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Customers are searching for your business right now.

Do you want to show up at the top of your local search results?

Want those future customers to see your business in their Google search?

Wish you knew precisely what ranking factors help your business rank higher?

You can.

With local SEO, Google uses a separate ranking algorithm that considers various factors to produce the best results – and we have the latest information on Google’s algorithm updates.

On April 6, I moderated a sponsored webinar presented by Justin Meredith, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Birdeye, and Steve Wiideman, CEO & Sr. Search Strategist at the Wiideman Consulting Group.

Here is a summary of the webinar. To access the entire presentation, complete the form.

Google Algorithm & Search Appearance Updates

They say the only constant in life is change, and Google loves that. Here are the recent Google updates that have impacted local businesses.

New map and local interface in search (Dec 2023).

Listing updates can be made directly in search (Dec 2023).

New Google Business Profile attributes (Feb 2023).

Google News Showcase (Feb 2023).

[Discover How Those Algorithm Changes Impact Your Business] Instantly access the webinar →

Despite all of Google’s changes, it seems like the one thing they’ve kept consistent forever has been the reason behind the changes.

Google’s goal is to provide consistent, reliable information to consumers searching online.

Tip #1: Do Your Research

Make sure your business information is correct and accurate. Conduct a local SEO audit.

During your audit, you’ll want to check for:

1. Data accuracy.

Your phone number, address, and pin on the map should be correct.

2. Optimized local landing pages.

Last year, Wiideman’s team studied over 300 local landing pages for big brands like Starbucks and McDonald’s, the big guys with sometimes thousands of locations.

Those big-brand finds contained incredibly helpful tips for local business websites.

[Learn The Optimization Tips They Discovered] Instantly access the webinar →

3. Relevant citations.

Make sure you get citations from:

Search engines.

Navigation engines.

Industry directories.

Localized directories.

Sites that get traffic.

4. Well-managed reputation.

Reviews are essential, so be sure to ask customers to leave reviews and add photos to Google maps when possible.

[Discover Exactly How Reviews Help Local SEO] Instantly access the webinar →

Tip #2: Create A Comprehensive Google Business Profile

Aside from utilizing every available field in Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), you can:

Incorporate language from reviews into actual product & service descriptions to think more like your customers.

Have your best customers ask the questions that live in the questions & answers that show up in the search results.

Upload pictures and videos related to your business.

[Learn The Easiest Way To Do This] Instantly access the webinar →

Tip #3: Establish A Robust Review Management System

The power of word of mouth cannot be understated in today’s day and age.

9 out of 10 consumers read reviews before they buy a product.

Make it easy for customers to leave reviews, and then listen to positive and negative reviews.

[Discover The Best Ways To Respond To Reviews] Instantly access the webinar →

Tip #4: Create Comprehensive Content

It’s crucial to have content for every possible search method that someone might use to find your products or services.

Don’t just think about what your customers are searching for and how they are searching.

On the organic side of a local search, ensure that you appear below the maps for more of those longer tail queries.

Tip #5: Use Links & Citations

Local businesses can get links and citations by getting neighbors and the community involved.

You may need creativity and a little leg work here, but it’s excellent for PR and gives rich results through the event schema.

[Discover How An Attorney Got Free PR With Links & Citations] Instantly access the webinar →

For off-site visibility, prioritize a list of location page tests to boost organic rankings.

Tip #6: Increase Activity

Help show the search engines that your business is active, live, real, and that people are searching for you and coming to your location.

● Utilize the Google Image Recognition algorithm.

​​​​Get active and hold yourselves accountable every month to improve each activity metric.

Wiideman also showed how you could get an SEO KPI tracker for free that helps with accountability overall.

[Find Out How To Get The SEO KPI Tracker] Instantly access the webinar →

[Slides] Google Algorithm Updates & Local SEO: 6 Top Tips From Experts

Here’s the presentation:

Join Us For Our Next Webinar! KPIs, Metrics & Benchmarks That Matter For SEO Success In 2023

Reserve my Seat

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Google Updates Googlebot Verification Documentation

Google updated their Search Central Documentation to on verifying Googlebot, adding documentation about user-triggered bot visits, information that was missing from previous Googlebot documentation, which has created confusion for many years, with some publishers blocking the IP ranges of the legitimate visits.

Newly Updated Bot Documentation

Google added a new documentation that categorizes the three different kinds of bots that publishers should expect.

These are the three categories of Google Bots:

Googlebot – Search crawler

Special-case crawlers

User-triggered fetchers (GoogleUserContent)

That last one, GoogleUserContent is one that’s confused publishers for a long time because Google didn’t have any explicit documentation about it.

This is what Google says about GoogleUserContent:

“User-triggered fetchers

Tools and product functions where the end user triggers a fetch.

For example, Google Site Verifier acts on the request of a user.

Because the fetch was requested by a user, these fetchers ignore chúng tôi rules.”

The documentation states that the reverse DNS mask will show the following domain:

Google recently updated their Google Crawlers page to create a section specifically about user-triggered fetchers.

The list of the different crawlers contains the same bots but the page has been reorganized to categorize user-triggered fetchers in their own group.

The following crawlers are now designated as user-triggered fetchers:

Fetches and processes feeds that publishers explicitly supplied through the Google Publisher Center to be used in Google News landing pages.

In the past, what I was told by some in the SEO community, is that bot activity from IP addresses associated with chúng tôi was triggered when a user viewed a website through a translate function that used to be in the search results, a feature that no longer exists in Google’s SERPs.

I don’t know if that was true or not in the past.

But the above is the new information that we have now about user-triggered fetchers.

Additionally, Google added the following information about user-triggered fetchers:

User-triggered fetchers are triggered by users to perform a product specific function. For example, Google Site Verifier acts on a user’s request.

Because the fetch was requested by a user, these fetchers generally ignore chúng tôi rules. The IP ranges the user-triggered fetchers use are published in the chúng tôi object.”

Google’s new documentation explains that bot activity from IP addresses associated with chúng tôi can be triggered by the Google Site Verifier tool.

Lastly, Google retired their Mobile Apps Android crawler.

The user agent token and full string were both: AdsBot-Google-Mobile-Apps

This was the purpose of the now retired crawler:

“Checks Android app page ad quality. Obeys AdsBot-Google robots rules, but ignores the global user agent (*) in robots.txt.”

This is the new text:

Another new addition is the following text which was expanded from the old page:

“Alternatively, you can identify Googlebot by IP address by matching the crawler’s IP address to the lists of Google crawlers’ and fetchers’ IP ranges:

Googlebot

Special crawlers like AdsBot

User triggered fetches”

Google Bot Identification Documentation

The new documentation finally has something about bots that use IP addresses that are associated with GoogleUserContent.

Search Marketers were confused by those IP addresses and assumed that those bots were spam.

A Google Search Console Help discussion from 2023 shows how confused people were about activity associated with GoogleUserContent.

Many in that discussion rightly concluded that it was not Googlebot but then mistakenly concluded that it was a fake bot pretending to be Google.

“The behaviour I see coming from these addresses is very close (if not identical) to legitimate Googlebot behaviour, and it hits multiple sites of ours.

…If it isn’t – then this seems to indicate there is widespread malicious bot activity by someone trying quite hard to look like Google on our sites which is concerning.”

After several responses the person who started the discussion concludes that the GoogleUserContent activity was spam.

They wrote:

“…The Googlebots in question do mimic the official User-Agents, but as it stands the evidence seems to point to them being fake.

I’ll block them for now.”

Now we know that bot activity from IPs associated with GoogleUserContent are not spam or hacker bots.

They really are from Google. Publishers who are currently blocking IP addresses associated with GoogleUserContent should probably unblock them.

The current list of User Triggered Fetcher IP addresses is available here.

Read Google’s updated documentation:

Verifying Googlebot and other Google crawlers

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

Our Summary Of Google Analytics Updates 2011

A reminder of the latest changes to Google Analytics for non-specialists

This update page is intended to help anyone who uses Google Analytics, but not day-in day-out! It’s also a reminder for me when giving training courses to highlight what’s new.

I subscribe to the Google Analytics Blog feed to keep up-to-date and other related ones like Webmaster Tools. There are quite a few detailed posts from Google about Analytics that won’t make so much difference to most users and are more for interest of GA specialists working on it all the time.

So in this summary we alert you to what we see as the major changes that every marketer using Google Analytics to review their digital marketing needs to know about – there’s been a lot of them in 2011. Many thanks to the analysts like Dan Barker, Helen Birch and Tim Leighton Boyce who have written tutorials on how to apply these new features which often don’t have any tutorials from Google when they’re introduced.

New analytics search queries update – 11th November update

Importance: [rating=4]

Google giveth with one hand and take away with the others – although many loved the new search queries feature from earlier in October there is a furore amongst SEOs that Google will not be sending natural search query information from logged in users to any analytics package. Although this is estimated to be sub 10% it will make approaches like gap analysis less accurate. Much of the annoyance is based around the queries still being available for paid Adwords users. Bit of a storm in a tea cup or not? Hopefully Google will revert on this decision.

There is discussion across many forums about the impact on smaller sites, but one of the best summaries of the impact on major sites is this from the bigmouthmedia blog. Note this is for Google US at the moment and there is no announcement from Google when it will be rolled out further.

“Not provided” refers to when the individual search keywords can’t be viewed in analytics although they are still registered as natural search visits. It clearly makes techniques like backlink analysis less meaningful although relative differences in phrases are still relevant.

Site flow visualisation feature – 19th October

Importance: [rating=4]

Yet another new feature in the new version of Google Analytics has been announced. It’s a more sophisticated version of the navigation summary. It shows page flow and flow between goals/funnel steps. It’s not rolled out yet, but Dan Barker has said he will do a summary when he explores it once it does:

You can see it enables you to review customer journeys and these can be segmented for more insight.

New analytics search queries update – 4th October

Importance: [rating=4]

Our update by Dan Barker explained how this feature, previously seen in Google Webmaster Tools can help you work out which natural keyphrases and landing pages give the most opportunity to improve natural search.

Google Real Time – 29th September 2011

Importance: [rating=4]

At the same time as GA Premium, a major new feature was also introduced. GA Real Time is a new set of reports showing the source, content used and select keywords for current / active users on the site within the last 30 minutes.

This report opens new opportunities – read this review of 5 applications by Helen Birch.

Premium (paid version) of Google Analytics announced – 29th September 2011

Importance: [rating=2]

The cost of GA Premium (stated at $150K minimum) means that it won’t be relevant for most businesses except corporates looking for support from Google Account managers and improvements to sampling.

Change to reporting of visit length – 11 Aug 2011 – ALERT – may change number of reported visits significantly?

Importance: [rating=4]

On Thursday 11th last week Google Analytics notified a change it described as “a small change in how sessions are calculated in Google Analytics”. They said it should only give changes to visits of around 1%.

We’re alerting this to you in case you see larger changes when reviewing your analytics or differences between GA and other tracking systems.

For the record, the change seems to have been made to accomodate the new multi-channel features (media attribution path to purchase funnels). Since when any traffic source value for the user changes this is counted as a new visit.

The main basis for a session ending i.e. 30 minutes elapsed between page view remains.

You can read the announcement details here.

Launch of Google Analytics social plugin engagement for social media sharing analysis

Importance: [rating=5]

With the launch of Google+ there wasn’t so much attention given to this release which enables you to report on Google+ shares and also Facebook and Twitter using data obtained from their APIs using the social media plugin. This is a big enhancement since the lack of reporting of social media reporting without event tracking was a weakness in Google Analytics.

Read more about social engagement reports and implementation.

The new release also enables you to see the impact of Google+1 within Analytics.

Multichannel funnels rolled out – June 2011

Importance: [rating=5]

A great introduction by Tim Leighton Boyce explains how you can apply this to understand multiple customer touchpoints before conversion. Previously, this has required separate, more sophisticated systems.

New Google Analytics version 5 – Now available to All Users – 20th April 2011

Importance: [rating=5]

To see the new interface just log-on and select “New Version”:

If you get confused by the new report menus checkout this handy Report Finder from Google for the New version.

For an in-depth review of the new capabilities, see our detailed analysis on 10 key features in the Google Analytics Beta from Dan Barker or my recommendations below for organisations using GA on when and how they should switch.

It’s also worth checking the Google Analytics Blog which has a series of posts on the new features, so far covering:

Custom Reports

Dashboards

Events Goals – see my summary on the many options for marketers to use these.

Google Analytics version 5 Beta announced – 17th March 2011

Importance: [rating=5]

I’ll give my first impressions here and review the implications for marketers, but Dan Barker has a detailed analysis on 10 features in the Google Analytics Beta to consider.

Marketing implications – what we think you need to know about the new Google Analytics

1. Should we sign-up for the Beta?

Note that although we signed up we weren’t notified by email – we spotted a “New version” link at the top of Google Analytics, so keep an eye out for that

If you work for a smaller organisation and have many other plates to juggle I recommend you wait until the full release since the software mainly offers usability improvements and it won’t transform your sales

2.  Application workflow. Google’s design team has considered the user journeys and have made some features more prominent to encourage usage – as i’ve been doing in my workshops for Econsultancy:

Google Analytics Intelligence – this is a great feature to save time – read my recommendations on this.

Custom reports – See my presentation – slides 24-7 on the types of custom reports to develop

Advanced Segments – I’m a huge fan of these and rightly these have been made more prominent – if you’re not using these, your really missing out on the opportunity to understand site visitor behaviour and change results.

3. Menu changes for accessing reports. As this screengrab from Dan’s post shows, these are dramatically different. So in a larger company, there is a need for retraining to understand these. The changes do seem logical and simplify, but i have heard some Beta users saying they have reverted to the previous version.

4. Dashboard gadgets and widgets. Apart from the changes to the menus, the second biggest difference is the addition of  widgets and gadgets to help develop custom dashboard widgets. This was a strength of other web analytics tools like Yahoo! Web Analytics, Core metrics  and Omniture. Now this deficiency has been addressed, this makes Google Analytics more suitable for enterprise use. However, the data can’t be filtered I think as it can in the other tools for a specific segment or condition so this remains a limitation.

5. Data / report type changes. You may be wondering whether there are new types of data or reports. There are no new data types I believe, just re-labelling of reports.  The data that is available is the same, although Google have announced separately that they have dropped the connection speed feature.

Currently, there are no Benchmark reports in the Beta. Google have announced separately that they are improving these. It seems there was no time to include them in this version of the Beta, so we will let you know how these change.

6. Guidance on using the reports to improve marketing results. As someone who trains on using Google Analytics reports to get better results, I was interested to see whether this type of guidance would be built in. Well, no changes here, you still have to know the right questions to ask and where to go to find the answers. So I’m pleased there are still opportunities to help through training and consulting.

Overall though it will be much quicker and clearer to identify opportunities and problems, so the new release is a major step forward!

Integration with Google Webmaster Tools- February 7th 2011

Importance: [rating=1]

Marketing implications: This is a small evolution in capability, but I mention it as it shows the trend to integrating different data sources.

Recommended link: Announcement of Google Analytics Google Webmaster Tools Link

Google Updates Structured Data Guidance To Clarify Supported Formats

Google updated the structured data guidance to better emphasize that all three structured data formats are acceptable to Google and also explain why JSON-LD is is recommended.

The updated Search Central page that was updated is the Supported Formats section of the Introduction to structured data markup in Google Search webpage.

The most important changes were to add a new section title (Supported Formats), and to expand that section with an explanation of supported structured data formats.

Three Structured Data Formats

Google supports three structured data formats.

JSON-LD

Microdata

RDFa

But only one of the above formats, JSON-LD, is recommended.

According to the documentation, the other two formats (Microdata and RDFa) are still fine to use. The update to the documentation explains why JSON-LD is recommended.

Google also made a minor change to a title of a preceding section to reflect that the section addresses structured data vocabulary

The original section title, Structured data format, is now Structured data vocabulary and format.

Google added a section title the section that offers guidance on Google’s preferred structured data format.

This is also the section with the most additional text added to it.

New Supported Formats Section Title

The updated content explains why Google prefers the JSON-LD structured data format, while confirming that the other two formats are acceptable.

Previously this section contained just two sentences:

“Google Search supports structured data in the following formats, unless documented otherwise:

Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data whenever possible.”

“Google Search supports structured data in the following formats, unless documented otherwise.

In general, we recommend using a format that’s easiest for you to implement and maintain (in most cases, that’s JSON-LD); all 3 formats are equally fine for Google, as long as the markup is valid and properly implemented per the feature’s documentation.

In general, Google recommends using JSON-LD for structured data if your site’s setup allows it, as it’s the easiest solution for website owners to implement and maintain at scale (in other words, less prone to user errors).”

Structured Data Formats

JSON-LD is arguably the easiest structured data format to implement, the easiest to scale, and the most straightforward to edit.

Most, if not all, WordPress SEO and structured data plugins output JSON-LD structured data.

Nevertheless, it’s a useful update to Google’s structured data guidance in order to make it clear that all three formats are still supported.

Google’s documentation on the change can be read here.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Olena Zaskochenko

Weatherproof Seo: How To Stay On Top Of Google Algorithm Changes

This is a sponsored post written by SEMrush. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Google’s SERPs change every day. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s your competitors trying to outrun you, and sometimes it’s Google itself updating its algorithms (John Mueller from Google confirmed that algorithm changes happen on a daily basis).

Because of the rivalry, rankings of different domains change constantly. Everyone is searching for new keywords, developing new strategies, and looking for new backlink placements.

Also, looking at the constant updates, one might say that constant fluctuations have actually become a part of Google’s algorithms.

We have collected a list of the most popular tools used to track Google’s volatility. Or, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might say it, to sense if there is any “disturbance in the Force.”

Most of these instruments have been on the market for quite a long time and, unfortunately, do not always keep up with the latest trends.

Two tools that had spikes matching the chatter in the SEO community are SEMrush Sensor and Mozcast. Unfortunately, Mozcast calculates scores one day later so marketers can’t see any changes until the day after the update. One day is a huge period of time that doesn’t allow SEOs to react to the changes fast enough.

At the same time, the SEMrush sensor follows all the changes that occur on SERPs:

Mobile and desktop separate scores.

Changes in SERP features and on SERPs in general (including unconfirmed algorithm updates).

AMP versions and HTTPs website percentages.

Your Personal Score (the SERP changes for our own scope of keywords).

All of this is crafted to ensure that the tool really helps to see if there are any important SERP volatility.

At SEMrush, we don’t stop at offering the data on the dashboard. We analyze it further and transform it in the studies and reports that the SEO community can use to make better data-driven decisions.

Below you’ll find the analysis of all Google SERP fluctuations during the last six months. Fasten your seatbelts as the shakeups are getting stronger and stronger.

Breaking News: Google Has Been Doing It for Ages!

The overall volatility rank during the last six months has been constantly growing from an average of 4 in the beginning of April to almost 5.6 by the start of September.

Some websites survived this September, some didn’t.

SEMrush Sensor detected an unbelievably high score. This means that almost everything has changed on the first page.

The spike was detected in all categories, so not only was the general score insanely high, but SERPs in all categories have suffered. Congratulations to the new winners in search, because if someone loses the top place, someone else gets it.

We also looked at the new top 10, and it turns out that the results in many categories have become more relevant.

The high volatility detected in separate categories (as depicted on the screenshot) is not accidental – it has grown since we started tracking the data.

Tracking Google updates, SERP changes, and your positions for relevant keywords is important.

The data clearly proves, along with tweets from John Mueller and Gary Illyes, that the algorithms are constantly changing, evolving, and improving.

Let’s see if we can dig deeper in SEMrush Sensor data and discover some hidden secrets of Google SERPs?

Still Don’t Believe That Changes on SERP Are Happening Daily?

When we looked into the gathered data further, we discovered that the amount of URLs that have been on the same SERP position for a few days in a row is steadily declining (the relative number dropped from 41 percent to 38.5 percent), whereas the share of the ones that changed their position only to bounce back the next day is growing steadily (from an average of 13.2 percent to an average of 14.51 percent).

This confirms that there are a lot of small Google experiments every day.

Also, the amount of URLs that have shifted by 3-5 positions is growing steadily, while the 1-2 positions shifts are somewhat in stagnation. But the latter number is still larger than the amount of 3 to 5 position shifts.

Beware: Share of Small Domains in the Top 10 Is Steadily Decreasing

We found another trend that confirms what SEO experts talk about: the bigger the domain is, the easier it will stay in top 10.

In other words, if small domains want to push industry giants aside, they will have to put more effort into optimization, and focus on local search and things like content relevance and link building.

Conclusion

Google pays attention to user signals. So make sure the keywords you are targeting are relevant to your content.

And, of course, make sure your website is secure and fast. Otherwise, even random SERP fluctuations won’t get you anywhere close to the first page.

Google Ads App Gets New Features After 3 Months Of No Updates

New features include:

Custom notifications about performance and status changes.

More data about fluctuations in campaign performance.

Here’s an overview of each of these updates.

Custom Notifications

Advertisers can now use the Google Ads mobile app to set custom notifications about things that are important to them.

In this example provided by Google you can see how the app has been set to send a notification when conversion volume goes up by more than 10%.

To set a custom notification, first go to the Settings page and opt in to notifications if you haven’t already.

Then tap on custom notifications to set up your own alerts. These can be adjusted at any time.

Performance Insights

In addition, the app will send real-time notifications when significant changes are detected in any of these newly added performance insights.

The notification will explain why the change occurred, and Google Ads may offer a recommendation to help resolve the issues.

These updates are now available in the latest version of the Google Ads mobile app on Android and iOS.

Long Time, No Updates

This update follows a three month gap of no updates to the Google Ads app. Google rarely lets any of its apps go longer than a month without at least a minor update, but that has not been the case lately.

Google’s suite of apps have gone so long without updates that iOS is warning users they’re using an out of date app.

— Spencer Dailey (@SpencerDailey) February 10, 2023

Updates to Google’s apps have started to roll out over the past several days, but many are still three months out of date.

At the time of this writing apps like Google Chrome, Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Photos, and others are waiting for updates.

Apple now requires app developers to self-report on the data it collects from users and how the data is being used.

The information provided by developers is used to create a privacy “nutrition label” that users can review before downloading an app.

For example, here’s the new privacy label for the Google Ads app:

Given that Google stopped updating its apps for several months after Apple introduced these mandatory labels, some think the company is trying to skirt Apple’s rules. Again, that’s purely speculation.

Google has recently gone on record saying it has no plans to develop alternative methods of tracking users.

If Google’s recent activity is anything to go by, more of its outdated apps may receive updates in the coming days or weeks.

Source: Google Ads Help

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