Daily Search Forum Recap: December 7, 2018

Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:

  • Search Buzz Video Recap: Google Algorithm Changes, Sticky Search Bar, Filter Bubbles, Livestreams & Holidays
    This week I covered the big monthly Google webmaster report for December. Google may have done a big search algorithm update last Friday. Google launched their sticky rounded search bar last Friday night. Google said they do not have a filter bubble…
  • Google Assistant Testing Audio News
    Google announced audio news for the Google Assistant. This is not speakable markup or YouTube videos playing on the Google Home Hub, this is real audio news, like broadcaster, podcaster, etc that produce audio form content.
  • Google Again: Do Not Worry About Words Or Keywords In URLs
    Google’s John Mueller said it again, do not worry about words or keywords in the URLs. John responded to a recent question on Twitter saying “I wouldn’t worry about keywords or words in a URL. In many cases, URLs aren’t seen by users anyway.”
  • Join Google’s John Mueller In Zurich For A Webmaster Hangout
    Google’s John Mueller rarely invites people to join him for his webmaster hangouts but when he does, it is a good opportunity to have some fun at a Google office. If you are in Zurich this December 21st, you can go to the next hangout at the Google Zurich office.
  • Google To Shut Down Many Old Search Console Reports December 13th
    Google has posted the date of December 13, 2018 as the date they will be removing some of the old Google Search Console reports. The reports are already replaced by similar reports in the new Google Search Console.
  • Hauling Google Bikes
    Here is a photo of a truck with a bunch of Google bikes stuffed in the back of it. I guess this trucks drives around the Google offices to relocated bikes left? Or maybe they are picking up stolen bi

Other Great Search Forum Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

Trump denies collusion after major revelations in Russia probe

US President Donald Trump on Saturday again denied that his presidential campaign colluded with Russian operatives, but made no comment on claims that he directly organized hush payments to ward off a possible sex scandal during his White House run.

Trump took to Twitter, his favorite means of communication, to address the multiple court filings that dropped on Friday in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“AFTER TWO YEARS AND MILLIONS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS (and a cost of over $30,000,000), NO COLLUSION!” the president said.

But while the filings did not appear to reveal evidence of collusion, they did offer a wealth of new information about what Mueller’s team is looking into.

Federal prosecutors directly implicated Trump in efforts to buy the silence of two women who claimed they had had affairs with him, saying he directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen to offer them hush money.

What people search for: Tools for trends

bing ads trending queries and broad match

Keeping up to date with what people search for online can be invaluable to your business. Whether you’re looking to inform your latest paid search campaign or just need some fresh, trending content for your blog, these tools can help.

However, with over 3.5 billion searches each day worldwide, it’s hard to know how to narrow all that data down to help you improve your SEO.

Here are some of the many great tools available to help you discover what people search for: the most popular topics, keywords, and trending stories.

Google Trends

When asking what people search for, it makes sense to start with the largest, most commonly used search engine in the world – Google. Due to its sheer size, Google has some great stats, trends, and insights to dig your teeth into.

Let’s look at Google Trends, for example. This gives you a very quick overview of the searches with the most traffic overall, which is continually updated. You can enter a keyword and see how search volume has varied for that term over time and in different places.

Simply change the location, time frame, category and type of search to dig even deeper into the data.

google trends data

Google Trend results for “SEO.”

Google Autocomplete

If you’re looking to find variations in your keyword phrases, Google Autocomplete is a great free tool that you’re probably already using every day.

Type your keyword into the search box and related terms will display in a drop down list. This can be a good starting point for inspiration on long-tail keywords you might need.

Google News

If you’re looking for fresh content for a website or blog, Google News will deliver the very latest headlines from news sites across the globe (including local news), which are tailored to your personal interests/keywords.

You can use the search bar and the “top stories” section on the left side bar. Also, you can zero in on specific topics and locations to see what news stories people are reading and searching for now.

google news results

Google News results for “Brexit.”

Trending on social media

Away from Google related tools, there is plenty that the big social media platforms can offer you when it comes to updates on the latest trends. Regular users of Twitter will know about the trends for you box, which uses an algorithm to display trends that are based on your location and who you follow.

trending for you box twitter

This is similar to Instagram’s Explore function. Again, it’s based on your Instagram history and the type of content you follow and watch.

When it comes to broader discovery of what people search for, trending hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram are invaluable. Simply start researching the day’s top performing hashtags to see what‘s hot and then follow the conversation – perfect for blog post topics.

Google Assistant Testing Audio News

google home

Google announced audio news for the Google Assistant. This is not speakable markup. or YouTube videos playing on the Google Home Hub, this is real audio news, like broadcaster, podcaster, etc that produce audio form content.

Google said they are opening a developer preview that you can fill out a form over here to participate in. Google said:

This new experience will bring you an audio news playlist assembled in that moment, for you. It starts with a briefing of top stories and updates on topics you care about, and extends into longer-form content that dives deeper into more stories. At any point in your day when you want to listen to the latest news—as a morning wake-up, during your commute, or while jogging—the Google Assistant will be ready with new stories and updates to the ones you’ve already heard. Plus, using your voice, you can easily ask the Google Assistant to skip a story, go back or stop.

To improve and build out this audio news experience, we’ve built an open specification, available for news organizations that would like to participate. The prototype relies on single-topic stories—segmented out from newscasts or shows—to contribute to the audio news feed.

Audio journalism requires new capabilities and workflows for both print publishers and broadcasters, whether it’s adding a sound booth or segmenting larger broadcasts into shorter stories. To help with this, the Google News Initiative provided funding to a number of news organizations, such as KQED and McClatchy, to support building out more audio capabilities for the industry as a whole.

Pakistan will no longer fight someone else’s war: Imran Khan

Pakistan will no longer act as a hired gun in someone else’s war, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday, striking a note of defiance against US demands for Islamabad to do more in the battle against militancy.

Khan — who also reiterated his backing for a recent push by the US for talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan — said in a televised address that he wants Pakistan to move forward with “honour”.

“We will no longer fight someone else’s war, nor will we bow down in front of anyone”, the former cricketer said.

Islamabad joined Washington’s “war on terror” in 2001, and says it has paid a heavy price for the alliance, which sparked an Islamist backlash and homegrown militant groups who turned their guns on the Pakistani state, costing thousands of lives.

Security has dramatically improved in recent years after a military crackdown.

But the US continues to accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, which allegedly attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.

The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban both for ideological reasons and to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.

It believes that a Pakistani crackdown on the militants could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the war.

12 Completely Outdated SEO Practices You Should Avoid by @searchmastergen

SEO has gone through extensive evolutionary changes over the years, and continues to do so every day.

While most traditional marketing tactics (for the most part) still hold true in digital marketing today, SEO changes have quite drastically changed the landscape.

Most, if not all, of these changes have helped improve the web – and search, in particular.

Yet, some people still cling to the “old ways” and try to use outdated SEO practices to improve their brand’s organic search visibility and performance.

Some of the tactics worked a few years ago, but now just aren’t as effective as they used to be.

Yet many novice marketers and/or small business owners are still using these “zombie” SEO techniques (tactics that should be dead, but aren’t for some godforsaken reason).

Not only are they ineffective, but many of the 12 outdated SEO practices below are potentially dangerous to the well-being of your brand, websites, and other digital properties.

1. Keyword Abuse

There are so many ways webmasters and “marketers” continue to misunderstand keywords’ role in general SEO initiatives, and how they should be used in the day-to-day strategy.

Let’s take a more granular look at specific types of keyword abuse and mismanagement, including irrelevant usage, writing for a specific keyword density, and keyword stuffing.

Irrelevant Keyword Targeting/Confusion

All too often, novice SEO practitioners try and fit their content and messaging within the confines of their keyword research (and not much else).

These “marketers” will shape the content and its metadata to represent keywords it’s not properly aligned with, nor the proper intent of the users conducting the searches for the high-volume keywords being targeted.

This causes brands to likely lose the attention of readers before ever having the chance to communicate a real message with them.

If the keywords marketed for don’t align with the content on the page, the disconnect will hinder the success of content even if it’s otherwise of good quality.

Don’t try to mislead users and direct them to content that is misrepresented by high-volume keywords in order for increased visibility.

Google knows what this looks like, and it can truly be defined as an obsolete SEO practice (as well as a “black hat” technique, in many instances).

Keyword Density

Writing for a specific “keyword density,” like many keyword-focused marketing tactics, is just missing the mark.

Google no longer depends on keyword density (or the ratio of specific keyword usage to the overall page copy) to determine whether a webpage is an effective source for answering a search query.

It is so much more advanced than simply crawling for keywords; search engines like Google use a multitude of signals to determine search results.

While keywords remain important to the topics and ideas they represent, they are not the lifeline for ranking for high-value search queries.

The quality of content and how the messaging is delivered are the lifeline for that.

Keyword Stuffing

This is probably the oldest trick in the book.

SEO is about keywords, right?

So, loading up our webpages with keywords — especially the same high-value keyword we are aggressively targeting throughout the website — is going to help us show up higher in search, thus outranking out competition?

Absolutely not.

Search engines have, for a long time, known what keyword stuffing is and what kind of text combinations are unnatural. They notice these as attempts to manipulate search results and demote the content as such.

Yes, there may still be valuable content that uses simple keyword stuffing, either intentionally or unintentionally, that is not demoted because of its actual value to users.

Back in the day, webmasters trying to game the system would go as far as putting every keyword variation of a high-value keyword in the website footer or, even more sketchily, make those keywords the same color as the site’s background, effectively hiding them from humans but not the search engine crawlers.

Webmasters have also tried this with links. (Don’t do anything like this.)

Remember, you’re writing for humans, not search engines.

2. Writing for Robots

It’s important to understand that writing unnatural is, well, not natural.

And search engines know it.

The belief is: writing for the web means we should repeat a subject by its proper name every time it is mentioned, working in variations and plural/non-plural versions of the word so that “all bases are covered.”

When crawled, the crawlers see the keyword repeated, and in several different versions, thus leading the page to rank well for the keyword variations used (over and over … and over again).

This isn’t going to work anymore.

Search engines are advanced enough to understand repeated keywords, their variations, and the unfavorable experience of generally bad content.

Write for humans, not search engine crawlers or any other robot.

3. Article Marketing & Article Directories

Any attempt to game the system doesn’t usually work out in the world of SEO.

But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Especially when these tactics offer noticeable improvements to a brand, its website, and/or its associated digital properties.

Sure, article directories worked. And they worked pretty darn good for a long time, too.

Commonly considered one of earliest forms of digital marketing, article syndication was low-hanging fruit to those in the know. And it made sense since the idea was similar to other channels like TV and print that already use syndicated content regularly.

But Google eventually caught on, unleashing its game-changing Panda update in 2011.

Panda chewed up the search landscape, targeting content farms and directories, as well as other websites offering crap content (whether it was simply bad/false, horribly written, makes no sense, or stolen from someone else).

The idea behind article marketing doesn’t make sense in today’s world, where your high-quality content needs to be original and demonstrate expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

4. Article Spinning

Typically done with software, article spinning is the black-hat tactic of trying to recreate quality content using different words, phrases, and organization.

Essentially the end result was a garbled mess of an article that made the same points as the source material.

It’s no surprise this isn’t effective anymore.

While AI is getting better all the time at creating content, anything generated by a machine is still of a lower quality than what a human can produce – something original, helpful, and of substance.

5. Buying Links

This one is still biting webmasters many years later.

Like most SEO tactics, if it seems shady, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Buying links is no different.

Once upon a time, it was routine practice to quickly pay to get a high volume of links pointing at your site.

Majority of Publishers See Much Lower Facebook Traffic Now vs. Last Year [POLL] by @A_Ninofranco

ADVERTISEMENT

Facebook organic reach is dying.

Facebook organic reach is dead.

If you want any traffic from Facebook, you have to pay for it.

We’ve been hearing variations on the above themes for a while now from marketers, brands, and publishers who have watched a flood of organic traffic become a trickle over the years.

This has been due, in part, to:

  • Higher competition (more brands/publishers are posting more content).
  • More clickbait (more competition has made brands/publishers use outlandish or misleading headlines).
  • Algorithm changes meant to show less of the above and more from friends and family.

Facebook puts a premium on connecting people with their friends and family. This element is a major part of Facebook’s News Feed Values.

The social media platform also recognizes that people expect their feeds to deliver informative and entertaining stories.

In 2015 and 2016, Facebook made several algorithm updates aimed to show posts shared by friends and family higher up in the news feed – over those from publishers, brands, and other pages.

Back then, Facebook had warned that the update may cause reach and referral traffic to decline for some pages and encouraged publishers to post things that their audience are likely to share with their friends.

But it turns out, these tweaks were not the last of its kind.

Earlier this year, Facebook rolled out another major news feed algorithm update that focuses on helping users have more meaningful social interactions.

This meant showing:

  • More stories from friends, family, and groups.
  • Less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.

Facebook is basically saying that Pages simply producing entertaining and informative articles won’t cut it anymore. Public content from Pages must likewise encourage meaningful interactions between people.

This recent change in Facebook’s news feed algorithm left plenty of publishers and businesses reeling from notable drops in organic reach and engagement.

And Search Engine Journal is no exception.

Search Engine Journal’s Facebook Traffic Decline

At Search Engine Journal, when the “friends and family” algorithm was launched, we braced for the worst. We expected to lose a good chunk of our organic traffic.

For the first time in a long time, our Facebook traffic was down year on year (January 2018 vs. January 2017). But only by 2 percent. Not too bad.

But in February, traffic from Facebook was down 24 percent year over year.

We started to get worried, but things seemed to return to normal through June, where we either up slightly or about even from the prior year.

Then came July. Down 45 percent.

August was more of the same. Down 42 percent from last year.

September was better, we were only down 20 percent.

In October? Facebook traffic was down 52 percent!

SEJ Facebook TrafficYikes!

We were able to make up some of this traffic with solid gains on Twitter and LinkedIn – but not all of it.

What the heck is going on?

Were we alone in seeing this trend?

To find out, we asked the SEJ community on Twitter.

How Do You Describe Your Current Traffic from Facebook Compared to This Time Last Year?

Here are the results from this #SEJSurveySays poll question.

According to SEJ’s Twitter audience:

  • 37 percent stated that their traffic from Facebook is much lower now compared to this time last year.
  • 27 percent responded that it is somewhat lower.
  • 25 percent answered that their Facebook traffic is about the same as opposed to this time last year’s traffic.

Eleven percent of the respondents said they actually have higher Facebook traffic this year.

Compared to this time last year, is your traffic from Facebook.. – SEJ Survey Says Poll Question

The Long, Steady Decline of Facebook Traffic

This problem isn’t unique to SEJ, obviously.

Other well-known publishers like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Mashable have all seen significant website traffic declines over the past two years, as noted by Ethan Chernofsky, Director of Corporate Marketing at SimilarWeb.

7 Reasons Why Accessibility is Good for SEO and Sales by @martinibuster

Accessibility is a factor that has traditionally been on the margins of SEO and web development. There are solid business reasons for why accessibility should be a top consideration. Accessibility can have a positive effect on sales and SEO.

Accessibility Should Not Be an Afterthought

The recent WordPress 5.0 release brought the issue of accessibility to mind. Accessibility was addressed by a plugin instead of being a core part of WordPress. This gave the impression that accessibility was treated as an afterthought and not a core requirement.

A member of the WordPress and SEO community brought this to attention in the official announcement by WordPress:

Screenshot of Joe Hall commenting on the official WordPress 5 announcment

Seven Reasons to Focus on Accessibility:

  1. Accessibility can enhance SEO
  2. Accessibility should be considered by everyone who works in web development or digital marketing
  3. People with disabilities are consumers
  4. It’s an opportunity to dominate your niche by serving a community that competitors are overlooking
  5. Accessibility can increase traffic
  6. Accessibility can increase sales
  7. Accessibility can decrease bounce rate

What the SEO Community Says About Accessibility

I asked four members of the search marketing community about integrating accessibility concerns with SEO and web development. Here is what they said:

Jenny Halasz
@jennyhalasz

It is past time!

The ADA is actively working to make the accessibility requirements in section 508 standard for everyone.

Not to mention that accessibility requirements are also good SEO. For example, a fully JS site that a bot couldn’t crawl won’t pass accessibility tests either.

I should say likely will not pass all tests…

Alan Bleiwess is a top site auditing professional. He said that accessibility was a part of his site audit checklist.

Alan Bleiweiss
@AlanBleiweiss

Accessibility is integrated into the vast majority of my site audit work. Since I perform broad, overall strategic audits, I don’t focus on the full spectrum of accessibility considerations. Yet I have my assistant run WCAG compliance tests on a sampling of page template types, and I also see how those templates do within Google’s Lighthouse tests specific to Accessibility as well.

One way to get more people in the search industry caring about this is that often overlooked issues specific to SEO are also accessibility issues. Like missing or badly worded image alternate attributes for example. Several accessibility requirements directly improve overall SEO at the code level.

And if SEOs, designers, & developers are unwilling to respect the needs of the visually impaired, or anyone who relies on screen readers that do NOT behave like the top visual web browsers, there’s also the additional threat of lawsuits – more sites and companies are being sued every year for failure to provide properly accessible sites.

Julie Joyce
@JulieJoyce

I feel very strongly about accessibility as my neighbor is blind and he took me to his workplace to see how other blind users navigated the web. I was amazed at how many sites were so poorly coded for users with visual difficulties.

It made me really realize the importance of things like proper image alt attributes and simple navigation. Just in NC alone, in 2016 there were estimated to be 269,600 people with visual difficulties.

They do use the web too, and I’m tired of them being left out when people consider what to do with their websites. We definitely need to pay attention to them.

I mean blind people still need products and services and want to read articles and news

Dave Davies
@beanstalkim

I asked Dave Davies of the Webcology Podcast if it is time for accessibility to move to the forefront of web development and SEO. His answer touched on the pragmatic issue of additional cost.

Here is his answer: