Since 2014, Google has been advocating for “HTTPS Everywhere” which means that they want all internet browsing to be secure. Changes in new version of Chrome will be labels as “not secure”. The message that shows in the address bar will look like this:
This is beneficial for users by providing a convenient notification of which sites are safe to give sensitive information too. In the last few years there have been big profile data breaches like Equifax and Target to name a couple. Even more recently, Facebook has been caught up in a scandal where sensitive information was used for political advertising purposes.
The time couldn’t be more ripe for Google to go forward in pressuring for its HTTPS Everywhere initiative. Google has not called out any particular company out by name but you can be sure that these news stories are fresh enough that when they talk about a secure internet users are going to be behind this initiative.
As a business, switching to HTTPS as soon as possible will help you gain advantage on competitors who are slow to adopt and will give your users more trust when they use your website.
Google’s landing page today looks nothing like what it did even 4 years ago. The Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is full of information tiles and getting your business featured in these tiles will be the new play in the SEO game.
Google has always been the goto search engine, but look at how the Google SERP has evolved and also consider Google’s entry into the Digital Assistant arena. I propose that Google is evolving from a Search Engine to an Information Engine.
As a result, more people are finding the information they need right at the Google results page without having to follow a link to get the information they need. In the end this can mean less traffic for your website but if you are prepared, there are several strategies that you can use to take advantage of this.
We will be writing a series of articles with tips to take advantage of this evolving search results page. For today’s tip, we definitely recommend that you take advantage of the Q&A feature within Google Maps. Search results that are destination specific take the user directly into maps on the first click. These destinations have a section dedicated for Q&A. Read more about this new feature in our article: Updates to Google Maps
Look below at the samples below for the same search:
Google my Business is the tool to check your business listing on Google Maps with all the relevant info (Address, Phone number, Web Address, etc). This information is critical if you want to be quickly found in any Google Map app on a mobile device.
Google Maps for has been expanded with an FAQ section (previously it was only available on the Maps app on Android) that is populated by internet users and works similarly to Amazon’s FAQ. We see this feature becoming popular and recommend that you Pre-Populate your Google my Business FAQ section ASAP to ensure relevant content and avoid being a target of some clever teenager. What to know more? Look at the picture on the right or try it yourself:
Take out your Android smartphone and search for: Arrowhead Stadium
Scroll down and read the Questions & Answers
When you search you will no longer find the question ‘Do they have hookers at Arrowhead?’ – This question certainly got alot of attention at the expense of Arrowhead.
We recommend that you use the Q&A feature as a chance to front-load questions that prospects would find valuable about your company or industry. Google is evolving more form a Search Engine to an Information Engine – meaning that instead of just search results, Google is attempting to answer your question without you needed to click on a result and leave the Google page.
UPDATE: The article has been updated to reflect Arrowhead stadium’s cleaned up Q&A
How are you using Google Map’s Q&A feature for your business?
To understand any technology you have to first be aware of its foundation and SEO is no exception to that. SEO is based on the search engine’s evaluation of the page’s trust & authority and the keyword match. We believe that the fundamental parts of this evaluation consist of:
What you say about yourself
What others say about you
Each of these building blocks gets progressively more important as you reach toward the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Nobody knows exactly how much weight goes to each level but our guess is that each level is about twice as important as the item before it.
1. What You Say About Yourself
This level is driven by the content on your website and while it is a small percentage of the total score it is absolutely essential because this sets up the first phase of eligibility. If your page fails eligibility then the rest of the optimization is a complete waste of time. Eligibility is a simple Boolean test so you either are or are not. The search query either matches your keywords or not. When you conduct a search on Google one thing it shows is an estimate of how many pages are eligible for the search.
After eligibility comes the scoring of the on-page content and this gets into what most people consider page optimization. The most critical items here are the support for the keyword and its location and density on the page. This is not rocket science but it can certainly get complex.
Again, nobody knows exactly how every aspect of document scoring happens but if our guess of each stage being twice as important as the one before it then on-page optimization is only about 11% of the score but it is a critical 11%.
2. What Others Say About You
Just like in the real world “What others say about you” is more important than “What you say about yourself.” On the internet the way they talk about you is with links that point back to your site and the infamous back-links. Not all back-links are created equal so you have to concern yourself with the link quality and quantity. There is no doubt that Google weighs links differently when they come from different sources and the essence of this comes from the original page rank formula developed by the founders of Google when they were PhD students at Stanford University. The Google Page Rank formula is documented at Stanford University and while I am sure it has evolved since that paper was written, the core of the formula is still very much a part of the SERP results of today.
Here is the formula:
We assume page A has pages T1…Tn which point to it (i.e., are citations). The parameter d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1. We usually set d to 0.85. There are more details about d in the next section. Also C(A) is defined as the number of links going out of page A. The PageRank of a page A is given as follows:
PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
Now let me translate this for you. Page rank is driven by links in and links out. The inbound links increase the page rank of the page and it passes its rank to the location that it points to. If the page has lots of inbound links then an outbound link from that source is worth that score divided by the number of out bound links.
3. Election Results
There is no doubt that Google values votes from users. A user ‘votes’ when they click on your listing and act as a satisfied search, meaning they don’t immediately leave the page to return to the SERP to find what they were looking for. This is commonly called CTR an acronym for “Click-Through Rate.” We have discovered over the years that the AdWords Quality Score and the pages’ SEO score are largely the same thing. In AdWords, most experts believe that the CTR is about 65% of the Quality Score. The reason I believe this is true is because of a presentation by Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian. In this video he graphically represents the CTR weight and clearly states that it is the largest factor. I contend that Google gives the same weight on the organic results.
One reason we like to work on accounts that use AdWords is that it gives us the Quality Score, which we believe is the same as the organic score. Programmers love to reuse code and I am certain that Google uses much of the same code in AdWords Quality Score that they do on the Organic Page Score.
Two elements that greatly affect the CTR are the title link and the snippet that appear on the SERP. Those are the only clues to the user about what they are ‘voting’ for, or what information they will see when they click the link. This is why we stress the importance of carefully writing these two items. The vote measurement is much smarter than most think and we know Google tracks some items. For example, if a visitor clicks on your listing but then returns quickly to Google and searches the same thing that is not a good thing for you. The reason this is a problem is that Google will see that as an unsatisfied search.
The key elements to the part of the SEO puzzle is the title, snippet, and the content they land on. If you concern yourself with the quality of the visitors experience you can win this game.
What you will find with SEO is that if you work very hard on creating a great web experience for your visitors the optimization will take care of itself. A website with a great experience gets talked about and pointed to and that wins the SEO game.