- What if…(The More Things Change, the More Different They Become)
As you ease into your ergo chair, or settle in astride your giant yoga ball behind your computer, you face another day. Another day of gathering data, auditing web pages, digging into keyword reports, meetings with engineering, design, marketing and others. Today will most likely resemble yesterday for the most part. Maybe some tedium, maybe some excitement, and if you’re really, really lucky, maybe a fire drill, too.
Big, sweeping, dramatic changes generally don’t ripple through the world of search marketing too much these days. Yes, algos get updated, and with those updates some sites see dramatic shifts in ranking, but if you look across the entire internet, the effects are on a low percentage of sites and pages. Algo changes do happen and will continue to happen. For as far back as most SEOs can remember, this has been the case.
But wholesale changes, overnight, that affect everyone? Those are rarer beasts.
So what if a big change happens today? Are you ready? Are you sharp and steady on your Bosu ball, or would a big shift knock you flat on your back?
What if links no longer mattered?
In this scenario, it would make sense to continue to grow links that generate inbound traffic for your pages, but with no value assigned in the algorithm towards ranking, what does your day look like? What reporting changes? Are there metrics that need to be realigned, or scrapped completely? If you’re *gasp* buying links in some manner, will you stop? Or, with no impact on ranking, might you actually start buying more links to drive more traffic?
What if usability counted as a ranking factor?
Would that make you invest more money is this often ignored area? Or do you feel you already have this so nailed down, you’re covered? Many businesses feel this way, but be careful. Usability success is defined by your users, not by you. Completing a project lead by a ‘usability consultant” that you hired doesn’t mean your usability is top notch. Likely it’s improved, but as with some many things (lookin’ at you SEO) there are usually more tweaks that can be made.
What if all keyword data ceased to be shared?
I mean everywhere. Across all the engines. Stripped completely from all reports. Are you prepared to make decisions around metrics which don’t include “keywords”? Have you even begun to think about what metrics you would follow? How you’d justify the work being done? This is a tough one given, since pretty much Day 0, SEO has been linked (pardon that pun) to keywords. But you’ve already seen a clear instance where keyword data you always had easy access to dried up. Now is the time to apply lessons learned from that in planning for future draughts.
What if ranking reports ended up penalizing you?
Most people like to think their meat comes from a supermarket. Pretty standard view in North America. We don’t want to know what it took to get to the sterile, wrapped, well presented product on the shelf. That’s a bit too grisly for us, and when you ask most kids today where meat comes from, they say “the supermarket”. We all know that’s not quite the starting point. Ranking reports follow a similar path. Businesses pay for them, or use tools which generate them. The reports are nicely wrapped and presented, but there’s a darker side to them. The tools used to prepare those reports scrape SERP pages. This harms kittens, was responsible for the extinction of unicorns and the engines don’t like it. Why would the engines care? Pretty straight forward, actually. Every query run costs money – actual, real world money. And every query run is intended to hold the promise of someone clicking on an ad, generating revenue for the engine. Automated queries, such as those run by ranking checking tools, spin up the servers, cost the engine money, and never yield revenue. So, when a search engine does an ROI analysis on “traffic” like that, it’s a net loss and we seek to mitigate it. This is why abusing those tools can harm your rankings. So how comfortable do you feel walking this tightrope?
What if everything went secure?
We’re already seeing the start of this trend, so how are you thinking of approaching it? It’ll mean some changes for your website, but there are other considerations to think through as well. Have you started formulating a plan for this approach? Will this have a positive or negative impact on your visitors? How will you communicate to them about it? Will this affect your ability to gather data and track metrics? Those any many other questions need addressing.
The job of an SEO, SEM, web marketing, online marketer, etc. is a tough one today. It seems we’re right in the middle of “mobile is the future, today!” and trying to grapple with all of the implications that come with this shift, and yet, there’s no let up. No relief. The work, from various angles, just keeps coming. This isn’t doom and gloom, folks. But it is a test.
What if only the strong survive?
Sr. Product Manager
- Where Does Your Time Go?
Time is the one thing we all want more of, yet no one can create more of. It limits what we can accomplish all too often, and it forces us to work faster and smarter. There’s way too much of it when you’re trying to boil water, and not nearly enough when planning vacation. It’s safe to say that humans, generally speaking, can be obsessed with time. We pay attention to it. Numerous devices exist to help us track it, “manage” it and remind us of its passing.
Time is elusive, but finite. It’s elastic, but unforgiving. It can be our friend, or our enemy. And one thing is for sure…we could all do better when it comes to managing it and investing it in places.
There has been a trend for some time now, specific to managing time with email, to close your email down, and only reference it a couple times each day. Email is a time suck. Your inbox will rarely be empty, there will always be something unresponded to, and everything will always be an emergency (or so those sending emails often claim). And it makes some sense, too. If you want to get something done, you need to focus on it. often a straight run on one project of 45 minutes or so will see you get more done than a couple hours trying to get work done between bouncing in an out of your inbox. On a personal level, this makes a lot of sense. But on a business level, how do things look?
Where do you invest your time?
By far the number one area to invest your time in is around your content. This is what people are actually looking for online. And most websites can improve the quality of their content. Not saying it isn’t already good, but wouldn’t great be better?
And yet, so many websites seek shortcuts. Guest blogging (so I don’t have to write it), content farms (see last excuse), User Generated Content (repeating the excuse and adding “it’s more topical”), content feeds for ecommerce sites (I have too many items to tweak every one individually).
So again, time can be against you in some of these cases. It does take time to create unique, useful content. But if you focus on the things visitors are really searching for, you’ll find a narrower area to start from, making the work much more manageable.
This one can take time, and at the very least, you want to pay attention here to respond in a timely manner. Funny thing, though, is that most of us in the industry tend to think of response times via social media as needing to be measured in minutes, when it’s unlikely the average consumer thinks that way. They might be upset, and sure they’d like you to respond immediately. But in situations where genuine problems exist, even responding within 24 hours is often more than enough to help turn the situation around. Most consumers are just happy you responded full stop.
And creating content for social media takes time. Where does it come from? Well, I can think of a couple areas: link building and seo for starters.
By learning to streamline your social media program, or even outsourcing it to trusted companies, you can see real time savings and still engage directly with people who respond.
Usability (User Experience)
Now we’re probably all guilty of not spending as much time as we could focused on UX testing. But it’s a critical area. So critical its worth rerouting time and money from other projects to nail this one. Many websites face a common issue, though: it’s too big a job.
Here’s a moment when you need to realize time is your outright enemy. The longer you don’t invest in this critical work, the farther behind you fall as your own site grows, and your competition moves forward. You will have ever more work in this project, which takes longer and costs more. If your biggest competitor did UX testing and reworked their website based on that feedback, however, and suddenly started taking your rankings and traffic, would that make it a higher priority? If you’re saying yes, just wait a bit for your old nemesis “time” to work it out…because this scenario will probably come to pass and force your hand.
People still focus on this. They invest time and money in the pursuit of links. I get it, as links are still useful. Both as signals to search engines and for direct traffic. But ask yourself if the amount of time you invest in chasing links justifies the returns those links get you. What if your content and UX were so good people loved you? And they shared your URLs across social media all the time? You’d get all kinds of useful links, naturally. So lean on those areas to build links. Put your time into them and see the rewards.
Still gotta be done, but…how much time is actually needed? In truth, for many businesses, not a whole lot these days. This doesn’t mean companies should ditch their inhouse teams or drop their consultants and agencies. The work being performed is important and needs to be done. But again it comes back to balance. If you have a person working full time on SEO, do you have 3 people working full time on content creation? Do you have a team doing usability work? Across the business, how does the balance look?
Let’s look at bloggers as an example.
Most don’t do SEO. Of those that do, many simply devote minutes to the activity via a plugin in Wordpress, for example. The point here is their focus. It’s on creating content, not SEO, or link building. And it works for many as their traffic grows, visitor numbers increase, etc.
In the end, how you invest your time is your choice. But I’d encourage you to think about what expected returns you’ll get from the work you do invest in. The landscape for businesses is constantly changing online. Mobile is big, local is big and wearables are set to explode. How is your time investment in planning or executing in those areas these days? More work, same amount of time. Which do you choose? Maybe grab a coffee, take a little time and think it through…but don’t take too long, of course.
Sr. Product Manager
- Announcing Bing Knowledge Widget & App Linking
Bing Knowledge Widget
At Bing, we want to help people do more and know more. We’ve been building Bing’s knowledge repository that now has hundreds of millions of entities (people, places, and things) and billions of relationships between them. This helps us create a deeper understanding of our world. The quest to understand our world cannot be done alone. We work with many partners who enrich our knowledge. We give what we’ve learned back to the world via Bing.com and Windows Search Charm.
Here’s an example of the Knowledge Widget in action in a blog post related to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. You can see how it is understanding the entities of the page and bringing in useful, related content.
You can easily configure how you want Bing Knowledge Widget to visualize the entities detected on a page. There are three pre-defined options:
- Entity Images: when you select this option entities that are detected will appear only as images in a vertical carousel alongside the page.
- Entity Images & Links: when you select this option entities that are detected will appear both as images in a vertical carousel alongside the page as well as links within the text of the page. This is the most popular option.
- Entity Links: when you select this option, entities that are detected will appear as links within the text of the page.
When you have chosen a visualization option that includes entity links, you can set the link style associated with these entity links. You can select from a number of pre-defined options or provide a name that you have defined yourself. Without getting into all of the set-up details, which can be fully explored on the dedicated Bing Knowledge Widget Help & How To page, the Knowledge Widget enables you to create a unique user experience for your visitors, which you control, and that is powered by Bing’s knowledge repository.
At the same time we’re also announcing the App Linking functionality for businesses. Bing Webmaster Tools will be your interface to linking your website to your app. Bing App Linking lets you connect your app to your web site so that search results for the top level of your web site include a link to your app. If you implement deep linking, search results for pages within your web site will include deep links to targets inside your app.
App Linking is an extension of our Connected Sites concept, where you can connect official social pages, for example, and associate them with your site. This functionality now allows you to do the same for your apps. More information on the App Linking program can be found here, with the Help & How To content located here.
Bing Knowledge & Webmaster Teams
- Link Juice
One bottle of Link Juice* and you’ll be more popular than a puppy in a sweater! Loaded with all the nutrients and goodness you need to successfully grow, a single bottle of Link Juicecontains:
100 total links:
- 44 general, relevant site links
- 27 guest blog post links on related sites
- 12 .ORG links
- 9 .EDU links
- 8 .GOV links
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What more could you wish for?
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That’s 200 new links every month all year long!
You’ll have so many links you’ll be able to afford to share with friends, or even across your own network of sites. This is the package for the serious website operator. You’ll be giving out links during the holidays and stuffing stockings with them like Santa with candy canes. You’ll find new uses for your links, too:
- Use them to plug the cracks in your foundation
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- Links are excellent for building or mending fences, too
- Use links as gifts all year ‘round
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- Not for internal use
- Not for external use
- Has no use
- Is not real
- You did notice this posted for April 1st, right?
- You know…, also known as April Fool’s Day in North America…
- 5 Steps To Improving Search Rankings
I’ve shared this previously, but recently did a deeper dive on the subject with Eric Enge. This week’s blog post will be pretty short, then as the full interview can be seen of his Stone Temple blog. Basically, we covered the thinking behind my graph showing the order of priority I put on doing work today.
- User Experience
- Link Building
It might seem like old news, but I still think it’s worth a read. Eric asks some great questions and we get into a bunch of detail on each point.
Sr. Product Manager