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SEO in 2017 - A New World Where Old Rules Still Matter

The ability for website content to be found on search engines has always been a concern for anyone managing a website. Search has evolved however, and improving "findability" means more today than ever, in no small part due to the sophisticated technologies underpinning today's search engines. This workshop, originally presented to digital practitioners at the Smithsonian Institution, discusses the current state of search, provides an overview of still-important SEO variables and techniques, and discusses newer, important considerations. Also discussed are priorities for relaunching an existing site (or launching a new one), and a look at current trends that illuminate where things are heading.

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SEO in 2017 - A New World Where Old Rules Still Matter

  1. 1. #musedata#musedata Wikimedia Commons 6/16/2017 SEO in 2017 A New World Where Old Rules Still Matter
  2. 2. #musedata#musedata Today’s Workshop  SEO today  Old-school SEO still matters  Relaunching a site  New-ish stuff that matters  Measuring SEO  Structured data  Social media  What’s next  What do I DO? 2
  3. 3. #musedata#musedata What does “SEO” mean today?  Search Engines (SE’s) are smarter than ever.  Almost all traffic is personalized, which affects SE results.  Google has worked to defeat tactical SEO, but…  “Old school” stuff, (titles, text content, links, URLs, site architecture) still matters.  Depending on who you believe, Google has between 73%* and 90%** of worldwide desktop traffic.  …Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex “and the rest” still account for billions of searches every month. 3 *source **source
  4. 4. #musedata#musedata Importance of Personalization  Virtually all search results are personalized now.  This is true whether or not you are logged into Google, but especially true if you are.  SO… there is no standard rank for a given keyword.  Analyzing rankings for specific keywords is a flawed strategy anyway!  Tip: try Chrome’s ‘Incognito’ mode – Shift-Ctrl-N 4
  5. 5. #musedata#musedata SEO and Museums  In our favor:  We have great content!  We (sometimes) have ultra-high domain authority!  – 94 out of 100! (  We have some of the strongest brands in the world!  Brands matter on search engines  Many sites receive 40-60% of traffic from organic search.  Social media helps (but maybe not as much as we think).  Challenges:  Despite great content, many sites aren’t optimized.  Some have technical issues such as “duplicate content.”  Some are too small / unlinked, to break through. 5 Drew Bowie
  6. 6. #musedata#musedata SO MUCH going on, on a ‘SERP’ these days! (With a little help from the Google Glossary) 6 Paid Search (PPC) ads Twitter results Organic search result with “mini-sitelinks” “Google My Business” (formerly Google Places) “Knowledge Panel” – MANY things can show here – team rosters, “popular times,” etc. Social Networks Recommendations (“People also search for…”)
  7. 7. #musedata#musedata Importance of Local  Over 50% of Google trillions of searches / year are mobile  Nearly one third of those are location-related. (source)  “Every month people visit 1.5 billion destinations related to what they searched for on Google.” (source)  Searches with local intent are more likely to lead to store visits and sales within a day. Fifty percent of mobile users are most likely to visit after conducting a local search. (Google / source)  “Authoritative OneBox” (right) is the grand prize. 7  Appearing in the three-listing snack- pack is critical for businesses, but not always do-able.  Organic optimization plays a large role.  Correct/consistent “NAP” (name, address, phone) is critical.
  8. 8. #musedata#musedata Moz 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors  Moz 2017 Local Ranking Survey  Approx. 20 Local Search experts surveyed; released 4/11/2017.  Google My Business (GMB) is the largest slice.  Links are second: “We’re seeing significant increases for link-related factors across the board.”  Highest ranked factor is Proximity of Address to the Point of Search.  Consistency and completeness of Citations matters. 8
  9. 9. #musedata#musedata What influences Google’s algorithm?  Moz 2015 Ranking Survey  150 expert opinions  One-to-ten scale  “Old school” factors still rank highest, but exact keyword matches are less influential  Social ranks lowest, but shares are impt. 9 “…The data continues to show some of the highest correlations between Google rankings and the number of links to a given page.”
  10. 10. #musedata#musedata Moz definitions (into the weeds)  Domain-Level, Link Authority Features: Based on link/citation metrics such as quantity of links, trust, domain-level PageRank, etc. (8.22)  Page-Level Link Metrics: PageRank, Trust metrics, quantity of linking root domains, links, anchor text distribution, quality/spamminess of linking sources, etc. (8.19)  Page-Level Keyword & Content-Based Metrics: Content relevance scoring, on-page optimization of keyword usage, topic-modeling algorithm scores on content, content quantity/quality/relevance, etc. (7.87)  Page-Level, Keyword-Agnostic Features: Content length, readability, Open Graph markup, uniqueness, load speed, structured data markup, HTTPS, etc. (6.57)  User Usage & Traffic/Query: Data SERP engagement metrics, clickstream data, Visitor traffic/usage signals, quantity/diversity/CTR of queries, both on the domain and page level (6.55)  Domain-Level Brand Metrics: Offline usage of brand/domain name, mentions of brand/domain in news/media/press, toolbar/browser data of usage about the site, entity association, etc. (5.88)  Domain-Level Keyword Usage: Exact-match keyword domains, partial-keyword matches, etc. (4.97)  Domain-Level, Keyword-Agnostic Features: Domain name length, TLD extension, SSL certificate, etc. (4.09)  Page-Level Social Metrics: Quantity/quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, Google +1s, etc. to the page (3.98) 10
  11. 11. #musedata#musedata Old-School Website SEO Still Matters  Good quality “backlinks” (keywords)  Body content – keywords, semantically-related words  Page Title Tags and Meta Description tags  URLs, site architecture, page structure  Internal “anchor” links using keywords  Titles, headlines (H1) and sub-heads (H2)  Images with ALT and TITLE tags.  “301 Redirects” still matter, but not as much as before (source).  Misc. content emphasis attributes (bold, italics, underline, etc.).  The Beginner’s Guide to SEO (Moz) 11 New Orleans Public Library
  12. 12. #musedata#musedata 12 Old-School Website SEO (con’td)  Navigation and link structure  Spiders still find pages by crawling the site through navigation and links.  SE’s like flatter architectures and will index flat sites more thoroughly.  Infrastructure can impact the crawler's ability to scan and index pages. • Incorporating links in JavaScript, iFrames, Flash, etc.  URL / directory / filename structure. Search-friendly URLs:  Are descriptive, giving some idea what the page is about.  Are simple, static and short: • A single dynamic parameter can result in lower ranking and indexing. • Easier for the spider to understand and put in context  Use (but do not overuse) keywords.  Use hyphens to separate words.
  13. 13. #musedata#musedata You have control of Title and Description tags!  Page Title tags are important – every page should have its own!  They tell a search engine what the page is about.  They are the headline for the search listing.  Meta Description tag helps improve click-through.  They need to be short, provide a coherent description. 13 Awesomesauce! Uninspired, but to the point. No description tag! Dept. of Redundancy Dept. Good description, but it’s not the one they wrote, AND it’s cut off!
  14. 14. #musedata#musedata Exercise: write a title tag  Length is important (if you want the tag the display properly)!  Short! ~55 characters! (source)  Best case: individual tags for each page.  Write a headline in 55 characters or less (including spaces) that:  Imparts an accurate expectation of what the page is about.  Will serve as a clear, clickable headline for your search result.  Steps: 1. Open a browser and a text editor. 2. Make a 55-character ‘character counter’ in a monospaced (Courier) font: 3. Pick a page and choose ‘View Source’ 4. Find <TITLE> (or <title>) 5. Copy your current Title Tag, paste it into a text file under the character counter 6. Edit / write a new tag! 14 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ (55 characters) V&A · The world's leading museum of art and design Home | Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Projects | National Air and Space Museum
  15. 15. #musedata#musedata Exercise: write a meta-description tag  Meta Description tag helps improve click-through.  Needs to be customized and short.  Describe what the page is about in 120 characters or less.  If for your homepage, describe the site.  BTW, 120 characters is very conservative! Moz says between 150 and 160 characters is ok.  I Can't Drive 155: Meta Descriptions in 2015 - Moz  Steps: 1. Pick a page and choose ‘View Source’ 2. Find meta name="description" 3. Make a 120-character character counter in Courier font 4. Copy your current description tag, paste it into a text file under the character counter 5. Edit / write a new tag! 15 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ (120 chars.) Museum of the decorative arts founded in 1852 to support and encourage excellence in art and design. Located in London, England. (8 extra chars.)
  16. 16. #musedata#musedata “Keyword research” was HUGE!  BUT – Google has gotten very (VERY) good at:  Understanding what pages are about.  How words relate to each other (“semantic keywords”).  If you have great content, you are probably using a rich variety of the right keywords.  I.e., the ones people actually search for!  MAYBE. You should know.  BUT… concentrated keyword research is an intense process:  STEP 1: Use Multiple Sources to Get Keyword Suggestions.  STEP 2: Selects Keywords that Match Multiple Types of Searcher Intent Based on Your Content Strategy.  STEP 3: Collect Keyword Metrics and Sort/Filter/Prioritize Based on Goals.  STEP 4: Determine Keyword Targeting & New Content Creation Needs/Priority.  These tips are easy-to-do however:  Google auto-suggest (search entry box pull-down).  Google “Searches related-to _______” (similar searches).  Moz’s Keyword Explorer can help identify keyword suggestions. 16
  17. 17. #musedata#musedata 17 Keyword research (into the weeds)  Process:  Discovering and Prioritizing the Best Keywords (Moz)  Keyword Research in 2016: Going Beyond Guesswork (Moz)  How to Do Keyword Research for SEO (Hubspot)  A Visual Guide to Keyword Targeting and On-Page SEO (Moz)  Tools  Google AdWords Keyword Planner (free, but limited usefulness)  Google Trends (free)  Moz Pro Keyword Explorer (paid / limited free usage)  11 Best free keyword research tools for SEO in 2016 (SEOstack blog)  SEMrush (paid)
  18. 18. #musedata#musedata You’re relaunching your site!  Launching a new site hurts in the short run…  If you change your URLs, your site disappears from engine DBs and must be reindexed / reassessed.  You’re starting from scratch!  Don’t worry – your traffic will come back, but it can take months.  Re-launching is an opportunity to improve your rankings by:  Migrating to https.  Using unique Title and Description tags.  Incorporating logical directory structure and navigational elements.  Having search-friendly URLs. (No numerical parameters!)  Providing lots of indexable text. 18
  19. 19. #musedata#musedata You’re relaunching your site! (cont’d)  Minimize the loss of traffic and rankings by employing 301-type (permanent) redirects from your old pages.  They tell the engines that a page has permanently moved.  “One-to-one” redirects are optimal, but not always possible (practically speaking).  Google is working on lessening the importance of using 301s, but it is still the best practice.  301 Redirects Rules Change: What You Need to Know for SEO (Moz) 19 301-type redirects are the way you tell the engines your old site hasn’t died. (It’s also an old highway in Maryland.)
  20. 20. #musedata#musedata New-ish stuff that matters 20 Tyler (10-weeks)  Mobile-friendly / responsive design is boosted in Google.  Page speed matters, but what matters more is having relevance reduced for having a slow site.  People expect a page to load in about two secs.  Security - https is better than http.  There are new ways to improve the way your search results appear.  Structured data - “Rich snippets.”  User reviews matter!  Improved CTR if your Google listing shows high-star reviews.  Social media content is more integrated into search results.  Localized results – Geo-targeting is pretty accurate.
  21. 21. #musedata#musedata New stuff that matters – AMP!  Google-backed, open-source initiative.  Accelerated Mobile Pages provide a MUCH faster mobile experience!  Speed up the load time of mobile webpages using existing technologies.  AMP for mobile search results gives the appearance of these pages being prioritized…  Google says they are not boosted in search results. BUT...  Load time and page speed ARE ranking factors!  AMP Testing Tool in Google Search Console.  Testing tool blog post (Google)  Another blog post (SEO Roundtable) 21 Look for the symbol.
  22. 22. #musedata#musedata 22 Google’s ‘divided we stand’ strategy  Currently, Google has a single search index.  By 2018 (est.) Google will divide its index, giving mobile users better, fresher content (SMX Advanced – 6/13/17).  The separate mobile search index will become the primary, more frequently updated one.  Google’s Gary Illyes says they will “communicate a lot” before rolling out the mobile-first index.  “Don’t freak out.” mobile searchers everyone else! A mobile-optimized site is no longer a luxury!
  23. 23. #musedata#musedata 23 “Off-Page” stuff that matters  More important:  LINKS (a.k.a. “backlinks”)! • HIGH QUALITY external links back to your site, using keywords. • Poor quality links can really hurt you! • Moz free Open Site Explorer can help identify existing links and linking opportunities.  Social shares.  Less important (but not irrelevant):  Blog appearances for domain.  Links in directories.  News releases.  Social presence (FB, Twitter, YouTube).  The Ultimate Guide to Off-Page SEO Bernard Landgraf
  24. 24. #musedata#musedata Discredited Practices  On-page:  Keyword stuffing  Meta keyword tag  Spammy comments  Off-page:  Paid links  Poor-quality links  Content farms  Guest blogging  Exact match domains:  “”  SEO “gateway” pages  Flash (doesn’t get indexed)  Google Penalties are usually applied by algorithm 24 Behaving badly means real penalties!
  25. 25. #musedata#musedata How are SE’s getting better and better?  Machine-learning / artificial intelligence.  Microsoft Bing’s RankNet was first (2005).  Google’s RankBrain algorithm (2015).  RankBrain:  Used to process search results and rank web pages.  The third most important part of Google’s so-called Hummingbird ranking algorithm!  Google: RankBrain (Search Engine Land)  FAQ: All About The New Google RankBrain Algorithm (Search Engine Land)  How Machine Learning Works (Martech)  Machine Learning: Making Sense of a Messy World (Google) 25 HAL 9000
  26. 26. #musedata#musedata Hummingbirds, Pandas, Penguins – what?!  Hummingbird – Google’s algorithm changes OFTEN - weekly.  Panda (2011/2015) – Boosted high-quality sites and demoted lower quality (spammy) sites.  Penguin (2012/2016) – Penalized sites that use “unnatural” backlinks.  Moz blogs to help you plunder the Google-Algo depths:  Google Algorithm Change History  Penguin 4.0: Was It Worth the Wait?  Google Algorithm Cheat Sheet 26
  27. 27. #musedata#musedata 27 Measuring SEO  Percent of visits referred from search engines.  Manually tracked (or via API tool).  Shows your progress with engines in a context-neutral way, independent of ancillary traffic spikes. Paid-search (orange) is boosting traffic, but as the year progresses, organic share (blue) is on the increase as well.
  28. 28. #musedata#musedata 28 Measuring SEO (cont’d)  Number of keywords referring traffic.  Manually teased out of the GA interface.  Navigate:  Acquisition   All Traffic   Channels   Organic Search  Primary dimension = Keyword  Then… look to the bottom-right of chart, for “Show rows:”  1-10 of X,XXX  X,XXX (8,319) is your metric.
  29. 29. #musedata#musedata 29 Measuring SEO (cont’d)  Number of pages receiving at least one visit from a search engine.  Manually teased out of the GA interface.  Navigate:  Acquisition   All Traffic   Channels   Organic Search  Primary dimension = Landing page  Then… look to the bottom-right of chart, for “Show rows:”  1-10 of X,XXX  X,XXX (3,324) is your metric.
  30. 30. #musedata#musedata 30 ‘Organic Search’ metrics under ‘Acquisition’  Shown in GA’s “Acquisition / Behavior / Conversions” parlance.  Navigate:  Acquisition   All Traffic   Channels   Organic Search Acquisition • Sessions • % New Sessions • New Users Behavior • Bounce Rate • Pages / Session • Avg. Session Duration Conversions • Goal Conversion Rate • Goal Completions • Goal Value
  31. 31. #musedata#musedata Search Console metrics Google Analytics metrics 31 Google Analytics Search Console  Linking with Google Search Console is required.  Clicks / Impressions / CTR from search engines  Number of landing pages referred from search engines  Navigate:  Acquisition   Search Console   Landing Pages Acquisition • Impressions • Clicks • CTR • Average position • Sessions Behavior • Bounce Rate • Pages / Session Conversions • Goal Completions • Goal Value • Goal Conversion Rate
  32. 32. #musedata#musedata 32 Structured Data  metadata provides info SE’s need to understand content, provide better results.  Tells the engines what your data means, not just what it says.  Moz rates tags as a low- influence ranking factor, but…  Meta tags improve CTR in search results by displaying enhanced content.  Authorship  "In-depth articles" feature (Article markup)  Other “Rich Snippets”
  33. 33. #musedata#musedata 33 Structured Data (cont’d)  Structured data can be used to mark up:  Creative work  Event  Organization  Person  Place  Product  Recipes  Structured data may help:  Enhance CTR from search engine results.  Search engines understand your content.  Your content to appear in specialized search results like “in-depth Articles.”  Google Structured Data Testing Tool Museum content can be relevant to “in-depth articles”
  34. 34. #musedata#musedata 34 Social Media’s Role  Google stated there is no causation of high social metrics and Google rank (2013).  I.e., authoritative “social signals" (Facebook likes, Twitter followers) do not affect rank.  Do you believe that? Not sure I do.  Social media matters:  It encourages links to your content.  These links may influence rank by helping engines understand a site’s credibility.  Bing: “We take into consideration how often a link has been tweeted or retweeted, as well as the authority of the Twitter users that shared the link.”  Social media profiles rank in search engines.  Google+ does influence search results, but its influence is believed to be shrinking. 5 Things You Need to Know About Social Media & SEO (kissmetrics)
  35. 35. #musedata#musedata 35 Open Graph meta tags are essential  Open Graph (OG) tags (2010) promote integration between social sites and your website.  Allows you to control how site content appears in social media posts.  OG tags can significantly affect click- through rates and conversions from social sites.  The Open Graph Protocol What You Need to Know About Open Graph Meta Tags for Total Facebook and Twitter Mastery (kissmetrics) og:title og:description
  36. 36. #musedata#musedata 36 The next chapter: app indexing  Google and Apple are now “deep-indexing” content within apps:  Perform a search on a mobile device.  Results will include web pages and relevant content from within an app.  Google: indexed app links influence rank for associated Web pages.  SEO is suddenly an important part of the app development process.  App Indexing: Why It Matters For The Future Of Search  Searchengineland: App Indexing (topic page)  Google’s Firebase app indexing  Apple’s Deep Linking in iOS
  37. 37. #musedata#musedata OK, so what do I DO?!  Use your time for things you can control!  Improve your “old” site’s “on-page” findability:  Add unique Title and Meta-Description tags.  Delete the old “meta keywords” tag!  Improve your text content.  Add internal links using keywords.  Switch to https.  Reduce your site’s load time.  Off-page: try and get backlinks!  When someone is going to link to you, use keywords for the link – unless your institutional name NEEDS the exposure.  Off-page: social content that stimulates shares, user reviews.  Register with “Google My Business”  Make sure your existing info is correct 37 Vampyre Fangs
  38. 38. #musedata#musedata OK, so then what do I do?!  If redesigning your site, go to the mat for:  Mobile-friendly (responsive) design.  Quick load-time and AMP compatibility.  Unique Title and Meta-description tags.  Open graph (OG) tags for social.  Search-friendly nav structure and URLs.  Text content! Sometimes sites are surprisingly devoid of this, esp. if the design mantra was a “clean look.”  Work the analytics process, benchmark and measure! 38 Vampyre Fangs
  39. 39. #musedata#musedata Search Engine Marketing References  Search Engine Land  Search Engine Watch  Danny Sullivan (twitter)  Matt Cutts (twitter)  Moz (free/paid)  Woorank (free/paid SEO checker)  SEMrush (paid)  Bruce Clay  SEO Smarty - Ann Smarty  SEOBook - Aaron Wall (paid) 39
  40. 40. #musedata#musedata 40 Questions?
  41. 41. #musedata#musedata 41 Thanks! @balpert