Proximity to Searcher is Now The #1 Local Search Ranking Factor
01/05/17 SEO

Proximity to Searcher is Now The #1 Local Search Ranking Factor

Moz, by far the best source of credible SEO info, recently released its 2017 local search ranking factors study. Basically, they ask for the opinions of dozens of local SEO consultants. And then they aggregate the opinions to get their data.

This year, the proximity of the searcher to the address they’re searching for became the top factor for determining search rankings.

So, all you have to do is create a floating warehouse that uses drones to deliver your products, just like Amazon. No joke. That’s a real possibility. Amazon has a patent for it!

But yes, I do jest. That project’s a little out of the reach of many businesses.

Instead, take a look at the other top local search ranking factors:

Quality/Authority of Inbound Links to Your Website

This one continues to stay at or near the top year after year. And it should continue to remain there for the foreseeable future.

It’s simply the best way to determine the quality of your website. Think of it like asking other people what they think of a certain person. If Warren Buffet vouches for your investing skills, others will notice.

Links work the same way. If big-name websites link to you, Google believes your site has some cool content to offer.

Links may lose some of their ranking power as other factors (like proximity), gain it. However, I think links will continue to remain near the top. They won’t suddenly drop down and become completely irrelevant.

Proper Business Category Association

local search result

This factor used to be #1 in 2013. And in 2017, it’s still the third most important if you want to rank in the local 3-pack, which is this:

Of course, it’s a huge deal if you can get yourself ranked in this. So you must make sure your business is in the right Google My Business category.

Seems so simple when you think of it. But it’s really a big deal.

Domain Authority

Moz created this proprietary metric. Basically, it predicts your website’s ability to rank in search.

When you just start a website, your DA is 1. Powerhouse websites like ESPN and Amazon have a DA of 100. Disney currently sits at 88. A strong local website, for an HVAC company for example, will be in the mid-20s to low 30s.

“Domain Authority” is quite complex, like Google’s algorithm. But it’s not that complex. Basically, it measures the quality of the links pointing to your website. And it’s best viewed as a comparative metric to see the authority of your domain versus others in your niche.

You can download Mozbar, which shows domain authority, completely free.

Notice What’s Missing?

Believe it or not, content didn’t make the top 10 for ranking in either the local 3-pack or organic search.


Content’s important. It attracts links. You must have something worth linking to.

But content by itself isn’t as important to your rankings. Yes, you consistently need fresh content for search engines, and your readers. But content hidden alone by itself where no one can see it doesn’t do you much good.

FYI – you can read Moz’s entire 2017 local search ranking factors study here.

Happy ranking in 2017!

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Google Ramps Up Effort to Weed Out Factually Inaccurate Content
27/04/17 SEO

Google Ramps Up Effort to Weed Out Factually Inaccurate Content

Remember when Al Gore famously said he “created the internet?”

See him saying it here at about 50 seconds into the video:

Who knows his intent. Maybe he just got caught up in the moment and lost track of what he was saying.

Regardless, it was a factually inaccurate statement.

When you consider search, Google wants to remove as much factually inaccurate content from its results as possible.

Google employs hundreds of people to manually review websites and rate the content as good, bad, spam, or useful. No one knows the precise impact their ratings have on Google’s search algorithm. But we do know their opinion gets factored into algorithm updates.

Google gives its evaluators nearly 160 pages of guidelines to shape their decision-making.

And one of the latest changes involves demoting “factually inaccurate content.”

How Does Google Understand Factually Inaccurate Content?

As you know, there are many opinions on nearly every topic out there. Facts disagree.

Who’s right?

Sometimes, it’s not so obvious. And, of course, you don’t want to find yourself in the trap of unintentionally angering Google.

First, check out this example from page 10 of Google’s evaluation guidelines:

Google result example

Christopher Columbus was born in 1951 in Sydney, Australia.

I’m no history buff…but that sounds factually inaccurate to me.

And it is. However, in this case, teachers set up this website for elementary school students to practice their fact-checking skills. You find this out as your read their other pages.

While factually inaccurate, the site serves a “helpful and beneficial purpose.” So, it’s not going to get docked in Google’s search rankings.

In example two, take a look at humor website OM NOM NOM NOM:

google example for ranking

You see a mouth drawn on a drier. Again, technically that’s factually inaccurate.

…But remember this is a humor website. So Google once again says this site has “a helpful or beneficial purpose.”

It provides value (humor) to its audience. It’s not attempting to deceive them in any way.

Google Doesn’t Like This Kind of Content

Google offers search evaluators this example of “Low-Quality Content:”

Right away, it has a couple obvious grammar errors. And while you can’t see it in this screenshot, later on, it says an “endless amount of nuclear power can be found in the different ocean across the world.”

That’s not really the case. The article does say uranium can be found in abundant quantities throughout the ocean. But saying we have an endless amount of nuclear power available in our oceans is something else altogether. And the article offers nothing to substantiate that claim.

Clearly, not much effort or thought was put into this content. So, it gets docked by search evaluators.

How Useful Is Your Content?

Google’s not asking search evaluators to pull anything tricky here. Nothing sounds unreasonable.

Basically, if you’re going to publish on the web, keep what you say factually accurate. Make sure you have perfect spelling and grammar (a typo here and there isn’t anything to worry about).

But above all, be useful. Make sure your readers can take something from your content and put it into action, or make a more informed decision with it. A professional SEO can help.

Yes, it really is that simple.

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Should You Still Focus on Keyword Rankings in 2017?
16/04/17 SEO

Should You Still Focus on Keyword Rankings in 2017?

For quite some time, SEOs have sold their clients based on good rankings. Clients look at the rankings, notice the uptick in their business, and then they decide the SEO’s worth keeping.

But with Google personalizing search, cramming paid ads at the top of its search pages, and constantly updating its algorithm, is this really a good way to measure SEO success?

Let’s take a closer look.

The Problem with Search Rankings

Really, we just discussed this. They fluctuate. A lot. Plus, rankings aren’t what you really want anyway.

Why’d you hire your SEO?

You want them to grow your business. So, while rankings make for a leading indicator of search success, they don’t count for much by themselves.

You’ll want to also look at organic traffic, which increases as your search rankings grow.

But most importantly, you want your SEO to drive conversions. You want more people contacting you through your form. You want more phone calls.

It’s on you to close the sales from there.

How Do You Track This Information?

Online data is easily tracked with Google Analytics. Simply have your SEO set up your contact form to redirect to a “Thank You” page once people contact you. This is quick and easy for an SEO to do.

Then, buy a separate phone number you use for your website only. Those two together get you pretty close to the reality of the effectiveness of your SEO’s work. Some people may walk in your physical location after reading your website, but not too many.

Should You Use Keywords Yet Today?


If you sell HVAC or legal services, you wouldn’t talk about zebras and unicorns, would you?

Because, if you did, Google certainly wouldn’t rank you for the appropriate search terms. It would say,”What the hell is going on here? I’m putting this site near the bottom of the search rankings.

That’s an extreme example. Many SEOs get lost in the finer details. They mention the keyword too much.

All you need is to put it in your page’s title, and then once in the body content somewhere. You can also include 2-4 related terms. Then, you make sure every keyword sounds natural, and that the page provides a solution to a problem the searcher might have.

You include the related terms because Google’s search is “semantic.” That simply means it also looks for words similar to your target key phrase on your page.

That only makes sense, right?

It’s not hard to make Google happy with keywords. But, it is hard to continually produce content that both Google and your users like over a long period of time.

Making a website today is hard, long work.

But you don’t have to worry about a Google penalty if you keep it simple and focus on solving problems for your users with each type of content you add.

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Google Rocks the SEO World with “Fred” Update
11/04/17 SEO

Google Rocks the SEO World with “Fred” Update

Google pulled a big surprise on the SEO world this time. The “Fred” update, as it’s accidentally been called, has annihilated as much as 50-90% of the traffic from some websites.

Details weren’t clear at first. However, this is what it’s currently believed “Fred” has done:

1. Pushed websites with poor link profiles down the search rankings
2. Removed websites really designed to make money off affiliate ads and revenues (versus genuinely helping searchers) from the top of the search rankings

Google’s Gary Illyes provided some confirmation of the second view when he tweeted this on March 14th:

DYK there’s no inherent problem with affiliate links? The problem is when a site’s sole purpose is to be a shallow container for aff links., for example, publicly shared the fact that it got penalized. On their content pages, they have a big banner ad front and center right when you first visit them. After scrolling down about a screen or two on a desktop/laptop PC, you get hit with another banner ad on the right side.


• When you read the content, it’s fairly basic stuff you can find anywhere on the web
• It’s clearly written by someone whose first language is not English because it contains a number of obvious mistakes
• The majority of the topics are likely based on keywords

So, Google looks at all those factors and says,”Yikes. Not sure that searchers would really like this site. Plus, I know of other sites that answer the search query much better. So, let’s push this one down the search rankings a ways.”

Even though Fred may or may not have included a penalty for low-quality links, it’s not shocking if it did. Google consistently works to clean up the web and get websites that searchers want at the top of the search results. That means links should be acquired “naturally,” which means the link was placed by someone who found your site interesting and decided to link to it.

What Do You Do If You Got Nailed By Google Fred?

If this update hits you, you’re really in a world of trouble. It won’t be quick to recover from.

The best solution involves shifting your mindset. Change it from “I gotta make money” to “I must create the most useful website of its kind on the entire web.”

Whether you actually succeed in that or not doesn’t matter. But if you push toward that goal, your search rankings won’t be in jeopardy.

More specifically:

• If you rely on ads or affiliate links, evaluate how you can reduce or eliminate your reliance on them
• Create only the most useful content of its kind
• Promote that content heavily to your audience to earn natural links and shares
• Mention your desired keyword phrases once or twice on each page, and that’s it
• Create content rich with embedded videos and images, in addition to text

You’re best off doing these now, even if you didn’t get penalized. Google’s only going to continue to tighten its stringent standards. Use an SEO that knows how to navigate them.

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New Study Reveals Content Gaining Ranking Power, While Links Losing It
28/01/17 Content Marketing , SEO

New Study Reveals Content Gaining Ranking Power, While Links Losing It

A new study by Searchmetrics reveals content relevance is gaining cred with Google, while backlinks are declining as a ranking signal. If you follow that link, you can read a summary of the major highlights of the report. It also contains a link that gets into gritty, nerdy details. Anyway, you get the gist.

Continue reading

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4 Benefits of Bing Ads Over Google Adwords
21/01/17 SEO

4 Benefits of Bing Ads Over Google Adwords

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve heard me mention Bing Ads as an alternative to Google Adwords.

…But why?

Isn’t Google the god of search?

Well, yes. With search results they rock.

But Bing Ads really is an awesome alternative to Adwords.

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Adwords Expands Headline Length – Why Should You Care?
11/11/16 SEO

Adwords Expands Headline Length – Why Should You Care?

Google Adwords now gives you 5 more characters in the headline and 10 more in the description. This could mean thousands more in revenue. Find out why. All right, so Google made some new changes. At least this time, they’re not taking away your search rankings! Instead, you get a positive change. And if you take advantage, you can grow your business quite nicely…

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What Causes Your Search Rankings to Fluctuate?
25/07/16 SEO

What Causes Your Search Rankings to Fluctuate?

Why do your search rankings change from month-to-month? Could be any of a million things. Learn some common reasons why this happens in this post. With some keywords, you move just a couple spots or so. With others, you slide up or down 80-100. I’m sure you’re used to it by now. You take a look at your monthly search rankings report. In SEO, that’s completely normal. Everyone experiences this. Why does it happen?

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The Truth about Google RankBrain (And How to Optimize For It)
25/06/16 SEO

The Truth about Google RankBrain (And How to Optimize For It)

What do you know about Google’s RankBrain? There’s scattered and varying information on it. Learn what it’s really about in this post.

Ever heard of Google’s “RankBrain?”

The gist of Rankbrain is that it’s artificial intelligence that finds and ranks websites. And rather than manual updates to Google’s core search algorithm, Rankbrain’s going to handle many of those changes on its own.

Up to this point, however, you probably haven’t noticed much of a difference in Google’s search results.

So what makes RankBrain such a big deal?

It’s going to do a lot to determine the future of search. According to Jayson DeMers at Forbes (from whom much of this info already came), RankBrain will be the third most important ranking signal going forward. DeMers also later notes that RankBrain currently isn’t making a huge impact on search results because right now it focuses on returning relevant results for ambiguous and complex long-tail searches.

An article at Bloomberg notes that RankBrain’s being used to contend with the 15% of brand-new, never-before-seen searches Google has to deal with on a daily basis.

So, How Do You Optimize for RankBrain?

Well, for once in SEO, that’s actually a fairly easy answer. Jennifer Slegg from The SEM Post asked Gary Illyes (a well-known webmaster trends analyst) from Google exactly how to optimize for RankBrain.

And this was his answer:

“Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy, and it is something we’ve probably been saying for fifteen years now, is – and the recommendation is – to write in natural language… If you try to write like a machine, then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just push you back.

But if you have a content site, try to read out some of your articles or whatever you wrote, and ask people whether it sounds natural. If it sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that we would use in your day to day life, then sure, you are optimized for RankBrain. If it doesn’t, then you are ‘un-optimized.’”

So, like many SEOs have been saying for years, you should create your content for humans, not for RankBrain. If you write for people, the rankings will follow.

Then Why Still Use Keywords?

Smart as Google is, you can’t get your website to rank well by simply sitting down and writing quality content in natural language. Yes, keyword research still needs to be done. Keywords are still critical to your success, but they need to be used in the flow of natural language.

So for now, that’s the scoop on RankBrain! We’ll see how (or if) it really changes the future of search.

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Think SEO is Dead with Spending at $65 Billion This Year?
31/05/16 SEO

Think SEO is Dead with Spending at $65 Billion This Year?

SEO will not die anytime soon. You’ll get a great ROI from your investment. Learn why in this post.

Remember how the Yellow Pages used to be the place to advertise? You could pay a few hundred dollars for a one-inch ad. And the cost of a full-page ad would run well over $10,000.

But back in the day before the internet, it was well worth it because that’s where everyone looked for SMB contact info. You’d get plenty of leads over the course of the year in return.

And now it’s all gone!

Do you ever have fears that all this money you invest in SEO will go to waste? For example, all of a sudden the “next big thing” comes along, and Google’s no longer where everyone goes to find what they want?

Well, don’t worry about that happening anytime soon. It’s not that it could never happen, but it’s not very likely.

Check out why:

  1. Borrell Associates Predicts Steady, Continued Growth in SEO Spending

Currently, the SEO industry’s worth about $65.26 billion, according to research from Borrell Associates. Small and local businesses account for more than two-thirds of that number. Borrell estimates SEO spending will grow to $79.27 billion by 2020.

That makes SEO a fairly large industry in the grand scheme of things. Wikipedia, for example, ranks the top 19 industries in the US by dollar value. Agriculture comes in 19th place, with a value of $173 billion in 2011. In terms of size, SEO’s not far off.

  1. Congress May Not Call Google a Monopoly, But It Really Is (On Search Anyway)

Check out these stats (updated monthly) from StatCounter:

  • Worldwide, Google accounts for just about 90% of all searches, with Bing coming in a distant second place at 5-7%.
  • In the US, the story changes a little. Google currently has nearly 80% of all searches in its control. Bing’s market share increases slightly to 10%, and maybe slightly more.

You know Google makes the rules about search. And, that’s likely to continue.

  1. Despite Increasing Difficulty, SEO’s Still Got a Great ROI

You know how I’ve talked with you about the many changes in SEO – especially in recent years. Yes, it’s like 10 times harder than it used to be. And it’s nearly impossible for a single person to do it.

But you still get a great ROI from it. Check out this image from Adobe to see what I mean:

So…even though SEO’s not quite as strong as email at generating ROI, it’s still awfully powerful.

A 2224% return for every dollar you spend? I don’t know any business owner who’d turn that down!

Whenever Someone Says “SEO is Dead,” You Can Tell Them They’re Full of Hot Air!

SEO is alive and well. And because you, I, and every other human being alive goes to the internet to do research before buying, it’s going to continue to be effective.

Every dollar you put into SEO is well-spent.

The only thing that will change is how you do it. And that’s something I’ll take care of!

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