Knowledge Graph to Feature Brands’ Social Profiles. What Does this Mean for Search?

Earlier this year, Google started including brands’ social profiles within its Knowledge Graph panel. In the past, this feature only applied to famous people, such as actors, musicians and politicians. What does this mean for brands that Google will now pick up their social handles?

It comes down to two things:
• If your brand is already active in the social space and has a great presence, it will have even a better visibility in search results.
• If you haven’t had the time to build out your brands’ social profiles, this is yet another reason why you absolutely should. ASAP.

More importantly, Google now allows companies to add markup language to their sites to specify their official social profiles for search engine crawlers. Let’s take a look at why this update matters for search and how your plan of attack should look like to leverage it to your best advantage.

Here is a screen shot of the Best Buy Knowledge Graph:

Best Buy Knowledge Graph

 

Just as in the past, you see a snapshot from the brand’s Wikipedia page (as many of us know, this is how most Knowledge Graphs are generated). Right below it, Best Buy’s social handles are displayed. By the way, Google currently picks up profiles from the top social networks (interestingly, MySpace is on the list):

• Facebook
• Twitter
• Google+
• Instagram
• YouTube
• LinkedIn
• Myspace

I do anticipate this list expanding. So, if Pinterest and Tumblr are an integral part of your marketing campaign, this is not by any means the reason to drop them and bring your brand back to the antique MySpace.  Just like anything, take this update with a grain of salt and really think what the best strategy is for your brand.

However, even if you’re a small B2B business, this is a no-brainer to build out your profiles on top networks (at the very least, on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn), just so you can own that Web real estate for the branded queries.

Now, Google+ is just as important as ever to your search campaigns. Below the social profiles’ links, Google Knowledge Graph displays your latest Google+ posts, followed by your competitors’ information. If you maintain solid presence in social channels and regularly update your brand’s Google+ page, you’d be able to push competitors’ mentions down the bottom of the Knowledge Graph panel and really dominate that digital real estate.

For example, in the following search results below, two competitive beauty brands, Kiehl’s and L’Occitane, both have solid Knowledge Graphs. However, due to the fact that more L’Occitane’s social profiles are picked up, in addition to the company’s Google+ updates, you have to scroll down the search engine result page to see competitive logos. In the Kiehl’s example, competitors’ presence is way more prominent:

L'Occitane Knowledge Graph

Kiehls Knowledge Graph

So, if you are serious about your brand’s digital marketing, I highly recommend that you add the following to your to do list:

• Invest effort in building out your brand’s presence in top social networks.
• Maintain active Google+ page.
• Implement Google-recommended structured data markup on your site to distinguish your brand’s official social profiles. Conveniently, Google outlines a detailed guide on how to implement this markup in its Developer’s Guide here: https://developers.google.com/structured-data/customize/social-profiles

I hope I convinced you to think about social marketing. Stay tuned on more updates on how to integrate search and social to really benefit your overall marketing efforts!

How to Check for 404 Errors (the Right Way)

No website is perfect. But of all the potential issues that could affect user experience, none is so obvious as the one that announces itself: the 404 error. If a user encounters this issue on your or your client’s site, the server will clearly state there is a problem, usually with some variation of “404 error: Page not found.”

If you manage a very large site, 404 errors are inevitable at some point. The key is establishing a process to find and resolve them quickly and efficiently.

What is a 404 Error?

A 404 error is a page that was not properly removed from a website or redirected in your content management system (CMS). As a result, the page appears to live on the website, but it no longer exists on your server. If a user tries to visit the page, they receive an error message.

Regularly resolving your site’s 404 errors is a signal to Google that you are maintaining a healthy website. It also improves user experience by minimizing the number of broken pages visitors may encounter.

Tips for Managing 404 Errors

  • Prioritize: If you have a large site with hundreds of 404 errors, the best option is to prioritize your efforts. Use Google Analytics (or your preferred web analytics platform) to evaluate how much organic traffic each 404 page has received over a predetermined period of time. Tackle the pages with the most traffic first, and work your way down.
  • Automate: You can automate redirects using the .Htaccess file in your CMS. Choose which page you want to be the replacement for a 404 error page. It may be a custom redirect page, or you may want to send users back to your homepage or to a search function. Please note: An .htaccess file is an extremely sensitive file in your CMS. We highly recommend your IT department sign-off on any edits to an .htaccess file.

3 Tools for Fixing 404 Errors

Outlined below are some tools to effectively find and resolve 404 error pages.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools (a.k.a. Search Console) is a resource from Google that web developers use to monitor website issues and control how their sites appear in search results.

Assuming your GWT is verified, here are the steps you take:
1. Login
2. Select your domain
3. Select ‘Crawl’ on the left sidebar
4. Crawl Errors
5. Select ‘404 Errors’
6. Select ‘Download’ to export as Excel/CSV file

Google Webmaster Tools

 

Screaming Frog (free and paid versions)

Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is a tool that allows you to easily crawl hundreds of URLs for 404 errors. The free version will crawl up to 500 URLs; the paid version will crawl an unlimited number across your entire website. You just enter the URLs and the program creates a file ready for export.

Yoast SEO for WordPress (free and paid versions)

If you host your entire site or blog on WordPress, Yoast SEO (formerly known as WordPress SEO by Yoast) is a tool that can help you configure your pages for SEO. This plugin, which you download, allows you to edit your URLs, meta data, XML Sitemaps, as well as monitor for 404 errors via integration with Google Webmaster Tools. The premium version is available for $69/year for one site.

When to Use 301 Redirects

We highly recommend 301 redirects when you want to redirect individual pages or even entire websites. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another. These types of redirects are especially useful when the missing page enjoyed a high organic search rank on search engines. The new, 301 redirect page maintains the SEO strength of the link even when redirected.

Sometimes there isn’t a good page to redirect to. In this case, a custom error page should be provided.

Creating Custom 404 Pages

If a permanent 301 redirect does not make sense, then you can consider creating a customized, visitor-friendly error page to appear in place of the missing URL. Typically, website use the same custom page across the site for 404 errors.

Custom error pages typically feature the following:

  1. A message to the user explaining that the page no longer exists
  2. A search box to help a visitor find exactly what they want
  3. A link to the home page

We hope this has been a helpful tutorial on how to find and fix 404 pages.

You can make it even easier on yourself and have Charles River Interactive give your site an in-depth SEO Analysis. Contact us today.

Interested in learning more tips for managing your website? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
3 Reasons to Use Google Tag Manager
Mobile Search Updates: Why You Need a Mobile Site

 

Google’s Expanded Health Conditions Knowledge Graph – What Does it Mean for SEO?

We’ve done it. You have done it. So have a lot of other people we all know.

What is it?

Searched for information about a health condition online. As of February 2015, Google made it easier to find this type of information with a knowledge graph containing details for more than 400 medical conditions. And in early September, they more than doubled the number of conditions and enhanced the visual appearance of the health conditions knowledge graph, and added a downloadable PDF with the information. So now, when you search for a common condition such as “asthma”, you will see a page that looks like this:

Health Conditions Knowledge Graph

 

I’m sure you’re thinking, “This is great – I get information about the condition, including symptoms and treatments. I don’t see any problems.” The problem is what if you are a hospital or medical facility with an asthma treatment program, and you have just spent time optimizing your web pages to rank in one of the top positions for the term?  Now you are not only competing with health information sites such as WebMD as well as other hospitals, but you need to drag the searcher’s attention away from the bold visual.

All is not hopeless with this development. There are opportunities for hospitals and health care providers, including:

  • Users that will scroll past the knowledge graph to organic results are likely to be more qualified leads. Students and casual browsers who are simply looking for definitions and general information will have no need to look further. Patients and families truly looking for care for a condition will be seeking additional information.
  • Long-tail queries are (at least for now) not displaying the knowledge graph. So although phrases such as “exercise induced asthma” and “pediatric asthma” have less search volume than the broad term “asthma”, organic search results have better visibility and thus better click-throughs.

Beyond this, the question that remains for hospitals and healthcare providers is whether there is any benefit for them in maintaining pages on their site about medical conditions. For users that are seeking care for a condition, there is still value in gaining a ranking position in that space as the knowledge graph does not provide direction for treatment. Bottom line – perhaps there is a silver lining in the knowledge graph in allowing hospitals to do what they do best, provide treatment.

Welcome to Google My Business

1

 Since its launch in 2011, there has been reluctance among many marketers and non-marketers to embrace Google+ as a preferred social platform.  Any mention of Google+ is usually met with an eye roll and the common (often-rhetorical) question: ‘Who even uses Google+?’ What has been lost on some, however, has become an advantage for others, considering the Google-owned social network functions hand-in-hand with local search and organic search display.

You can find local search influence in the Google Carousel, Google Maps, and on mobile devices – all three pull from Google+ and local search.

Google+ commands 300 million users and influences 43% of all Google searches with local query intent. Since the early years of Google’s social network, there have been several updates to increase ease of use. Previously known as Google Places, which became Google+ Local, the platform evolved last week to become Google My Business.  The recent launch of Google My Business has changed the way we utilize Google products through the successful integration of social, search, and maps, all of which provide a better experience for customers worldwide (Google My Business is available in 236 countries and 65 languages).

Two of the most important updates in Google+ evolution are the improved user experience and cleaner dashboard operating system, as Local SEO experts have been bemoaning both for years. Google took notice and delivered a strong solution with Google My Business.

Google My Business Updates – in plain English

(more…)

Bing 2013: A Brief Year In Review

With a majority of web traffic coming from Google, many website owners tend to forget that Bing and Yahoo often round out that list in second and third place. While these numbers don’t (and maybe never will) match the traffic from Google, it’s important to keep in mind what’s on Bing’s radar.

Unlike Google, Bing does not officially announce algorithm updates. However, they do announce new features, such as the deep links directly in the search box, as seen below. This feature is similar to Google sitelinks, however Bing displays these results without even having to click the search button.

bing-deep-links
(more…)

What you need to know about Schema.org and Google’s Data Highlighter

Although Schema.org was introduced several years back, structured data markup only started to gain great popularity with the rollout of Google’s Data Highlighter Tool late 2012/early 2013. The Data Highlighter tool makes it easy for non-technical people and people who don’t have direct access to their website CMS to easily markup their data for better search result visibility and rich snippet display. However, there are still many organizations not capitalizing on this opportunity because they are unsure about the benefits or what to do.

What are the Benefits of Schema, Structured Data, Markup, etc.?

Structured data provides search engines with rich snippets, which give the viewer relevant information before they even click on a result.

Is Marking Up Data Worth My Time?

In short, yes. The Data Highlighter was created to help Google learn about your website (vs. other search engines); therefore, markup created through Data Highlighter does not carry over through other search engines. For this reason – if resources allow — adding the Schema code directly to your website may be a better option as it is supported by Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo.

That being said, if you do not have these capabilities or are not looking to spend a great deal of time marking up pages, the Data Highlighter tool can still be of great benefit to your website and your organic traffic. Tagging pages only requires you to highlight the phrase and select a tag. Google does the rest.

What Should I Mark Up?

Anything you think would be helpful! At the very minimum, it is recommended to markup your business details, such as phone number, address, hours, etc. The rest is dependent on your business. If you sell products, you can use Schema markup for pricing and reviews. If your business has events, markup the location, dates, and times. The more you markup, the easier it is for search engines to figure out your site structure.

Do I need to mark up EVERY page?

With Data Highlighter, you can tag a group of pages. When Google starts becoming more familiar with your website, it will attempt to automatically tag similar pages for you, although it is generally recommended to highlight and tag as much as you can for better accuracy. Keep in mind, just because you markup every page does not necessarily mean Google and other search engines will always show it. Often times, only the first few results will display rich snippets.

Helpful Tools for Marking up Content

Google offers a helpful Structured Data Tool Helper for more advanced users who wish to embed the structured data right onto their webpages. This feature works similar to Data Highlighter; however, instead of directly publishing you are given the HTML code with the markup to load to your website. You can check how Google sees your site by using the Structured Data Testing Tool. The Schema.org website also lists available markups and how to get started.