Fundamentals
  • Local SEO Fundamentals
  • Keyword Research
  • Page Optimization
  • Backlink Basics
  • Reporting on SEO
  • Technical SEO Site Audit
  • Backlink Audit & Removal
  • The Fundamentals of SEO Client Prospecting
  • Finding Potential SEO Clients
  • Prepare for the SEO Client Pitch
  • Selling the Value of SEO
  • Client Onboarding
  • How to Use Moz Pro

If you’re already a Moz customer or community member, you can head straight to academy.moz.com. As long as you’re logged in, you’ll be good to go. Just pick the courses you want to take part in and apply promo code “wegotthis” at checkout. The promo code is valid on all courses with the exception of the SEO Essentials Certification.

If you’re not a Moz customer or community member, simply create a free account with us to get started.

We love you, we’re here for you, and we’re in this together.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!

Getting Smarter with SERPs – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

Modern SERPs require modern understanding. National SERPs are a myth — these days, everything is local. And when we're basing important decisions on SERPs and ranking, using the highest quality data is key. Russ Jones explores the problem with SERPs, data quality, and existing solutions in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, this is Russ Jones here again with another exciting edition of Whiteboard Friday. Exciting might be an exaggeration, but it really is important to me because today we're going to talk about data quality. I know I harp on this a whole lot.

It's just, as a data scientist, quality is really important to me. Here at Moz, we've made it a priority of the last several years, from improving the quality of our Domain Authority score, improving Spam Score, completely changing the way we identify the search volume in particular keywords. Quality is just part of our culture here.

Today I want to talk about a quality issue and probably the most important metric in search engine optimization, which are search rankings. Now I know there's this contingent of SEOs who say you shouldn't look at your search rankings. You should just focus on building better content and doing better outreach and just let it happen.

But for the vast majority of us, we look at our rankings for the purposes of determining how we're performing, and we make decisions based on those rankings. If a site stops performing as well for a very important keyword, well, then we might spend some money to improve the content on that page or to do more outreach for it.

We make important decisions, budgetary decisions on what the SERPs say. But we've known for a while that there's a pretty big problem with the SERPs, and that's personalization. There just is no national search anymore, and there hasn't been for a long time. We've known this, and we've tried different ways to fix it.

Today I want to talk about a way that Moz is going about this that I think is really exceptional and is frankly going to revolutionize the way in which all SERPs are collected in the future. 

What's wrong with SERPs?

1. Geography is king

Let's just take a step back and talk a little bit about what's wrong with SERPs. Several years back I was a consultant and I was helping out a nonprofit organization that wanted to rank for the keyword "entrepreneurship."

They offered grants and training and all sorts of stuff. They really deserved to rank for the term. Then one day I searched for the term, as SEOs do. Even though they rank track, they still check it themselves. I noticed that several local universities to where I live, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Duke, had popped up into the search results because they were now offering entrepreneurship programs and Google had geolocated me to the Durham area.

Well, this wasn't represented at all in the rank tracking that we were doing. You see, the nationalized search at that time was not picking up any kind of local signals because there weren't any colleges or universities around the data center which we were using to collect the search results.

That was a big problem because that one day Google rolled out some sort of update that improved geolocation and ultimately ended up taking a lot of traffic away for that primary keyword because local sites were starting to rank all across the country. So as SEOs we decided to fight back, and the strategy we used was what I call centroid search.

2. Centroid search sucks

The idea is pretty simple. You take a town, a city, a state, or even a country. You find the latitude and longitude of the dead center of that location, and then you feed that to Google in the UULE parameter so that you get a search result from what would happen if you were standing right there in that specific latitude and longitude and perform the search.

Well, we know that that's not really a good idea. The reason is pretty clear. Let me give an example. This would be a local example for a business that's trying to perform well inside of a small city, a medium town or so. This is actually, despite the fact that it's drawn poorly, the locations of several Italian restaurants in South Bend, Indiana.

So as you can see, each little red one identifies a different Italian restaurant, and the centroid of the city is right here, this little green star. Well, there's a problem. If you were to collect a SERP this way, you would be influenced dramatically by this handful of Italian restaurants right there in the center of the city.

But the problem with that is that these blue circles that I've drawn actually represent areas of increased population density. You see most cities, they have a populous downtown, but they also have around the outside suburban areas which are just as population dense or close to as population dense.

At the same time, they don't get represented because they're not in the middle of the city. So what do we do? How do we get a better representation of what the average person in that city would see? 

3. Sampled search succeeds

Well, the answer is what we call sampled search. There are lots of ways to go about it.

Right now, the way we're doing it in particular is looking at the centroids of clusters of zip codes that are overlapping inside a particular city. 

As an example, although not exactly what would happen inside of Local Market Analytics, each one of these purple stars would represent different latitudes and longitudes that we would select in order to grab a search engine result and then blend them together in a way based on things like population density or proximity issues, and give us back a result that is much more like the average searcher would see than what the one person standing in the center part of the city would see.

We know that this works better because it correlates more with local search traffic than does the centroid search. Of course, there are other ways we could go about this. For example, instead of using geography, we could use population density specifically, and we can do a lot better job in identifying exactly what the average searcher would see.

But this just isn't a local problem. It isn't just for companies that are in cities. It's for any website that wants to rank anywhere in the United States, including those that just want to rank generically across the entire country. You see, right now, the way that national SERPs tend to be collected is by adding a UULE of the dead center of the United States of America.

Now I think pretty much everybody here can understand why that's a very poor representation of what the average person in the United States would see. But if we must get into it, as you can imagine, the center part of the United States is not population-dense.

We find population areas throughout the coastlines for the most part that have a lot more people in them. It would make a lot better sense to sample search results from all sorts of different locations, both rural and urban, in order to identify what the average person in the United States would see.



Centroid search delivers you a myopic view of this very specific area. Whereas sampled search can give you this blended model that is much more like what the average American or in any country or county or city or even neighborhood would see. So I actually think that this is the model that SERPs in general will be moving to in the future, at least SERP collection.

The future of SERPs

If we continue to rely on this centroid method, we're going to continue to deliver results to our customers that just aren't accurate and simply aren't valuable. But by using the sampled model, we'll be able to deliver our customers a much more quality experience, a SERP that is blended in a way that it represents the traffic that they're actually going to get, and in doing so, we'll finally solve, to at least a certain degree, this problem of personalization.

Now I look forward to Moz implementing this across the board. Right now you can get in Local Market Analytics. I hope that other organizations follow suit, because this kind of quality improvement in SERP collection is the type of quality that is demanded of an industry that is using technology to improve businesses' performance. Without quality, we might as well not be doing it at all.

Thanks for hearing me out. I'd like to hear what you have to say in the comments, and in the SERPs as well, and hopefully we'll be able to talk through some more ideas on quality. Looking forward to it. Thanks again.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How to Query the Google Search Console API

Posted by briangormanh

If you’ve been an SEO for even a short time, you’re likely familiar with Google Search Console (GSC). It’s a valuable tool for getting information about your website and its performance in organic search. That said, it does have its limitations.

In this article, you’ll learn how to get better-connected data out of Google Search Console as well as increase the size of your exports by 400%.

Google Search Console limitations

While GSC has a number of sections, we’ll be focusing on the “Performance” report. From the GSC dashboard, there are two ways you can access this report:

Once inside the “Performance” report, data for queries and pages can be accessed:

This reveals one of the issues with GSC: Query and page data is separated.

In other words, if I want to see the queries a specific page is ranking for, I have to first click “Pages,” select the page, and then click “back” to “Queries.” It’s a very cumbersome experience.

The other (two-part) issue is with exporting:

  • Performance data for queries and pages must be exported separately.
  • Exports are limited to 1,000 rows.

We’ll look to solve these issues by utilizing the GSC API.

What is the Google Search Console API?

Now we know the GSC user interface does have limitations: Connecting query data with page data is tricky, and exports are limited.

If the GSC UI represents the factory default, the GSC API represents our custom settings. It takes a bit more effort, but gives us more control and opens up more possibilities (at least in the realm of query and page data).

The GSC API is a way for us to connect to the data within our account, make more customized requests, and get more customized output. We can even bypass those factory default settings like exports limited to 1,000 rows, for instance.

Why use it?

Remember how I said earlier that query and page data is separated in the “vanilla” GSC UI? Well, with the API, we can connect query data with the page that query ranks for, so no more clicking back and forth and waiting for things to load.

Additionally, we saw that exports are limited to 1,000 rows. With the API, we can request up to 5,000 rows, an increase of 400%!

So let’s hook in, make our request, and get back a more robust and meaningful data set.

Setup

Log in to the appropriate GSC account on this page (upper right corner). For instance, if my website is example.com and I can view that Search Console account under [email protected], that’s the account I’ll sign into.

Enter the URL of the appropriate GSC account:

Set up your request:

  1. Set startDate. This should be formatted as: YYYY-MM-DD.
  2. Set endDate.
  3. Set dimensions. A dimension can be:
      • query
      • page
      • device
      • and/or country
  4. Set filters (optional). A filter must include:
      • dimension (a dimension can be: query, page, device, or country)
      • operator (an operator can be: contains, notContains, equals, notEquals)
      • expression (an expression can be any value associated with the dimensions)
  5. Set the rowLimit. With the GSC API, you can request up to 5,000!

The page shared in step one makes all of this setup pretty easy, but it can be tedious and even confusing for some. I’ve done all the fussing for you and have created JSON you can edit quickly and easily to get the API return you’d like.

Unfiltered request

The following request will be unfiltered. We’ll set our preferred dates, dimensions, and a row limit, and then make our request.

The order in which you place your dimensions is the order in which they’ll be returned.

The API will return data for desktop, mobile, and tablet, separated out. The numbers you see in the GSC user interface — clicks, for instance — are an aggregate of all three (unless you apply device filtering).

Remember, your dimensions can also include “country” if you’d like.

{

"startDate": "2019-11-01",

"endDate": "2020-01-31",

"dimensions":

[

"query",

"page",

"device"

],

"rowLimit": 3000

}

Filtered request

This version of our request will include filters in order to be more specific about what is returned.

Filters are stated as dimension/operator/expression. Here are some examples to show what’s possible:

  • query contains go fish digital
  • page equals https://gofishdigital.com/
  • device notContains tablet

It looks like you can only apply one filter per dimension, just like in the normal GSC user interface, but if you know differently, let us know in the comments!

{

"startDate": "2019-11-01",

"endDate": "2020-01-31",

"dimensions":

[

"query",

"page",

"device"

],

"dimensionFilterGroups":

[

{

"filters":

[

{

"dimension": "device",

"operator": "notContains",

"expression": "tablet"

}

]

}

],

"rowLimit": 3000

}

Choose a template, unfiltered or filtered, and fill in your custom values (anything after a colon should be updated as your own value, unless you like my presets).

Execute the request

So there you have it! Two request templates for you to choose from and edit to your liking. Now it’s time to make the request. Click into the “Request body”, select all, and paste in your custom JSON:

This is where you could manually set up your request keys and values, but as I stated earlier, this can be tedious and a little confusing, so I’ve done that work for you.

Scroll down and click “Execute.” You may be prompted to sign-in here as well.

If everything was entered correctly and the request could be satisfied, the API will return your data. If you get an error, audit your request first, then any other steps and inputs if necessary.

Click into the box in the lower right (this is the response from the API), select all, and copy the information.

Convert from JSON to CSV

Excel or Sheets will be a much better way to work with the data, so let’s convert our JSON output to CSV.

Use a converter like this one and paste in your JSON output. You can now export a CSV. Update your column headers as desired.

Query your own data

Most SEOs are pretty comfortable in Excel, so you can now query your request output any way you’d like.

One of the most common tasks performed is looking for data associated with a specific set of pages. This is done by adding a sheet with your page set and using VLOOKUP to indicate a match.

The API output being in a spreadsheet also allows for the most common actions in Excel like sorting, filtering, and chart creation.

Get more out of Google Search Console

GSC offers important data for SEOs, and the GSC API output offers not only more of that data, but in a format that is far less cumbersome and more cohesive.

Today, we overcame two obstacles we often face in the standard GSC user interface: the query/page connection and limited exports. My hope is that utilizing the Google Search Console API will take your analyses and insights to the next level.

While my JSON templates will cover the most common scenarios in terms of what you’ll be interested in requesting, Google does offer documentation that covers a bit more ground if you’re interested.

Do you have another way of using the GSC API? Is there another API you commonly use as an SEO? Let me know in the comments!

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New properties for virtual, postponed, and canceled events

In the current environment and status of COVID-19 around the world, many events are being canceled, postponed, or moved to an online-only format. Google wants to show users the latest, most accurate information about your events in this fast-changing environment, and so we’ve added some new, optional properties to our developer documentation to help. These properties apply to all regions and languages. This is one part of our overall efforts in schema updates to support publishers and users. Here are some important tips on keeping Google up to date on your events. Update the status of the event The schema.org eventStatus property sets the status of the event, particularly when the event has been canceled, postponed, or rescheduled. This information is helpful because it allows Google to show users the current status of an event, instead of dropping the event from the event search experience altogether. If the event has been…

Should Google Stop Pushing Search Algorithm Updates During COVID-19 Outbreak?

It is a rough question because Google's search results are always updating by itself, i.e. new content gets added, new links, new signals, etc. So the Google search results are always in a state of flux. But in terms of bigger search algorithm update where Google pushes something new, should Google stop doing those until the COVID-19 outbreak is over?

Possible March 10th Google Search Algorithm Update

I am seeing some chatter from March 9th through March 11th (today) about a possible Google search algorithm update. The chatter is not explosive but there does seem to be enough chatter to write about it here. Some of the tools are also showing the change but not all.

Google: 3D & AR Images Are Not A Ranking Factor

I am not sure why it surprises me anymore but Google had to say that adding support for 3D and AR images to your site won't help your pages rank better. Google's John Mueller said on Twitter "No, we don't" when asked if Google ranks these pages higher because of the 3D image support.

Google In This Video Key Moments Shows Multiple Times?

Google launched key moments for videos in the Google search results last September. But generally you only see one video that shows the "in this video" key moments timeline in search. Brodie Clark posted a screen shot on Twitter showing it come up numerous times for several videos.

Content Expansion: From Prompt to Paragraph to Published Page – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

We've all been there. You're the SEO on point for a project, and you're also the one tasked with getting great content written well and quickly. And if you don't have an expert at your disposal, great content can seem out of reach.

It doesn't have to be. In today's Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones arms you with the tools and processes to expand your content from prompt to paragraph to published piece.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, great to be back here with you on Whiteboard Friday. Today we're going to be talking about content expansion. It's a term you probably haven't heard before because I just made it up. So hopefully, it will be useful in the future for you. But I think you'll get the gist of exactly what we're trying to accomplish here.

How do SEOs produce great content when they're not subject matter experts?

You see, search engine optimizers have this really bizarre responsibility. We are often asked by our clients to produce content about things we have no business writing about. As a search engine optimizer, we know exactly the kinds of things that make content good for Google, but that doesn't mean we have any domain knowledge about whatever it is our customer does.

Maybe your customer is an artist of some sort or your customer runs a restaurant. You might not know anything about it, but you still might have a deadline to hit in order to get good content that talks in depth about some sort of topic which really isn't in your wheelhouse. Today I'm going to talk about a couple of tricks that you can use in order to go from a prompt to a couple of paragraphs and then ultimately to a published page, to a good piece of content.

Caveat: If an expert can create the content, they should

Now I want to step back for a second and just make one thing clear. This is not the preferred way to produce content. If you can have an expert produce the content, by all means have the expert produce the content, and then you go to work optimizing that content to make it the best it possibly can be. That's the way it ought to be done whenever possible.

But we know that's not the case. The truth is that most small business owners don't have the time to write lengthy articles about their services and their offerings and what makes them special and the kinds of things that their customers might need. They have a business to run. There's nothing unethical about taking the time to actually try and write a good piece of content for that customer.

But if you're going to do it, you really should try and create something that's of value. Hopefully this is going to help you do exactly that. I call this content expansion because the whole purpose is to start from one small prompt and then to expand it a little and expand it a little and expand it even more until eventually you are at something that's very thorough and useful and valuable for the customers who are reading that content.

Each one of the individual steps is just sort of like taking a breath and blowing it into a balloon to make it a little bigger. Each step is manageable as we expand that content. 

1. Start with a prompt

First, we have to start with some sort of topic or prompt. In this example, I've decided just bike safety off the top of my head. I'm here in Seattle and there are bikes everywhere.

It's completely different from North Carolina, where I'm from, where you've got to get in a car to go anywhere. But with the prompt bike safety, we now have to come up with what are we going to talk about with regard to bike safety. We pretty much know off the top of our heads that helmets matter and signaling and things of that sort. 

Find the questions people are asking

But what are people actually asking? What's the information they want to know? Well, there are a couple of ways we can get at that, and that's by looking exactly for those questions that they're searching. One would be to just type in "bike safety" into Google and look for PAAs or People Also Ask. That's the SERP feature that you'll see about halfway down the page, which often has a couple of questions and you can click on it and there will be a little featured snippet or paragraph of text that will help you answer it.

Another would be to use a tool like Moz Keyword Explorer, where you could put in "bike safety" and then just select from one of the drop-downs "are questions" and it would then just show you all the questions people are asking about bike safety. Once you do that, you'll get back a handful of questions that people are asking about bike safety.

In this case, the three that came up from the PAA for just bike safety were: 

  • Is riding a bike safe? 
  • How can I improve safety?
  • Why is bike safety important? 

What this does is start to get us into a position where now we're building out some sort of outline of the content that we're going to be building.

Build the outline for your content

We've just expanded from a title that said bike safety to now an outline that has a couple of questions that we want to answer. Well, here's the catch. Bike safety, sure, we've got some ideas off the top of our heads about what's important for bike safety. But the real thing that we're trying to get at here is authoritative or valuable content.

Well, Google is telling you what that is. When you press the button to show you what the answer is to the question, that's Google telling you this is the best answer we could find on the internet for that question. What I would recommend you do is you take the time to just copy the answer to that PAA, to that question. Why is bike safety important?

You click the button and it would show you the answer. Then you would write down the citation as well. But if you think about it, this is exactly the way you would write papers in college. If you were writing a paper in college about bike safety, you would go into the library, identify books on safety studies, etc. Then you would go through and then you would probably have note cards pulled out.

You would find a particular page that has an important paragraph. You would write a paraphrase down, and then you would write the citation down. This is the exact same thing. I'm not telling you to copy content. That's not what we're going to be doing in the end. But at the same time, it is the way that we take that next step of expanding the content. What we've done here is we've now gone from a topic to a couple of questions.

Now for each of those questions, we've kind of got an idea of what the target answer is. But, of course, the featured snippet isn't the whole answer. The featured snippet is just the most specific answer to the question, but not the thorough one. It doesn't cover all the bases. So what are some of the things we can do to expand this even further? 

2. Extract & explain entities

This is where I really like to take advantage of NLP technologies, natural language programming technologies that are going to allow us to be able to expand that content in a way that adds value to the user and in particular explains to the user concepts that both you, as the writer in this particular case, and they, as the reader, might not know.

My favorite is a site called dandelion.eu. It's completely free for a certain amount of uses. But if you're going to be producing a lot of content, I would highly recommend you sign up for their API services. What you're going to do is extract and explain entities

Imagine you've got this featured snippet here and it's talking about bike safety. It answers the question, "Why is bike safety important?" It says that bicyclists who wear their helmets are 50% less likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries in a wreck or something of that sort. That's the answer in the featured snippet that's been given to you. 

Well, perhaps you don't know what a traumatic brain injury is, and perhaps your readers don't know what that is and why it's important to know that one thing protects you so much from the other.

Identify and expand upon terminology for your questions

That's where entity extraction can be really important. What dandelion.eu is going to do is it's going to identify that noun phrase. It's going to identify the phrase "traumatic brain injury," and then it's going to give you a description of exactly what that is. Now you can expand that paragraph that you originally pulled from the featured snippet and add into it a citation about exactly what traumatic brain injury is.

This will happen for all the questions. You'll find different terminology that your reader might not know and then be able to expand upon that terminology. 

3. Create novel research

Now the one thing that I want to do here in this process is not just take advantage of content other people have written about, but try and do some novel research. As you know, Google Trends is probably my favorite place to do novel research, because if there is any topic in the world, somebody is searching about it and we can learn things about the way people search.



Use Google Trends

For example, in this Google Trends that I did, I can't remember the exact products that I was looking up, but they were specific bike safety products, like, for example, bike lights, bike mirrors, bike video cameras or bike cameras, etc. In fact, I'm almost positive that the red one had to do with bicycle cameras because they were becoming cheaper and more easily accessible to bicyclists. They've become more popular over time. Well, that's novel research. 

Bring insights, graphs, and talking points from your novel research into your writing

When you're writing this article here about bike safety, you can include in it far more than just what other people have said. You can say of the variety of ways of improving your bike safety, the use of a bike camera has increased dramatically over time.

4. Pull it all together

All right. So now that you've got some of this novel research, including even graphs that you can put into the content, we've got to pull this all together. We started with the prompt, and then we moved into some topics or questions to answer. Then we've answered those questions, and then we've expanded them by giving clarity and definitions to terms that people might not understand and we've also added some novel research.

Rewrite for relevancy

So what's next? The next step is that we need to rewrite for relevancy. This is a really important part of the process. You see chances are, when you write about a topic that you are not familiar with, you will not use the correct language to describe what's going on. I think a good example might be if you're writing about golf, for example, and you don't know what it means to accidentally hit a golf ball that goes to the right or to the left.

Find relevant words and phrases with nTopic

Which one is a hook and a slice? Now, those of you who play golf I'm sure know right off the top of your head. But you wouldn't know to use that kind of terminology if you weren't actually a golfer. Well, if you use a tool like nTopic — it's at nTopic.org — and you write your content and place it in there and then give bike safety as the keyword you want to optimize for, it will tell you all of the relevant words and phrases you ought to be using in the content.

In doing so, you'll be able to expand your content even further, not just with further language and definitions that you know, but with the actual language that experts are using right now whenever they're talking about bike safety or whatever topic it is. 

Examine (and improve) your writing quality with the Hemingway app

The next thing that I would say is that you really should pull things back and take a chance to look at the quality of the writing that you're producing.

This whole time we've been talking mostly about making sure the content is in-depth and thorough and covers a lot of issues and areas and uses the right language. But we haven't spent any time at all talking about is this actually written well. There's a fantastic free app out there called Hemingway app.

If you haven't heard of it, this is going to make your day. [Editor's note: It made mine!] Every writer in the world should be using a tool like this. You just drop your content in there, and it's going to give you all sorts of recommendations, from correcting grammar to using different words, shortening sentences, passive and active voice, making sure that you have the right verb tenses, etc. It's just incredibly useful for writing quality content. 

Two important things to remember:

Now there are two things at the end that matter, and one is really, really important in my opinion and that is to cite

1. Cite your sources — even if they're competitors!

You see, when you've done all of this work, you need to let the world know that this work, one, isn't only created by you but, two, is backed up by research and information provided by other professionals.

There is no shame whatsoever in citing even competitors who have produced good content that has helped you produce the content that you are now putting up. So cite. Put citations directly in. Look, Wikipedia ranks for everything, and every second sentence is cited and links off to another website. It's insane.

But Google doesn't really care about the citation in the sense that somebody else has written about this. What you're really interested in is showing the users that you did your homework. 

2. Take pride in what you've accomplished!

Then finally, once you're all done, you can publish this great piece of content that is thorough and exceptional and uniquely valuable, written well in the language and words that it should use, cited properly, and be proud of the content that you've produced at the end of the day, even though you weren't an expert in the first place.

Hopefully, some of these techniques will help you out in the long run. I look forward to seeing you in the comments and maybe we'll have some questions that I can give you some other ideas. Thanks again.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Webmaster Conference

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We Need to Talk About Google’s “People Also Ask”: A Finance Case Study

Posted by barryloughran

For a while now, I’ve been disappointed with the People Also Ask (PAAs) feature in Google’s search results. My disappointment is not due to the vast amount of space they take up on the SERPs (that’s another post entirely), but more that the quality is never where I expect it to be.

Google has been running PAAs since April 2015 and they are a pretty big deal. MozCast is currently tracking PAAs (Related Questions) across 90% of all searches, which is more than any other SERP feature.

The quality issue I’m running into is that I still find several obscure PAA questions and results or content from other countries.

When I run searches that have a universal answer, such as “can you eat raw chicken?”, the answer is universally correct so there is no issue with the results. But when I run a search that should return local (UK) content, such as “car insurance”, I’m finding a heavy influence from the US — especially around YMYL queries. 

I wanted to find out how much of an issue this actually is, so my team and I analyzed over 1,000 of the most-searched-for keywords in the finance industry, where we would expect UK PAA results.

Before we dig in, my fundamental question going into this research was: “Should a financial query originating in the UK, whose products are governed within UK regulations, return related questions that contain UK content?”

I believe that they should and I hope that by the end of this post, you agree, too.

Our methodology

To conduct our analysis, we followed these steps:

1.Tag keywords by category and sub-category:

2.Remove keywords where you would expect a universal result, e.g. “insurance definition”.

3.Extract PAAs and the respective ranking URLs using STAT.

4.Identify country origin through manual review: are we seeing correct results?

Our findings

55.1% of the 4,507 available financial PAAs returned non-UK content. US content was served 50.5% of the time, while the remaining 4.6% was made up of sites from India, Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and Singapore.

Results by category

Breaking it down by category, we see that personal finance keywords bring back a UK PAA 33.72% of the time, insurance keywords 52.10%, utilities keywords 64.89%, and business keywords 38.76%.

Personal finance

Digging into the most competitive products in the UK, personal finance, we found that a significant percentage of PAAs brought back US or Indian content in the results.

Out of the 558 personal finance keywords, 186 keywords didn’t bring back a single UK PAA result, including:

  • financial advisor
  • first credit card
  • best car loans
  • balance transfer cards
  • how to buy a house
  • best payday loans
  • cheap car finance
  • loan calculator

Credit cards

17.41% of credit card PAAs were showing UK-specific PAAs, with the US taking just over four out of every five. That’s huge.

Another surprising find is that 61 out of 104 credit card keywords didn’t bring back a single UK PAA. I find this remarkable given the fact that the credit card queries originated in the UK.

Loans

Only 15.8% of searches returned a UK PAA result with over 75% coming from the US. We also saw highly-competitive and scrutinized searches for keywords like “payday loans” generate several non-UK results.

Mortgages

While the UK holds the majority of PAA results for mortgage-related keywords at 53.53%, there are still some major keywords (like “mortgages”) that only bring back a single UK result. If you’re searching for “mortgages” in the UK, then you want to see information about UK mortgages, but instead Google serves up mainly US results.

Insurance

Insurance results weren’t as bad as personal finance. However, there was still a big swing towards the US for some products, such as life insurance.

Out of the 350 insurance keywords tested, there were 64 keywords that didn’t bring back a single UK PAA result, including:

  • pet insurance
  • cheap home insurance
  • life insurance comparison
  • car insurance for teens
  • cheap dog insurance
  • types of car insurance

Car insurance

60.54% of car insurance PAAs were showing UK-specific PAAs, with the US taking 36.97%. Out of the 132 keywords that were in this sub-category, UK sites were present for 118, which is better than the personal finance sub-categories.

Home insurance

As one of the most competitive spaces in the finance sector, it was really surprising to see that only 56.25% of results for home insurance queries returned a UK PAA. There are nuances to policies across different markets, so this is a frustrating and potentially harmful experience for searchers.

Utilities

Although we see a majority of PAAs in this keyword category return UK results, there are quite a few more specific searches for which you would absolutely be looking for a UK result (e.g. “unlimited data phone contracts”) but that bring back only one UK result.

One interesting find is that this UKPower page has captured 35 PAAs for the 49 keywords it ranks for. That’s an impressive 71.43% — the highest rating we’ve seen across our analysis.

Business

At the time of our analysis, we found that 36.7% of business-related PAAs were from the UK. One of the keywords with the lowest representation in this category was "business loans", which generated only 6.25% UK results. While the volume of keywords are smaller in this category, there is more potential for harm with serving international content for queries relating to UK businesses.

What pages generate the most PAA results?

To make this post a little more actionable, I aggregated which URLs generated the most PAAs across some of the most competitive financial products in the UK. 

Ironically, four out of the top 10 were US-based (cars.news.com manages to generate 32 PAAs across one of the most competitive industries in UK financial searches: car insurance). A hat tip to ukpower.co.uk, which ranked #1 in our list, generating 35 results in the energy space.

To summarize the above analysis, it’s clear that there is too much dominance from non-UK sites in finance searches. While there are a handful of UK sites doing well, there are UK queries being searched for that are bringing back clearly irrelevant information.

As an industry, we have been pushed to improve quality — whether it’s increasing our relevancy or the expertise of our content — so findings like these show that Google could be doing more themselves.

What does this mean for your SEO strategy?

For the purpose of this research, we only looked at financial terms, so whilst we can’t categorically say this is the same for all industries, if Google is missing this much across financial YMYL terms then it doesn’t look good for other categories.

My advice would be that if you are investing any time optimizing for PAAs, then you should spend your time elsewhere, for now, since the cards in finance niches are stacked against you.

Featured Snippets are still the prime real estate for SEOs and (anecdotally, anyway) don’t seem to suffer from this geo-skew like PAAs do, so go for Featured Snippets instead.

Have you got any thoughts on the quality of PAAs across your SERPs? Let me know in the comments below!

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Google People Also Ask Sees Large Reduction

Both RankRanger and Moz are reporting large reductions in how often the people also ask box shows up in Google search. RankRanger shows a 12 point drop and Moz is showing a 6 point drop (they measure these differently).