What You Need to Know About Google Symptom Search

The search world is buzzing with the release of Google’s newest feature, symptom search. Currently available on mobile devices, this feature provides users with general information and a selection of possible conditions that fit the symptom. The intent is to make it easier for users, and help them “quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional.”

What Does This Mean for Organic Search?
Since this feature just rolled out, it is not yet known what the impact is on SEO. For healthcare provider’s websites, this has the potential to be a favorable development.

Consider this: Your child wakes in the morning with stomach pains. Rather than spending time searching through sites laden with medical terminology and driving you to terrifying possibilities, you search in Google for an individual symptom such as “stomach pain” brings up a brief summary of the symptom.Google Symptom Search

Scroll down a little further and you will find the symptom cards with possible conditions that may be causing this. As you look through the cards, you hit upon one that fits your child’s complaints. Clicking upon the symptom card brings up the health conditions knowledge graph with more detailed information, followed by organic search results related to the condition.

Narrowing things down in this manner can lead a user more quickly to a physician or hospital website where treatment is offered. While this change does affect the visibility of organic search results, it provides a better user experience which has been a primary focus for Google over the past year or more. For website owners, the positive aspect is that users who follow this path to arrive at their website will be more qualified and engaged.

Filtering out individuals conducting top of funnel research (think students writing a research paper), visitors arriving at your site after completing a symptom search are more likely to request an appointment or contact you for additional information.

For individual websites, there is not much that can be done to influence the symptom search results. However, ensuring that your site ranks well through use of structured markup, relevant content, and clear user paths to make an appointment and gather additional information will help attract these qualified visitors.

Interested in learning more in SEO trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
How Does the New Google Ad Layout Impact SEO?
SEO Tactics that work for Pharmaceutical Companies

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

Make Google Alerts Work for You

What is Google Alerts?

Google Alerts is a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results—such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or scientific research—that match the user’s search term(s). It’s a really powerful tool to keep track of trends, interesting topics, or anything really new that appears on the web.

What Triggers a Google Alert?

A google alert is triggered when something is indexed by Google on a given subject or topic. Here are a few ways that happens:

  • New blog posts are published.
  • Significant content changes are made on a website and are detected and re-indexed in Google.
  • A notable outside website publishes a blog post, writes a review or mentions the topic in an article.
  • Press Release issued.

How can Google Alerts Help Your Business?

  • Find Out Who’s Talking About Your Company. One of the best uses for Google Alerts is to keep track of how often people are talking about your Company on the web and what they’re saying.
  • Track your products. Set Google Alerts to gather information on your products to stay informed on how your product is perceive in the marketplace. See who is reading and sharing your information.
  • Stay ahead of your competition. Set alerts for businesses that have similar offerings. It’s good to know what is happening in the industry so you can stay fresh and current.
  • Timely Client Research. Track activity for your top ten or twenty existing clients. This can give you valuable insight into what they’re up to, and also provide you with reasons to contact them.
  • Follow a Trending Story, or Get a Snapshot of Events On Your Own Time Google Alerts lets you take control of the news stream and get up to speed on a specific topic when you’re ready. Tweak the search terms for the issue you’re following, and change the “How Often” to once a day for a simple digest.

More information on how to set up Google Alerts can be found here: https://support.google.com/alerts

Hopefully you find these tips useful so you can begin to fully leverage this amazing resource as another tool in your company’s marketing toolbox.

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

Why Brand Advocacy Matters

As the digital landscape continues to develop into 2017, expectations of brand communications has evolved beyond single channels of discovery and consumption. Digital marketers are constantly seeking ways to optimize content, digital ads, and media channels to cut through the clutter, generate buzz, drive engagement, and influence actions. In fact, one-time viral marketing campaigns are quickly losing efficacy due to short-term engagement and lack of depth for ongoing social evolution. To survive in an era where the customer is king, brands must go beyond counting video views and focus on a much more important goal: turning customers into brand advocates.

What is a brand advocate?

Brand advocates are satisfied customers who believe in a brand’s products and services so much that they promote it to friends, colleagues, and peers. The also share brand content on social networks and protect brand reputations with positive perceptions. That’s not to mention they do it for free. A recent study by Influitive and Heinz Marketing suggests that:

  • 84% of B2B decision makers start the buying process with a referral
  • 82% of sales leaders say referrals are key to sales success
  • 78% of marketers said that referrals have a higher conversion rate compared to any other type of lead.

Buyers trust recommendations from people they know, and in the digital age, word of mouth interactions are readily available through email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and review forums. A strong referral program that builds emotional and behavioral connections with customers will not only help increase profit for brands, but will also drive higher customer lifetime value.

Most Trusted Sources for B2B Buyers

How can businesses leverage brand advocacy?

Businesses that develop strong brand advocacy or referral programs, spend less on advertising and create higher engagement through user-generated content. To be effective, brands should identify the specific reasons behind why people share content and then amplify them. For instance, Jonah Berger, an expert on word of mouth and social influence, recommends crafting content that makes consumers feel like exclusive insiders and in-the-know. In other words, consumers like to share information that makes them look good. Another way to motivate people to talk about a brand is creating memorable, immersive experiences for consumers. When interactivity is executed well, immersive experiences tap into consumer emotions, resulting in a stronger opportunity to connect in a meaningful way. After all, emotions drive people to take action. Lastly, businesses should promote and celebrate their brand advocates to show they are valued and appreciated. When consumers know they are valued, they become attached to the brand through trust.

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

The 2nd Phase of Google’s “Mobilegeddon” Has Been Officially Released

A recent study by Opinion Lab, highlights the following impact of consumers using their mobile devices to search for businesses and make purchases:

  • Mobile impacted $1 trillion in retail sales in 2015.
  • In the US, more than 30% of sales will have a mobile cross-channel component.
  • 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a brick-and-mortar location within a day
  • 82% of shoppers say they consult their phones on purchases they’re about to make when in a brick-and-mortar location

Google’s response

In the quest to make the web more mobile-friendly, Google rolled out their second algorithm update on May 2, 2016. This update is designed to benefit mobile-friendly websites in Google search results. The results increase the effect of the ranking signal to help users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.

According to Google, a website is mobile-friendly if it meets the following conditions:

  • Does not use software that is unusual for smartphones, such as Flash.
  • Text is readable without zooming.
  • Content fits on the screen completely, without the need for the visitor to scroll horizontally.
  • Buttons and links are far enough apart, so that a finger can easily click the correct one.

Testing a Website for Mobile Friendliness

If you are unsure if your website is mobile-friendly or not, then you should use an official Mobile-Friendly testing tool such as the following:

The testing tools also have suggestions for next steps based on the results of the mobile friendliness test.

Questions Regarding Google’s “Mobile Friendly” Algorithm Changes

If you are like every other business owner or website administrator, then you have questions. On April 21, 2016, previous to Google’s 2nd algorithm rollout, Google published a post, FAQs about April 21st mobile friendly updateThis article answers the top 13 questions site administrators, SEO’s and business owners have about the latest mobile-friendly algorithm update.

We selected a few of the questions and answers from the April 21st post:

Will desktop and/or tablet ranking also be affected by this change?  No, this update has no effect on searches from tablets or desktops. It affects searches from mobile devices across all languages and locations.

Is it a page-level or site-level mobile ranking boost? It’s a page-level change. For instance, if ten of your site’s pages are mobile-friendly, but the rest of your pages aren’t, only the ten mobile-friendly pages can be positively impacted.

Will my site / page disappear on mobile search results if it’s not mobile-friendly? While the mobile-friendly change is important, we still use a variety of signals to rank search results. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank high if it has great content for the query.

If your website is not mobile-friendly, the number of visitors coming in from Google will only keep decreasing. This was the case after the first phase of Mobilegeddon, and will only become more evident following their latest algorithm update.

Interested in learning more about mobile trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
Mobile Search Updates: Why You Need a Mobile Website
5 Tips for Writing for Mobile

Want more information? Get more details on Charles River Interactive’s SEO and PPC service offerings or contact us today.

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


5 Tips for Writing for Mobile

When is the last time you saw someone waiting – on a park or city bench, at a café table or a transit stop – and he or she wasn’t staring at a smartphone? These hand-held screens are more than a modern convenience; for many Americans, they are our connection to the world, people and services.

Nearly two-thirds – or 64 percent – of people in the U.S. own smartphones, according to the 2015 smartphone use study by the Pew Research Center. Of those, 15 percent do not have many options for getting online other than their phones.

As mobile dependency increases, marketers need to take into account mobile search, responsive design and, yes, even content strategy for a mobile audience.

Why is Writing for Mobile Important?

We use our phones to find nearby amenities, look up directions, manage banking accounts, share photos, text and call people, read news stories, follow stocks, etc.

Consider these stats from the Pew mobile study on the habits of smartphone owners in the past year:

  • 68 percent followed breaking news
  • 62 percent looked up info about a health condition
  • 57 percent did online banking
  • 44 percent looked up real estate listings
  • 43 percent searched for jobs
  • 30 percent wanted to take a class
  • 18 percent applied for jobs

That means in the five minutes someone may spend waiting for a bus, there are endless, competing online tasks and information to fill the time. How do you make sure mobile users stay engaged with your website? A sleek, responsive design will absolutely help, but you need mobile-friendly content to round out the user experience.

5 Tips for Mobile Content

  1. Get to the point: As we’ve discussed, mobile users are often killing time or quickly searching for information. (And your content is competing with incoming texts and push messages). If they don’t think your site can quickly and easily answer their question or meet a need, they will move on, fast.
  2. Be simple and clear: Web writing best practices calls for easy-to-understand content (we aim for a 6th-grade reading level). For mobile users, it’s even more important to omit complex language and industry jargon. According to a mobile comprehension study from the University of Alberta, mobile users found it twice as hard to understand subject matter than desktop users.
  3. Don’t rely on your navigation: Mobile users won’t see the navigation bar that appears on your website. That means inserting strategic call-to-action links is key to facilitating the user journey. Sure, users can click on the “hamburger” icon to view page options, but keep in mind the quick, impatient, scrolling habits of the smartphone user. Deliver them helpful links, where they make sense, and it will pay off.
  4. Give them what they need: Mobile users are very likely to be looking for key information such as phone numbers and directions. Make these features easy to find and interact with.
  5. Craft super-powered H2s: These headers serve double-duty on the web: They draw in organic search traffic with keywords and phrases and organize content for rapidly skimming and scanning users. The act of thumbing down a mobile screen helps users move even more quickly through a page. Write compelling H2s to make users pause and read. But make sure they are accurate, or they may lose patience.

As a marketer, the best thing you can do is visit your own mobile site often. Many times, clients admit they have never even viewed their own content on a smartphone. Make sure you know how the experience is different from your work desktop.

Interested in learning more about mobile trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

The Rise of Mobile Chat Apps
Mobile Search Updates: Why You Need a Mobile Website