With all the buzz on AI-generated copy and design tools, we’re all wondering the same unspoken question: Can Google detect AI tools? Is this…allowed? Or looked down upon? With more and more companies beginning to leverage AI-powered tools for their marketing needs we are all wondering whether speed and efficiency may come at the cost of SERP rankings.
The answers to these questions are muddled, but here’s what we do know: Google itself relies on advanced algorithms and machine learning to detect and evaluate the quality of website content. The entire purpose of search engines is to provide users with the most relevant and useful content possible, hence our society has become so search engine dependent on everything from research to daily needs. Google algorithms are designed to identify and flag low-quality or spammy content.
Google’s spam policy stance defines “Spammy automatically generated (or “auto-generated”) content as content that’s been generated programmatically without producing anything original or adding sufficient value; instead, it’s been generated for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings and not helping users.”
Historically, auto-generated content generated by machine learning scrips has had a reputation of being lower quality and overstuffed with keywords aimed at manipulating Google’s search results. This has led Google initiatives to detect this type of content and remove it from the SERPs in an attempt to preserve the integrity of its search results for the end user.
Google Search Central has stated that “scraping content, even with some modification, is against our spam policy.” As well as confirming that Google has put implemented, “…many algorithms to go after such behaviors and demote site scraping content from other sites.”
Prioritizing high-quality, human-generated content on Google results provides a better search experience for users and maintains their credibility. But with the rise of the new AI tools that promise more natural and higher quality outputs, marketers and writers have the opportunity to utilize these tools to generate higher quality, more helpful content for the users rather than an endless amount of spam content. Quality over quantity has become the universal goal for AI generators and users.
Therefore, the content generated by GPT-3 and other AI language models like ChatGPT, is at risk of being detected as machine-generated and flagged by Google’s algorithms. Like recognizes like, so there’s a good chance that machine learning algorithms will recognize similar machine learning. As far as technology has come, it will never be a complete substitute for human intellect. The writing style, grammar, and sentence structure of AI-generated content are often not as natural or accurate as human-generated content.
Whether or not search engine consequences currently exist for websites leveraging AI-generated content has not been confirmed, nor denied by Google. For any company seeking to rank high in search engine results, it’s better to be safe than sorry and maintain a close human eye on your SEO strategy, from content to keyword selection. Contact Bluetext for more information on our expert search engine optimization services.
3 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Voice Search
We’ve seen how much voice as a channel is growing and how beneficial voice marketing can be for consumers and marketers, but if your company isn’t in a position to invest in voice marketing tools quite yet, there are still plenty of ways to keep up and optimize your website for Voice SEO.
What exactly is Voice SEO? It’s the optimization of keywords and keyword phrases for searches using voice assistants. According to research by Semrush, on average voice assistants can answer 93.7% of all search queries. And based on research from PWC, 90% of people think voice search is easier than searching online, and 89% think it’s more convenient. From the same study, 71% of people would rather use voice search than physically type a search query. With a voice as a search channel continuing to expand, your website needs to account for this new channel of search, too. So what’re the best ways to optimize your website for voice SEO? Let’s dive in.
1. Featured Snippet Optimization
Featured snippets are the selected search results that appear on the top of the search result page as the best answer to a query. Because of its location, a featured snippet is also often called position zero, since it’s above the first result. That sounds like the ideal position, right? Well, you can’t buy your way in if that’s what you’re thinking. Google generates featured snippets organically by checking the relevancy of the information pulled from web pages in Google’s index. Common formats of Featured Snippets include descriptions/definitions, steps/lists, and tables. Featured snippets are especially crucial in voice search since the voice assistant will reply to the answer to a user’s question with the position zero content.
According to SEMrush, “70% of voice search answers come from SERP features”, Featured Snippets being the most important. And a lot of this process can be AI-driven. Check out our tips on how AI could be an aid to SEO. Another Featured Snippet tip – don’t use your brand name in the featured snippet text. Replacing the brand name with general language will give the content a higher chance of receiving a featured snippet since adding a brand name could make the response too specific for the listener.
2. Structured Markup
Structured markups (added to the HTML) help Google and other search engines better understand and process your content and help optimize your search results. You can use schema.org structured annotations to allow Google to reliably retrieve up-to-date information directly from your website. A common and effective schema is FAQ. Adding FAQ schema to your FAQ page can expand your Google result with the most frequently asked questions. And the schema can be added to any place on your site that has FAQs, so to better optimize for voice search, add quick answers to the top of highly trafficked pages and top blog pages.
The more search engines better understand your content, the better. In fact, there’s even a specific voice-search markup by Google called Speakable that’s currently in beta that marketers should definitely keep an eye on.
3. Conversation-Based Navigation
Voice search equalizes access to information through conversation. Users can ask for what they want, in their own voice/language/literacy level, etc. But they’re asking, and most websites aren’t written or structured for questions or conversation-based navigation. Voice search is direct; people aren’t looking to explore a ton of search results. They’re looking for a reliable, comprehensive answer that doesn’t require further searching. So re-write your headlines as questions, not statements, for a more conversational format. An easy way to do this is by adding “What is” to the heading. Be sure to summarize the answer directly below the header so it’s easy for a voice assistant to read aloud.
Other basic SEO factors like page speed, good domain ratings, having quality long-form content, and being HTTPS secured, all also play a role in optimizing your website for voice search. Follow these tips to help optimize your website for the rapidly-growing voice search, or contact Bluetext today to learn more about our search engine optimization and content marketing services.
Transitioning or just learning to use Google Analytics 4 (GA4) can be a daunting task, especially amongst all the other work and priorities for a business. That said, with the July changeover date quickly approaching, getting comfortable with these tools will be essential for any marketer or website owner to avoid a nasty surprise when Universal Analytics stops collecting data later this year. There’s a lot changing, and even more to come as the platform evolves. Check out Bluetext’s guide to the differences, similarities and how best to implement.
Thankfully in 2023, there are now several ways to learn more about Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Here are several resources the Bluetext team has found helpful in gaining knowledge & certifications:
Google Analytics Help Center: Being the authoritative voice in GA4 documentation, the Google Analytics Help Center is an unsurprisingly great place to start. It provides detailed information on how to set up and use GA4, as well as best practices for tracking user behavior and interpreting your data. While at times the language may be dense and often lacking examples, the Help Center should nonetheless be the first destination for any GA4-related inquiry. However, treating it like a cover-to-cover read would be ill-advised, the documentation is simply too dense for that kind of approach.
Skillshop Google Analytics Courses: Google has partnered with the online learning platform Skillshop to offer free courses on a wide range of analytics and measurement topics, including GA4. The best part of the Skillshop courses is they offer a wide variety of courses suitable for any engagement and knowledge level, from the absolute beginner to the seasoned analytics expert. The GA4 Fundamentals course (“Discover the Next Generation of Google Analytics”) is a great place to start if you’re new to the platform, while certification is a great goal for marketers who deal with analytics daily. Being an official Google partner will give you confidence that the knowledge you attain will be relevant for years to come.
Google Blogs and articles: There are many blogs and articles that cover GA4 and provide tips and best practices for using the platform. Unlike the official documentation in the Help Center, many of these blogs leverage real-world case studies to offer a more handheld, realistic experience of implementing and troubleshooting GA4. Some good places to start include the official Google Analytics blog, Analytics Mania (which offer some of the most in-depth tutorials), and Simo Ahava’s blog, which offers a great high-level overlook of the newest features within GA4.
Official GA4 Community: Joining Google Analytics community is another great way to learn about GA4. Here you can find many experienced users and experts, who are happy to help and share their knowledge. The massive size of this forum means that it is quite likely some other individual has run into similar (if not the same) roadblocks and needed a workaround. Topics are also helpfully gathered into relevant topic tags, like “Implementation” and “Reporting”.
It’s worth mentioning that GA4 is relatively new, so many resources and best practices are still evolving and being developed, so it’s important to stay up to date with the latest developments in the GA4 space. While these resources are among the best as of January 2023, the speed at which GA4 develops may also bring about newer communities and information sources that can and will supersede the resources listed today.
If you need help or consulting regarding GA4 and you couldn’t find a solution through these resources alone, contact Bluetext about our GA4 consultation and implementation services. Bluetext’s project management team takes pride in staying up to date on the latest certifications, including GA4, to support their client’s needs.
A Leading Google Analytics Agency
Bluetext is a leading Google Analytics agency with clients across the US and worldwide. We help companies of all sizes understand what their users are doing so they can be where their customers are. Whether you need help migrating to GA4 or tracking keywords on organic search, our team of strategists can help you optimize your digital presence to help you achieve your marketing goals.
There are constant conversations online about which industries are going to be impacted the most by new technology like Open AI and ChatGPT. Marketers are worried about how their jobs will change with the expansion of artificial intelligence, but they should be looking at it as an opportunity to have more of an impact rather than a threat to their job. Here are three ways AI is changing search engine optimization and the marketing landscape.
Automated Keyword Research
Knowing what keywords your target market is using to find solutions to their problems is a crucial step into setting up a successful organic search strategy. Without understanding the customer needs, it becomes a bling uphill battle to convincing your company can be the solution. This requires a little research and machine learning can help accelerate this process with a wide variety of SEO AI tools on the market. These tools go a step beyond your initial keyword list, to give you semantic keywords and ideas for what people might be searching for.
Content Creation and Optimization
Once you have your keyword list, you need to create content for those keywords. Tools like Copy.ai can create blog content around your keywords and can also write meta descriptions and meta titles for you. Though you can create a high volume of content with these tools, this should be your content creation starting point. Though use with caution, and be aware the content will require a round of copywriting and tweaking to optimize it for your website.
Insights from Analytics
There are a number of SEO analytics tools that utilize AI to help with optimization. SEMrush has AI features that help with competitive research and content optimization. MOZ Pro has an AI tool to help with link building, as well as providing insights on how to improve website performance. Learning to leverage these tools will help improve your organic search rankings.
Marketers should keep in mind that AI can’t replace human creativity, strategy and analysis, but it can be a powerful tool to help with optimization and decision-making. As technology evolves Bluetext is ready and eager to test out the top technologies within our toolset. If your company needs assistance putting together a foolproof SEO strategy, an agency partner is the best first step in creating a realistic action plan and analytics tracking. Contact us to learn more about our search engine optimization and content marketing services.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has obviously been an important factor for website performance for well over two decades. However, with increasing refinement and understanding of Google’s (and other alternative search engine) algorithms, website managers have gotten wiser and more strategic about the deployment of their SEO strategy. To rank ahead of the competition, modern SEO implementation methodology must be quite nuanced, and frequently updated to keep pace with ever-evolving algorithms and updates. In this article, we’ll talk about how website schema will be a key differentiator for organic search.
Traditional Methods of SEO Alone are Insufficient
Traditional methods of search engine optimization, like metatext optimization, H1 headings, and backlinking are by no means non-essential nowadays. In fact, it is quite literally the opposite – they are the mere table stakes that every single website should have to be considered even operational in 2022. However, what once was the complete focus of organic search strategies has evolved to the foundational building blocks. Though true optimization, or distinguishing your website from the rest, takes far more complex and nuanced forms. In 2023 we will see a noticeable shift and prioritization of schemas.
2023 – Year of the Schema?
Website schema isn’t a brand new concept – Google has offered “Rich Results” or “Structured Data” since the 2000s. What has changed, however, is the importance these displays are to organic performance. As existing SEO methods become commonplace, the remaining distinguishing factors will become increasingly important factors.
If you aren’t familiar with structured data markup, you’ll be surprised to know that you likely interact with them every day. Structured data markup is simply website information formatted in a specific, “structured” schema (as outlined by Google’s engineers) that feeds Google’s Rich Results — these Rich Results displays are the interactive elements (that aren’t sitelinks) that you see on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Some common ones include:
- Job Postings
- Related Images
- Related Videos
Visual Density Search Can Improve Clickthrough
What role does the schema of structured data markup play with regards to SEO? For one, the most critical factor is that of density and representation. A hallowed rule of SEO has been one link per domain (unless you’re lucky enough to get a sitelink sitemap). Rich Results is a clear break of that rule — there’s no limit to how many Rich Results one site can return. More results simply mean more opportunities for viewers to click through to your site organically.
Furthermore, vertical density is an important consideration. Without rich results, if a prospect scrolls past your sitelink in the SERP, it’s very unlikely that an individual is ever going to interact with your link ever again. In contrast, Rich Results can be inserted at any point through the SERP — meaning that a site can have multiple points for visual interaction through the SERP.
How to Implement Website Schema on Your Website
It is incredibly important to understand that structured data website schema cannot and will not happen accidentally — website managers need to spend time and significant effort to ensure any provided data matches what Google is looking for. Even a single error will mean Google will largely ignore the whole provided schema; Google isn’t looking to do any fuzzy logic or favors for website schema.
Thankfully, Google provides an easy-to-reference listing of ALL the possible Rich Results and their expected schema. Traversing the whole list is daunting, but it is vital to realize that structured data schema, unlike traditional SEO strategies like metatext or image optimization, is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all solution. Before embarking on updating your website data to meet Google’s schema requirements, identify what your website’s strengths and priorities are, and then match them with a similarly minded structured data requirement.
For example, a site heavily devoted to recruitment would certainly be interested in adding the Estimated Salary and Job Posting schema items — both would be a big driver for interested applicants. A site with a focus on video could leverage various Video layouts to encourage prospects to click through in a visual way not possible through metatext alone. Websites with more complex service offering could leverage Q&A and How-tos to convince and coax wary end users. Don’t bother trying to implement every schema — instead focus on what is most relevant for your website.
Google doesn’t do all this schema creation by themselves. Much of these definitions are defined by a consortium of web stakeholders through an organization called Schema.org. Schema.org offers comprehensive documentation of their data structures online. Above all else, however, it is important to note that both Schema.org’s and Google’s structures are quite fluid. Web needs constantly shift, and both organizations are very much in deep conversations with web users at large to identify what would be relevant changes and schema updates. Bluetext would recommend adding the Schema.org changelog as a bookmark, and referencing once a quarter. It may be deep in the weeds, but it also acts as a bellwether of what schema and data structures are being actively updated and worked-on — a good sign of increasing relevance for that data structure.
Finally, no task is complete without verification. Thankfully, Google has made that easy as well with the Schema Markup and Rich Results testers. You can easily validate website data against what Google’s crawlers see, to ensure your work did not go to waste.
SEO is no longer a paint-by-numbers game. People have gotten too smart and traditional monolithic strategies are simply insufficient by themselves to propel your website to the top of the rankings. Schema and website markup offer a way for dedicated and driven website managers to distinguish their organic results and secure a stake of organic traffic away from lackadaisical competitors.
If you want some help in identifying opportunities for your website to leverage Rich Results and website schema, come talk to us here at Bluetext.
Picture this. It’s a Friday night, and you’re deciding where you want to eat dinner. As you walk down the street, you’re overwhelmed by an abundance of options. Storefront posters shout weekly specials, stapled flyers advertise happy hours, promoters beckon passersby into newly opened spots, all merging into a blur of sensations.
But then, you hear it, your favorite song playing amidst the thrum of the busy street. You follow the sound to a restaurant you hadn’t noticed on the first pass, where the music continues to bump along on outdoor speakers. From the patio, you catch the smell of fresh food leaving the kitchen, getting your stomach growling and enticing you further. Stepping inside, a waiter passes by, carrying your favorite dish to a nearby table. Taking in the room’s ambiance, you turn to your friends and proclaim you’ve found tonight’s spot.
Now you’re probably wondering why I’ve had you go through this foodie fantasy with me. Part of it might be that I’m writing this blog around lunchtime and can’t help but steal glances out the window at our neighborhood sushi spot while I type. But more importantly, it serves as a perfect analogy to illustrate the value of inbound marketing and what it can do to improve lead generation for your business.
So What IS Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a methodology centered on drawing potential customers to your brand instead of trying to push your brand out in the market. Rather than utilizing external marketing tactics like TV ads, billboards, and flyers, an inbound marketing strategy seeks to attract customers by creating valuable content and experiences catered to them. Put broadly, outbound marketing brings your offering to your prospects, while inbound marketing brings your prospects to you. In doing so, you guide potential customers to your website with a pre-established positive impression—making it more likely that they’ll go with your product or service when they’re ready to buy.
Inbound marketing is content-led and hinges on providing potential customers with content that is genuinely meaningful to them. Because of its content-led nature, inbound marketing boosts SEO and organic traffic acquisition and builds trust and credibility in your brand by positioning your company as a thought leader in the market. Throughout the customer journey, the goal of inbound marketing is to add value. To be successful, you must attract users to your website with relevant and high-quality content, engaging with them and clarifying your value proposition. You must also delight users by acting as a reliable partner with a vested interest in their long-term success.
Building Your Inbound Marketing Strategy
Proper planning and optimization will be critical to the success of your inbound marketing program. Creating compelling content is about strategic planning and commitment rather than budget. You can’t just throw money at content creation and expect to come away with something compelling, you have to put your head and heart into the work. With that in mind, here are some thought-starters to create and maintain your inbound marketing strategy.
Know Your Audience and Space
Defining your business goals and buyer personas should be the genesis of any inbound marketing effort. You can’t write content to inform your customers until you’ve identified your target audience and learned all you can about them.
In the same vein, choosing the right platforms to distribute your marketing materials on will be critical in ensuring your content reaches the right prospects. Determine the best way to reach your target audience, whether through Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere, to ensure your content gets to the right prospects.
Create a Journey Worth Taking
With effective inbound marketing, there should never be a dull moment in the customer journey, from impression to engagement. Aim to provide content across the customer experience. Preemptively answer the questions prospective customers will likely have at each stage of their buying journey. What makes you unique? Why should they listen to what you have to say? Successful inbound marketing tells prospective customers a unique and compelling story about your brand from first sight to final sale.
Consistency is Key
Inbound marketing is a game of consistency. Maintaining a constant stream of content tailored to your market’s current pain points and questions supports you in staying relevant and building your brand’s perception as a trusted thought leader. To effectively support your inbound marketing strategy, prioritize creating and executing on a content calendar without fail. A set schedule ensures relevant content will consistently engage your audience and keep your brand fresh in consumers’ minds. And in case you need more convincing, a 2021 Hubspot study found that brands who publish blog content at least 16 times a month generate 3.5x more website traffic and 4.5x more leads than companies that only update their blogs a few times a month.
Measure the Metrics that Matter
There’s a plethora of metrics to choose from when measuring the success of your inbound marketing strategy. From analyzing SEO rankings to measuring inbound links, these resources give valuable insight into how your campaigns perform. Prioritize regular auditing and analysis of these metrics while managing your inbound marketing to understand how effective your efforts have been and see how they can improve. If particular topics are gaining the most traction with viewers, concentrate on these areas and find unique ways to expand upon. If certain content is not generating or retaining enough attention, there is your sign to pivot.
Now that you’ve got your strategy set and these best practices behind you, here are some examples of engaging online content to fuel your inbound marketing efforts.
A mainstay of content creation, blogs are the perfect way to answer your prospects’ pressing questions or pique their interest with accessible long-form content. According to HubSpot, marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to get a positive ROI than those who don’t.
Imagine that you’re the owner of a growing business in the market for a piece of cybersecurity software that you’re unfamiliar with. You sort through an endless stream of ads and webinars talking about concepts and capabilities that all fly over your head, leaving you utterly lost. But while browsing through one company’s website, you come across a case study telling the story of a company eerily similar to yours. Reading their testimonial and hearing how transformational the software has been for them, you can’t help but think that it could do the same for your business. Emboldened by the relatable success story, you confidently choose to purchase the cybersecurity software.
That’s the power of a case study. Allowing you to focus on different customer personas in your market, case studies sway fence-sitting customers with highly-tailored promises of success.
As helpful and engaging as written content can be, people don’t always have the patience to sit down with 1000 words about humanized homepages. Often, prospective customers just want a quick snapshot of insightful data packaged in an easily digestible and aesthetically pleasing format.
It isn’t always easy to inject your brand’s personality into written content. While more informal content like blog posts have some wiggle-room, highly polished pieces like whitepapers and case studies often lose the human voice behind your brand.
That’s where webinars come in. Webinars-an internet seminar presenting lecture-style content to an exclusive audience-create the feeling that your brand is in direct conversation with prospective customers. They let consumers connect with the people powering your company rather than interfacing with an impersonal business entity. Additionally, the ability to request information from prospective customers for entrance to the webinar serves as a phenomenal lead generation tactic.
It’s no secret that video content is an enormous part of marketing. It’s engaging, constantly growing, and makes up the majority of content audiences across industries are digesting on platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. But a key trend to capitalize on with your video content lies in its size.
While written content benefits from long-form structure, video content functions best when bite-sized. While things can vary based on platform or user persona, a general rule is that social media users will lose interest in videos longer than a minute or two.
No matter what path you decide to take your inbound marketing strategy down, Bluetext offers expert advising and cutting-edge capabilities to ensure you’ll have everything you need to succeed. Contact us to learn how inbound marketing can grow your business.
Marketers often approach their content strategy with the simple goal of conveying a message to their target audience. But nowadays, that’s not enough for maintaining an effective content strategy. Before a user ends up on your site, they typically search for information through one or more Google searches. These Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are where users find results that the search engines deem to be the most relevant to the query. Depending on the relevance of the site content, users may also see a SERP Feature (a well-packaged snippet of information from the relevant search result’s page). This gives users a quick view of the information they are looking for while saving them time from digging through multiple pages. As a digital marketer, your content strategy should aim to meet the purposes of these possible SERP Features to increase your chances of being featured on SERPs and ultimately get a user to visit your site.
Nowadays, search engines have evolved to the point where they can determine the intent behind users’ searches to provide the most relevant results. As such, you need to be more deliberate in crafting your content to ensure it’s meeting your audience’s needs at their stage of the buyer’s journey. Ideally, you should have content that can accommodate all three phases, Awareness Stage, Consideration Stage, and the Decision Stage. But this isn’t always the case depending on your particular audience.
Raising Awareness for Your Audience
In the Awareness Stage, users know they have a problem and are actively searching for explanations of their problem. They aren’t quite ready to pick a solution, so any tools to quickly gather high-level information are beneficial here. This is where SERP Features come in handy. With a little planning, you can optimize your content’s likelihood to be featured in certain SERP Features such as Knowledge Graphs, Featured Snippets, Related Questions, Videos, or Images. All of these features will pull relevant content from your site so long as the search engine determines your content to meet certain criteria. In this stage, you want to make sure your content is very clear in explaining who you are, what services or products you offer, and the why/how of what you do. Oftentimes, including lists or FAQ-styled content is beneficial to search engine crawlers and webpage users!
Considering How to Connect With Your Audience
So now your audience has entered the Consideration Stage, they are looking for solutions and more specifically, how your solution can remedy their issue. Now your content should be more thorough and technical than in the Awareness Stage. Provide concrete examples of how your products or services can solve the user’s problem. Four useful features for this stage are Featured Snippets, Related Questions, Reviews, and Videos. The Featured Snippet works best when you answer the user’s query in very specific ways, whereas Related Questions works best for explaining the “why” behind a user’s query. Featuring product/service reviews on your site also allows you to show up for the Reviews feature which enables the user to better compare solutions and build trust. Lastly, the Videos feature provides a great opportunity to dive deeper into why your solution works for the user.
Convincing Your Audience to Make a Decision
By this point, your audience is at the end of the buyer’s journey and just about ready to decide which solution meets their needs. As part of the last steps, users now want to confirm which solution amongst the ones found in the Consideration Stage is best for them. At this stage, all of your content should be as thorough as possible to ensure you’ve answered any potential lingering questions your audience may have. Three Features that excel at accomplishing that are the People Also Ask, Videos, and Long-Form Content features. Tailoring your content to include technical details and statistics as well as client testimonials reassures the user that they’ve picked the right solution.
Overall, when creating a content strategy, no two sites will be the same. Each content strategy should be tailored to your audience and their stage of the buyer’s journey. From there, you can leverage content that is more likely to be shown in the SERP Features mentioned above. As a full-service digital marketing agency, our expert content writing and SEO teams at Bluetext can help determine who your audience is, what stage they’re in, and how best to tailor your content to be displayed in SERP Features. Want to learn more about how Bluetext can help your ad campaigns thrive? Get in touch with us here.
Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t trust a search by your top results. But how is that so? It contradicts all we believe to know about search engines, and cracks the inherent trust users put into “Googling it.” The truth is, even the most tech-savvy digital marketers don’t know the exact rhyme and reason behind Google’s search algorithms. So, what do search engine marketers know? It is widely known and confirmed that keywords and a handful of other core factors are being prioritized by crawlers in organic search rankings. We know the golden rule is relevancy, and various content and technical signals determine a relevant match to a user’s keyword search and top-rated results. But recent news has revealed you can’t take everything for face value, as even the tech giant itself is susceptible to hacking campaigns.
The latest trend in malware has been termed SEO poisoning, or “search poisoning”. This attack method relies on optimizing websites using ‘black hat’ SEO techniques to rank higher in Google search results. These ‘black hat’ optimized websites are in fact malicious, but due to a high SERP ranking deceive victims into believing these sites are legitimate and clicked by visitors looking for specific keywords.
SEO for Ransomware
According to the findings of the Menlo Security team, SEO poisoning cases are on the rise. Notorious ransomware groups, SolarMakers and REVil, are thought to be attributed to some recent attacks. Their campaigns used SEO poisoning to serve malicious payloads to their keyword-seeking targets. After optimizing sites with keywords that cover over 2,000 unique search terms, the sites appear top in a user’s search results page (SERP). These sites appear in search results as PDFs, and when visited, prompt a user to download the document.
When a user clicks the download button, they are redirected through a series of websites that ultimately drop a malicious payload. The threat actors use these redirects to prevent their sites from being detected and removed from Google search results for malicious content.
In the two most notable campaigns, Gootloader and SolarMarket, the actors didn’t create their own sites but instead hacked legitimate WordPress sites with strong Google search rankings. How? By abusing an undisclosed flaw in the ‘Formidable Forms’ WordPress plugin, which the hackers used to upload malicious PDFs. B2B websites were the most heavily targeted, as they are known to naturally host a large library of downloadable PDF resources.
So What Does This Mean?
For users, do your due diligence. Not all is as it appears online, even on trusted sites like Google. Exercise caution, keep up with your antivirus programs and monitor for suspicious links or potential phishing scams. A cybersecurity hack could result in breached sensitive data or require a ransomware payout.
For businesses, beware. Hackers have learned targeting high-value companies can yield much higher payouts (millions compared to the measly hundreds in consumer ransoms), especially if there is a high likelihood their attack will affect many users. Maintaining a healthy website entails regularly updating plug-ins, installing preventative security measures, and conducting frequent tests.
Does your website need a check-up? Or perhaps a new fitness regime to keep website health goals on track? Contact Bluetext to learn how our website development, optimization, and maintenance services could cure your security concerns.
The next time you’re in a public setting, look up, and chances are you’ll notice almost everyone around you has their eyes glued to a mobile device in hand. Modern-day mobile devices are essentially mini computers, enabling on-the-go browsing, communication, and connection at unprecedented ease. Society has become accustomed to instantaneous connection, but not all websites are up to par with user expectations. While desktop sites were once the focus, a disappointing mobile performance of websites is holding many companies back from their full online potential to garner customers. Aside from a frustrating user experience, poor mobile performance can hurt a website from a technical SEO perspective. This is why many companies are turning to digital agencies like Bluetext to revamp or create entirely new, responsive web designs & optimized performance to stand out among their competitors.
On average, mobile devices account for more website user traffic than desktops. However, despite the high traffic volume, conversion rates on mobile environments are significantly lower. So what’s turning our mobile users away? Adrienne Clem, Director of Search Ads Growth and Optimization at Google, describes that it could be an issue with any one of the following pillars of mobile website design:
Page Speed is a key indicator of website quality, as it is a critical first impression of your website. The longer a user must wait for your website content to load, the higher the risk of the user leaving the page and increasing the bounce rate. Bounce rate, performance, and speed metrics all play a critical role in Google search crawlers’ evaluation of a website. (such as, In addition to limiting bounce rates, reducing your Time to First Byte can also increase your site’s SEO ranking. You can keep tabs on your site’s speed performance using tools like Google, PageSpeed Insights, or GTMetrix.com, but consulting a website development agency can offer further insight into actionable steps to improve your site’s performance.
All websites should be designed to be as simple as possible for users to navigate. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Content hierarchy, navigation, and calls to action are all critical components that need to be equally accessible and intuitive across desktop & mobile formats. Responsive layouts are essential in a mobile-optimized design, but more important is the speed at which content loads for a user. Mobile site speed tends to lag behind its desktop counterpart, but a poor mobile performance can significantly ding your site’s SERP ranking and create a poor user experience. Even the most creative & persuasive landing pages are wasted if features take too long to load on the screen. Pages that utilize AMP (Accelerated Mobile Performance) technology both rate higher on Google search rankings and increase chances of conversion for paid media promotions. AMP HTML is an open framework based on existing web technologies, that allows for more lightweight and speedier mobile web pages. In an initiative to enhance the shift to mobile browsing, AMP-powered webpages load instantaneously, even when they contain rich media like video, animations, or graphics, including things like Twitter and YouTube embeds.
Website design is an iterative and ongoing process. Platforms & technology are constantly evolving to include new features, remedy existing pain points and approach the ever-moving target that is positive user experience. Companies should approach this process in the interest of continued learning and constant improvement. Collecting feedback should be built into the plan for any mobile site development, as the site’s performance should be re-evaluated at least every 3-6 months. Keeping track of your site’s vitals is an important step for ensuring that your site stays relevant and isn’t losing out on potential conversions.
In an increasingly mobile-first world, emphasizing the performance of sites on mobile devices can increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. Whether a prospective customer’s impression of your campaign landing page or an existing customer’s experience browsing your full website, speed is the name of the game. Keeping up-to-date with best practices in website development and enlisting the help of seasoned designers and UX specialists can transform users from mindless mobile scrolling to enthusiastic interactions on your site.
If you’re ready to start designing your site with a mobile audience in mind, Contact Bluetext for guidance and expertise.
Google Search is known for consistent updates and feature releases but is often done in a beta-testing form. What does this mean exactly? Essentially, these new features will undergo A/B testing where only a small subset of users will experience this feature, while the majority of the user base will notice no change to the user experience.
Google’s newest feature to be unleashed for user evaluation is featured snippets. This updated design interface will display across the full width of a user’s viewport. While traditionally search results span across only two-thirds of the screen, cutting off at the end of the Search bar, this format frees right screen real estate for Google business, location results, and advertisements.
How Do I Get A Featured Snippet?
Unfortunately, featured snippets can’t be acquired by any amount of search engine marketing budget. Featured snippets are based on Google search results or SERP. Google’s automated systems determine whether a page would make a good featured snippet to highlight for a specific search request. A featured snippet will display the result description above the webpage link, rather than below like all other results. Google crawlers will implement this display format if they believe the page will help users easily discover what they’re seeking, either from the description about the page or by full webpage content when they click on the link. These features are especially prominent on mobile or voice searches, both methods rapidly growing in popularity.
So, What’s the Verdict?
The reviews are mixed on these new full-width features. Below, Bluetext has explored the pros and cons users have pointed out.
Some users were off-put by the ‘massive’ span of text, feeling that this layout overtakes the screen and seems off balance with all other content aligned to crop at the search bar. Naturally, any change in the layout we have all grown accustomed to will seem awkward at first. However, the wider format is encroaching on the right panel where the Google My Business and local listing results typically display. This could consequently push key information (Google images, address, hours, reviews, contact links, and more) that users expect and inevitably demand when conducting a search.
As digital marketers, Bluetext pointed out some advantages of the ‘massive’ display. First, the featured object is much more prominent and attention-grabbing. By definition, featured snippets take a differentiated view (description displaying above link rather than below), making it a high achievement for organic search. The wider, full-screen takeover intensifies the distinction from other websites and increases the likelihood of a user clicking on a page.
It’s unknown if and when these featured snippet updates will be unveiled to the Google user base as a whole, but take notice next time you conduct a search to see if you see a change.
If you’re ready to ramp up your organic search strategy in hopes of becoming a featured snippet, contact Bluetext to see how we may be able to uplevel your strategy.