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Did you know that one or two extra words in a search query can affect the type or types of SERP feature Google shows in its results?

The team at recently posted an article titled How SERP Features Respond to Search Intent Modifiers which shows that swapping search intent modifiers can result in dramatic changes to Google SERPs features.

Before we take a closer look at STAT’s search intent data, let’s first define what we mean by search intent modifier.

What is Search Intent?

A basic search intent definition (also referred to search query intent) is determining what a searcher is most likely looking for when they type in a “keyword search” into Google. Often, they will use a search intent modifier to indicate their intent. For example, “buy” to indicate they want to make a purchase or “best” to indicate they want to compare products/service.

Some basic types of search engine user intent including:

  • Informational Intent Based Search – the searcher is looking to gain new knowledge on a topic.
    Search Modifier Examples: how to, what is, how big
  • Commercial Intent Based Search – the searcher is looking to gain more information before purchasing an item (ex. reviews, prices, warranties, etc.)
    Search Modifier Examples: best, compare, top
  • Transactional Intent Based Search – the searcher is ready to make a purchase.
    Search Modifier Examples: buy, coupon, price
  • Local Intent Based Search – the searcher is looking for something specific to their neighborhood or city.
    Search Modifier Examples: near me, close by, specific city names

STAT examined the 20 top SERP results (minus organics) for various search modifiers and compiled the numbers into extremely useful percentage points. For the purposes of this article, we have listed the top three types of SERP features based on their percentage in relation to the number of searches analyzed.

Search modifiers categorized by search intent were used to search on mobile devices in the US. The results provide some useful data for pursuing intent based search engine marketing and optimization. Let’s have a look.

1. SERP Features Triggered by Informational Search Intent Modifiers

No modifiers were used for informational searches, but the results are still interesting. News results came in a surprising 3rd, but given the keyword was found in the article title, this isn’t overwhelmingly unusual.

2. SERP Features Triggered by Commercial Search Intent Modifiers

The most common Commercial keyword modifiers for search intent purposes are found in the table below. I’ve selected the top 3 features for each modifier to highlight those with the most beneficial payoff.

Shopping Boxes led the entire Commercial intent category with the exception of the Compare modifier. What I found somewhat interesting is that Shopping snippets has substantial exposure for the modifiers “Deals” at 85.99% and “Used” at 74.92%.

STATS zeroed in on the potential of Featured Snippets (lists) for keyword modifiers “Best” and “Top”. These percentages are comparatively low and either Google is reluctant to present more of them in SERPs or there simply aren’t enough suitable Featured Snippets (lists) to present. This could be a golden opportunity for strategists focussing on such snippets.

3. SERP Features Triggered by Transactional Search Intent Modifiers

The most common Transactional modifiers for search intent purposes can be found in the table below. As with the Commercial modifiers, I’ve selected the top 3 SERP features found in the results using the modifier to highlight those with the best potential yield.

As STAT indicates, people want to quickly determine how much an item is going to cost – and likely search for the most affordable option. Google seems to feel that Featured Snippets (paragraphs) are an effective way to present this information for the Cost and Price modifiers.

What surprised me is that images were presented to such a large degree where the Price modifier was concerned. One would think at this stage of intent that numbers would supersede images.

4. SERP Features Triggered by Local Search Intent Modifiers

Because STAT only used Chicago and Dallas as local modifiers, there were few results. We see that Shopping, Places, and Images are the most popular type of SERP Feature.

We recommend that you do various searches with local intent for your own city. Search for local businesses, upcoming events, organizations, and so on in your area and see what type of results are shown.

Key Takeaways: Search Intent Optimization –  Planning Modifiers for Your SEO

  1. Examine the results of STAT’s research by focussing on Google’s propensity to post some SERP features above others for specific modifiers that were used. For example:
  • What modifiers do you think searchers could use when looking for your business and what SERP features are shown for those?
  • What modifiers show up in your Google Search Console Search Analytics reports and what SERP features are shown for those?
  1. You likely want to target Commercial, Transactional, and Local modifiers in your SEO Strategy. Be sure that you understand How Featured Snippets in Search Can Boost Your Website Traffic and How to Avoid Eliminated Featured Snippets.
  2. If images and videos are popular for search modifiers relevant to your business, be sure to have high quality and unique images loaded and optimized on your website. The same goes for uploading videos to YouTube and embedding on your website.

For more information about Advanced SEO Techniques such as search intent marketing and optimization please contact 1st on the List today by calling 1-888-262-6687 or email us at

Recently Britney Muller of Moz Blog indicated in a brief article titled Does Google Drop Featured Snippets Over Typos? on the Search Engine RoundTable site that a simple typographical error was the probable cause behind Moz losing a featured snippet.

When the error was corrected, Moz reportedly regained the featured snippet in search. As mentioned in the Moz article, the only entity that could confirm or deny this activity would be Google themselves. Without their input we can only speculate.

So do typos, spelling mistakes, and grammar issues stop featured snippets from showing Google Search?

In the instance experienced by Moz, the difference between the word choose and the word chose was the underlying cause. In the article, it only indicates that “…the page had a typo, a spelling mistake.” It wasn’t specified if that spelling mistake was in the page content, in the page URL, or both. That doesn’t provide us with enough information. Here’s what I think happened.

Grammatical Errors Change Featured Snippet Context

If the URL was spelled correctly, but the on-page content was not (or vice versa), I could see Google having grammatical issues with the page vs. the URL.

Choose = (verb) Simple present tense and future tense

Chose = (verb) Simple past tense

The difference in tenses might suggest that Google interpreted the feature snippet compared to the URL. One of them was not linguistically correct.

Grammatical Errors & Featured Snippets Linguistics

Most of us may not think a simple typo should warrant the change that Moz experienced. However, Google has teams of linguists working to correct just such grammatical errors. It’s possible that Moz experienced one of the changes that Google initiated based on recommendations from their linguistic staff.

In a Quora post titled What do linguists at Google do? from 2014, Dave Orr (a Google employee at that time) responded:

“If you have a working system, it will get stuff wrong. What is it getting wrong and why, and how do we fix it? Linguists help answer those questions.”

Eliminate Grammatical Errors & Featured Snippets

Grammatical errors should probably be a concern for anyone writing content for SEO purposes. Muller hypothesizes that Google could have just been doing some testing, which altered the listing temporarily.

However, on a larger scale in the grand scheme of things we know that Google is constantly striving for better quality content. Behind Google’s masterminding stands a team of linguists. We should all be striving to make our content more grammatically correct and typo-free to appease the experts on this team.

Correct Grammatical Errors in Featured Snippet SEO Content

If you ever have to ask yourself the question “Why did we lose a Featured Snippet?”, it should not be because of a typo, or because past tense was used instead of simple present tense. Content has to become linguistically-friendly if we expect it to fly through Google’s ever-widening bevy of tests.

Give yourself a head start on the daunting linguistic issues by using programs such as Grammarly, Hemingway App, and a host of others to check, recheck, and triple check your content before posting.

Your site visitors will appreciate clear, concise, grammatically correct content. So will Google. To adequately serve both of these masters, you will need to set up your writing skills to match the ever-evolving world of SEO.

If your content needs a literary boost, call 1st on the List today for more information on SEO Content writing at 1-888-262-6687.

Ever wonder what those rectangular boxes are at the top of a search engine results (SERP) page are called? Or what about how you can get your website’s information to appear in them? They’re referred to as Featured Snippets and you can have your website appear there by having the most relevant answer formatted properly on your website.

Here are three good reasons why you should strive to have your website content show up in one of them. But first, let’s examine featured snippets more closely.

What Are Featured Snippets?

Feature Snippets are answer summaries, extracted from a web page in response to a direct user query, and are presented at the top of a search results page.

Essentially, Featured Snippets are Google’s way of presenting you with the best answer they could find for the query you entered into their search engine. Featured Snippets are fast, accurate answers to very specific questions.

No need for you to browse through site after site for a particular answer. Google presents the answer front and center, no muss no fuss! And the side benefits of having a Featured Snippet on Google are that they can boost website traffic.

How Can Feature Snippets Boost Website Traffic?

There are three ways that Featured Snippets can boost website traffic for sites that have the answer Google feels is the most efficient for the query that was searched.

  1. An excerpt from the web page containing the Featured Snippet will be shown at the top of the search engine results.
  2. The page title and link to the website URL will be shown in the Featured Snippet.
  3. A hyperlink to the website page from which the Featured Snippet was extracted will also be presented beneath the Featured Snippet on the results page.

Essentially, you receive 2 links to your website, a summary, and a page title all on 1 search results page if you are able to develop a succinct answer to the question in the format the Google is looking for.

Is it time to pursue Feature Snippets as part of your SEO Strategy?

How Can I Get A Featured Snippet on Google?

If you can answer a question in a way (table, graph, or list) that Google feels is more significant than any other answer they can find, you own (temporarily) the top position in the SERPs for that specific question.

The key word here is specific.

Determining what question to answer, and how to answer the question, takes some research and persistence, but I feel any effort you put into a Feature Snippet is well worth it.

Start by examining your website content and the keywords you used on your website pages. Determine if you can re-arrange some of that content into an answer form that Google prefers to see (table, graph or list) without disturbing the content significantly.

Keep reworking the content until you answer what you feel to be a very specific question related to your industry, company or organization. It may take a bit of literary massaging to shuffle the words into a concise answer.

As you develop this content, try searching the questions you come up with and determine if a Featured Snippet already exists for the query. Continue to do this throughout the process.

Once you’re satisfied that you’ve answered a question which meets all of Google’s criteria, you should also ensure that you have the correct Schema Markup in place to support the answer you have developed.

Schema Code and Featured Snippets

Along with reshaping your content to more directly address Featured Snippets, you should also be including or enhancing Schema Markup on your website to help the search engines better understand the page content you have developed.

There have been numerous discussions and articles indicating that Schema Markup isn’t necessary to secure a Featured Snippet listing on Google at the moment. And that seems to be true for the most part. But only because Google has not as yet focussed on the Schema Markup requirements that closely. They seem to have chosen instead to monitor the usefulness and long-term success of Featured Snippets. But that doesn’t mean Google has forgotten about Schema.

It is still on Google’s table, and when the time is right they will inevitably address Schema Markup as it applies to Featured Snippets and move it more prominently into play.

By addressing Schema Markup alongside your Featured Snippet plan now, you won’t lose any ground later if your Featured Snippet gains traction and Google starts enforcing the Schema Markup at a later point, penalizing your Featured Snippet content if there is insufficient Schema Markup to support it.

For more information about Advanced SEO Strategies please call our team at 1st on the List: 1-888-262-6687.

Here’s what’s making news in the SEO community in the last several weeks.

Google Says HTTPS Sites May Get Ranking Boost

In a hangout this month between Bruce Clay and Gary Illyes of Google, Illyes reconfirmed that Google’s HTTPS ranking boost may serve as the tiebreaker if the quality signals for the two search results are equal.

He went on to say that he wishes all websites would use HTTPS but that it is perfectly fine if you don’t:

“I hope that I see more and more websites on HTTPS because I think that privacy, for example, is important, but of course I can’t expect everyone to go HTTPS. Some people don’t have the resources for that.”

You can learn some of the other reasons why HTTPS and SSL matter for your website with this Slide Deck.

Google Logo Change Represents the Google of the Future

What do you think of Google’s new logo?

In launching their new logo, Google shares a story of how search has evolved from taking place on just a desktop PC to a number of different ways people interact with Google products across all platforms, app, and devices.

The new Google logo and its updated identity represents a “world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).”

Google says that this new logo not just represents Google of today, but the Google of the future.

Does Structured Markup and Rich Snippets Influence Google’s Ranking Algorithm?

This month Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz posted an article on Google hinting it may use structured data in its ranking algorithm in the future. In the past, Google has said that these do not directly lead to your page ranking better in its search results.

This speculation comes from a comment John Mueller made in a hangout session that Google may start using Rich Snippets and Markup as a ranking factor in the future:

“If we can recognize someone is looking for a car, we can say oh well, we have these pages that are marked up with structured data for a car, so probably they are pretty useful in that regard … So I think in the long run, it definitely makes sense to use structured data where you see that as being reasonable on the website. But I wouldn’t assume that using structured data markup will make your site jump up in rankings automatically. So we try to distinguish between a site that is done technically well and a site that actually has good content.”

Check out our Advanced SEO page for more information about Rich Snippets, Microdata, and Schema.

Continued Discussions About the New Google Local Search Display

We first mentioned the new Google Local 3 Pack last month and it has been heavily talked about in the Local SEO world since.

In his article The New Google Local Search Display, Jason Decker reiterates that several of the changes to local search results first seen in August are a “blow to local businesses” and provides several implications for searchers and local businesses:

  • The new Local 3 Pack is so plain it may reduce clicks to the website.
  • Display results may reduce phone calls to businesses as the phone number is hidden in most desktop results.
  • Local businesses may need to consider paid advertising to maintain their previous level of visibility in local search results. Decker points out that as more businesses resort to paid local ads we will most likely see competition and click costs spike.
  • Home service ads (currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area) may eventually remove local search pack or push it down lower for certain business types.

Reasons for Consumers to Lose Trust in Your Website are Also Key SEO Factors

This month shared a study by Neustar on what causes consumers to lose trust in digital brands. As we reviewed the top reasons your visitors may lose trust in your brand we quickly noticed that almost all of them have a direct impact on your rankings and Search Visibility.

Is it time to address these key issues on your site in order to boost both rankings and visitor trust?

91% do not trust websites with errors or mistakes.

Google says websites need to provide high-quality content and that its ranking algorithms look for signals of low quality content, which may include grammar and other mistakes. Errors on your website may naturally come over time, such as old hours or out of stock products. The more up to date and error free you keep your website, the better you stand to do both in the ranking and trust department.

88% do not trust websites that frequently go down.

Significant downtime from site maintenance or server issues hurt your rankings and can result in your pages getting deindexed. Think about it: if your website is frequently down when the Search Engines try to visit why would they then want to send visitors to your website, which would likely be down?

75% do not trust websites that take too long to load.

Fast websites not only increase your visitor trust but can improve your rankings. In 2014, site speed was Search Metric’s top ranking factor. Check out our slide deck on Website Speed to understand how making your website faster will ultimately increase your bottom line.

55% do not trust websites without security safeguards to protect personal information.

As mentioned above, Gary Illyes of Google has said that secure HTTPS websites may be the tiebreaker between two equal quality websites.

Take some time to review your website from a visitor perspective, paying attention to these key Trust indicators. What do you need to improve?

For more information about what is happening in the SEO world or what it will take to improve the visibility of your brand online, give us a call at 1-888-262-6687.


Example of new Local 3 Pack when searching for an SEO Company in Abbotsford, BC.


It has been almost one month since Google replaced its “Local 7 Pack” results with its new “Local 3 Pack” results.

This means that searchers only see three businesses listed in the local map results.  We briefly explain the Local 3 update in our August 2015 SEO Updates post but think this topic is serious enough to warrant this dedicated blog post.

Here is everything we think you should know about the Local 3 Pack Google update, click through rates, and how to adjust your Local SEO strategy.

Google Local Snack Pack Summary

Moz published this Local SEO article less than two weeks after Google replaced its usual 7-pack local results with 3-pack results. Here are some key facts about the new Google Local 3 Pack:

  • Launched August 6, 2015.
  • 3-packs completely replaced 7-packs by the end of the day across all verticals and countries.
  • Desktop results now look more similar to Mobile results.
  • Several key changes in how the Business is listed including no specific address number.
  • Google now gives searchers an option to look for only businesses above a certain rating. Note this is dependent on the number of restaurants with available ratings in your area.
  • Google is now testing new home service ads that look similar to the Local Pack, but are sponsored.

In order to succeed in the new Local 3 Pack, this article recommends focusing on organic search, links, citations, and marketing priorities.

Local Pack Click Through Rate Studies

Mike Ramsay, a prominent voice in the SEO community and owner of Nifty Marketing, recently released some of his own studies on how the new Local 3 Pack affects Click Through Rates.

His findings suggest that nearly half of people are clicking on Organic Results. The other half of clicks is divided fairly evenly between Paid Ads and Local Pack results.

One interesting finding is that for Mobile, only 18% of clicks occur on Local Packs and 31% on Paid Ads, while Organic clicks remain about even.

Mike concludes that we should focus on growing organic traffic for phrases that show map results and phrases that don’t show map results. He points out that local results change so often that it is extremely difficult to successfully chase after them. A local organic search strategy is important.

Google Local 3 Pack Eye and Click Study

Barry Schwartz features another click study for Local 3 Pack performed by Casey Meraz that confirms Ramsay’s numbers. In this study organic is the clear leader with nearly 40% of total clicks.

The other key finding is that only 6% of local clicks result in a “one click visit” to the firm’s website. This means that a visitor who clicks on your brand in Organic results will go directly to your website where you have full control over the message they see.

A visitor who clicks on your brand in Local results likely won’t end up on your website. They will see photos gathered by Google, Google reviews, address, phone number, hours, and even competitor listings.

Not only do Organic clicks happen more often they also send visitors directly to your website which is right where you want them.

Google Plus Presence Eliminated

Many articles about Google Local 3 Pack hint at this but Paul Chaney makes this a main point within his implications of the 3 Pack for local businesses. He suggests that Google is further backing down on the social network’s significance.

If you disliked Google Plus don’t get too excited. Chaney points out that while Google Plus pages are missing entirely in some places all of the information displayed in the Local Pack is still pulled from Google Plus. This means that Google Plus is still important for your business.

Chaney gives five practical pointers to protect your website against all of Google Local Pack changes:

  1. Know your competitors and who is dominating the 3-pack.
  2. Claim and populate your Google+ page.
  3. Encourage and respond to reviews.
  4. Keep building citations (mentions) for your company in local directories.
  5. Focus on optimizing your website with fresh, high quality content.

Need some help with your Local SEO Strategy? Give us a call today at 1-888-262-6687 to see how we can help your business grow in Local Search visibility. You can also fill our out quick contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.

Search Engine Land recently posted an informative article in which author Trond Lyngbø shared the ways a leader with a “quick fix” attitude towards SEO can hurt their business. In this blog post we’d like to unpack several of the very important and common misunderstandings towards SEO that he points out.

1. Great SEO can’t fix what’s wrong with your product.

Google wants to provide searchers with the very best results possible. If someone is searching for a new dentist or the best built in vacuum cleaner Google wants to recommend the most trustworthy websites and businesses. Are you truly the best or would your customers beg to differ?

Lyngbø suggests that your visibility will eventually be affected by the way your customers feel about your products and services. We believe that Google is already making the move to incorporate your customer reviews and general reputation into your visibility. Faulty product? Poor customer service? Your SEO success may soon come to an end.

2. SEO is not a “quick fix” or “duct tape” solution for your business.

Lyngbø makes this point in reference to using SEO to cover up your bad product or customer service but the statement is true in a broader sense as well. SEO works best when backed by a stellar brand, great customer service, strong understanding of customer needs, an informative and easy to use website, and so on. SEO is often the final missing piece of the puzzle for brands that are already doing everything else right.

3. You can’t just “install SEO” quickly and easily.

This misunderstanding stems from a number of valid sources. For example there are SEO companies out there who claim to do SEO at a very cheap price and very quickly. This makes many business owners and managers believe it’s a quick install or that there’s just one way to do SEO. There are also SEO software programs and even WordPress plugins that claim do SEO for you. But SEO isn’t quick or easy, and can’t just be installed. It takes an experienced person to analyze your website and all the various factors (between 200 and 300) that come into play when Google decides how to rank the website. They then have to know the best strategies to optimize the most important factors to get your website to start ranking better and for more and more relevant queries as time goes on.

4. An expert can use SEO to make your marketing stronger and prevent expensive mistakes.

The basics of SEO can be fairly easy to understand and start to implement. But would you know how to run a detailed audit of your website to identify areas where you can make it even faster? After all Google favors fast websites. Would you know how to confirm that Google is properly accessing and crediting all of the pages on your website? If you are getting a site redesign do you know how to ensure that all of your credit is properly passed on to your new pages? Will you risk losing rankings and traffic with your new site design?

5. Paid and Natural Search traffic are highly connected.

Lyngbø comments that:

“Some business leaders consider paid traffic to be completely distinct from search engine optimization, not realizing that an SEO specialist can help you amplify the reach and impact of your paid search campaigns … But both address search users, and having SEO and PPC teams work together can be powerful.”

It can be a costly mistake to think that your PPC is driving all your traffic or that Search is driving all your traffic. The two can be highly correlated and can work best together.

6. Just getting more visitors isn’t enough.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If 500 visitors to your website a month doesn’t result in any new leads then is it reasonable to expect that 5,000 visitors would? At some point you have to stop chasing more visitors and start going after better visitors. The other option is tweaking your website so that you start getting more out of the same number of visitors, which is called Conversion Optimization.

On a bigger picture level, Lyngbø challenges any business owner:

“If only a tiny fraction of what you do is effective in bringing you desirable results, why repeat everything that doesn’t work again next year?”

7. Insights gathered from Google can help future-proof your business.

Over the years we have had to have some hard conversations with clients who were in what seemed to be dying industries. After seeing the total number of people searching for their types of products and services decline they questioned if they were still relevant or if people still wanted what they had to offer.

On the other hand, we’ve also been able to point out exciting opportunities we can find through search behaviour. The conversation often goes like this:

Us: “We’ve noticed an increase in the number of searches for X product or Y service. Is that something you would be able to offer?”

Client: “We have actually been considering adding that to our business.”

Us: “Well now may be the time because a lot of people are looking and very few other businesses are offering it. You can be a first mover.”

After all as Lyngbø it’s free to access Google’s search data and glean it for new insights. For example, do you know the most frequently asked questions on Google about your type of products?

8. SEO is built into your website design.

There are several factors that you may not think of as “SEO” but in fact have a pivotal effect on the success of SEO: website structure, navigation, internal link architecture, information architecture.

In addition to the above items that Lyngbø mentions a more recent belief is that Engagement Metrics such as time on site and bounce rate will (if not already) affect rankings. So if your website is poorly designed and your visitors are constantly leaving after spending only a second or two, your SEO could suffer.

9. Your rankings on search engines are not limited to your own site, either.

One important thing to understand with SEO is that many components are outside of your control. As much as there is to do when optimizing a website there are a number of things you don’t control, such as:

  • The area your searcher is located
  • The age of your domain
  • The direct competition going after visibility for the same types of Search Phrases
  • Plus indirect competition that Google also favors for your targeted Search Phrases

Changing Your Thinking Towards SEO as a Leader

In conclusion Lyngbø gives words of encouragement:

“Integrating SEO into all that you do, both offline and on, can enhance your results and speed up your growth.”

So how are you doing with integrating SEO into every fiber of your business? In our experience our clients who achieve the best success with us are all in and willing to do everything it takes – both online and offline.

If you need to start SEO for the first time or have realized it’s time to start taking SEO more seriously by hiring a qualified and experienced SEO expert give us a call at 1-888-262-6887 and we’d be happy to speak with you!

google-quality-update-may-2015Google recently confirmed that it indeed changed its algorithm earlier this month.

Many website owners and SEO’s started noticing changes in rankings in early May although Google kept saying there were no updates. Some were even calling it the “Phantom Update” because everyone noticed something was happening but Google wouldn’t acknowledge it.

Finally Google confirmed with Search Engine Land that there were changes to its core ranking algorithm in terms of how it processes quality signals.

In the first few days of confirmation the May 2015 Google update is being affectionately called the Quality Update. Google has not recently given any specifics of how they now measure quality but based on past statements and Webmaster Guidelines we can know that quality is measured through a wide range of factors. It is likely Google is shifting the importance weighting of some factors or even considering new quality factors in the mix.

In the past Google has given us insight into how to create quality which still holds true today:

“The key to creating a great website is to create the best possible experience for your audience with original and high quality content. If people find your site useful and unique, they may come back again or link to your content on their own websites. This can help attract more people to your site over time.”

Does your website pass Google’s quality test? Have you noticed a change in ranks or traffic lately? Do you have a strong, quality website that not only maintained its positioning but perhaps gained in rankings this May?

Here’s some tips for writing valuable and quality content straight from Google if you need help boosting the quality of your website:

  • Make your website useful and informative – gather all the information your visitors are looking for and will need, and organize it so it is easy to find.
  • Make your website more valuable and useful than your competitors – do something different, say more than others, add different perspectives, and stand out in a good way.
  • Make your website credible – you want visitors to trust you and the information on your site by citing sources, adding testimonials, sharing author biographies, and including other trust factors such as badges and awards.
  • Make your website engaging – you need to interact with your visitors through pictures of your products or team.
  • Make sure your website stays up to date – you can add a blog, comments boxes, social media widgets, or an events page to keep your website fresh.
  • Make your content perfect – you need to double and triple check for spelling, stylistic and factual errors throughout your website.
  • Make your website distraction-free – make sure visitors don’t leave your site because of excessive ads, spam, or glaring mistakes in information.

At 1st on the List we offer both Site Audits and Content Optimization to help assess the current quality score of your website and add new content to your website that Google will love to read and rank.

Call us at 1-888-262-6687 ext 705 to get more information today!

Do you ever read an article where you find yourself thinking, “I couldn’t have said it better”?

This Search Engine Land article written by Trond Lyngbø (Head of SEO at MediaCom Norway) caught my attention as I found myself agreeing, Yes, Yes, Yes. Lyngbø makes several bold statements about how many businesses fail to keep up with Google’s rapid rate of change and the risks of doing this:

  • You’re losing revenue if you ignore how Google adapts and evolves.
  • Your business’ success is intimately linked to Google.
  • Many companies do not think about SEO in the early planning stages of website development. They mistakenly believe SEO is itself a “one-off item”.
  • SEO has never remained static. It never will.
  • Google’s efforts to evolve and adapt are driven by the desire to server users better. When you align your business with Google’s quest … you will win.

Trond Lyngbø’s key takeaways actually apply to running a successful business in general, and not just SEO.

  1. Don’t hurry – make strategic long term plans.
  2. Adapt and evolve, just like Google.
  3. Integrate organic search into larger marketing strategies.
  4. Spend time on what drives revenue.
  5. Care about your users, just like Google.

Read the entire article here:


Google is at it again with their algorithm updates.

This time they’ve gone after local search results and Search Engine Land has affectionately nicknamed the update “Pigeon” in its early days.

While there is still a lot of speculation and many are trying to determine just what type of effect Pigeon will have on local businesses there are some important facts you need to know. In this article we have compiled some of the most important questions about Pigeon and how it will affect your website’s visibility in search. Make sure to scroll to the end as we also give some pointers to start benefiting from Pigeon!

When did the Google Pigeon Update occur?

Google launched the Pigeon update on Thursday, July 24, 2014.

What is Pigeon algorithm update?

Unlike previous Penguin and Panda updates, Pigeon does not address quality or spam but is more of a fundamental change to the local search ranking algorithm. This is not a penalty based algorithm aimed at getting rid of low quality content from Search Results but instead a change to the actual search ranking algorithm itself.

Why is it called Pigeon?

Search Engine Land nicknamed this latest Google update Pigeon, in keeping with Google’s “P” animal naming system (Penguin, Panda). Pigeons are known to fly back home, which is fitting for this local search update. In the next few days we may get Google’s official name for this latest update.

How many queries are affected by Pigeon?

Usually Google gives an estimate of how many searches are affected by each of their updates. They have not released this percentage for Pigeon as of yet.

What Google Search results does Pigeon affect?

These updates apply to both Google Maps search results and Google Web search results.

So what is Pigeon all about?

Google says that this new local algorithm goes “deeper into their web search capabilities, including the hundreds of ranking signals they use in web search along with search features such as Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more.”

What does that mean?

Previously small and local businesses had the advantage of being “local” and would appear in results for people who were searching within their proximity. According to Search Engine Land, as Google ties local results more closely to standard web raking signals we can expect bigger sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor (which have stronger SEO signals) to rank better than individual restaurants, hotels and other local-type businesses.

Many speculate that local search has just gotten a lot more difficult.

Is Pigeon worldwide?

Google has only launched Pigeon updates in US English search results so far. It is still to be known whether it will apply to other languages and countries. Furthermore, many SEOs speculate that the update is still in testing stages.

What type of changes have been noticed so far?

  • Google’s distance and location ranking parameters are said to be improved.
  • Local directories are getting better visibility in Google search results, particularly for restaurants. For example, a search for “Seattle Restaurants” shows some specific restaurants in the carousel but also lists directory sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Open Table.
  • Yelp listings are now showing at the top of search results when the word “Yelp” is used in the search.
  • Some have noticed that local listing packs (Google Places listed right in search results) have diminished. Mike Blumenthal reports a 24% drop, from being shown in 12% of localized results to being shown in only 9% of localized search results.
  • It also seems that local results for web designers and SEOs is back!

What can you expect from Pigeon?

It is still early to know how this update may affect your website traffic. Search Engine Land predicts that “some local businesses may notice an increase or decrease in web site referrals, leads and business from the change.”

Are there any bugs with Pigeon so far?

After the Pigeon update people noticed that Expedia was showing in the local carousel for a “New York Hotels” search along with Sheraton, Hilton, Marriot and other hotels. This issue has since been fixed (their Google+ local listing was in the travel category and has since been changed to Corporate Headquarters category) but it makes the important point that the category you choose to list yourself in is crucial!

What I can do in light of what we know about Pigeon so far?

  1. Make sure you claim your Google+ Local Listing and are in the right category. Provide enough content and pictures to entice visitors to come to your place of business.
  2. Make sure you are listed on the major directory sites relevant to your industry, as these seem to appear in Search Results more.
  3. Do a search for several of your most popular search terms to see what type of results Google is now showing. Are you still competing against your competitors’ websites or are you now up against several big players such as Yelp? You may need to readjust your online strategy.
  4. As your local listings become more dependent on your website authority it is extremely important to build out the content on your website, gather more customer reviews, find ways to attract credible backlinks and even conduct an SEO Audit to make sure your website has all the fundamental optimization to rak well.

For additional optimization tips read our Tips for Successful Local Business Listings!

Are You Scared of Pigeons?

If you are a local business and realizing you may need some extra optimization to help maintain your visibility, call us at 1-888-262-6687 or send us an email at We’d be happy to offer our services of optimizing your website, claiming your Google+ Listings or even run an AdWords campaign to help subsidize traffic.

Have you already noticed a change in your local rankings and traffic? What are your thoughts?

Have you heard the news that the Google quality rating guidelines which is essentially a handbook used by Google employees to manually review websites was leaked to the public recently?

The Google quality guidelines handbook gives us some very important clues as to how Google evaluates your quality in terms of:

  • Expertise
  • Authority
  • Trust
  • Reputation

This forms the basis of the EAT quality concept – that quality websites display expertise, authority and trust, thus creating a solid reputation.

The EAT concept isn’t completely new – we’ve known for the last couple years that Search Visibility is a result of credibility – but some specific points on how Google determines credibility is new.

You can still view the entire 160 page Google Quality Guideline March 2014 document on for the time being. If you don’t have time to read through it in its entirety, here are a few major takeaways you may be interested in.

1. Expertise varies by topic.

Each subject area has its own way to qualify as an expert – qualifying as a medical expert is much different than qualifying as a hobby expert.

2. Ads still contribute to low quality.

These new guidelines place a bigger emphasis on advertising, and not just deceptive or spammy advertising above the fold. Raters need to evaluate if there is an overabundance of ads.

3. Supplementary content matters.

Google places a higher emphasis on supplementary content and not just navigation and footer. An example is showing similar makes of an item on an e-commerce site. Overall, supplementary content contributes to a better user experience.

4. Poor page design will hurt you.

Some page design features Google points out as hurtful are popups and inserting ads between content.

5. Each page must have a purpose.

Google will give a low rating to any page that has a lack of purpose. This includes auto generated pages.

6. EAT sites give About and Contact information.

Google’s raters look for signs of credibility on each website which includes an About Us page, contact page, customer service information.

7. Evaluation can be done by the page or by the website.

Google raters are told that sometimes they will need to evaluate based on the whole website whereas

Essentially you need to think of your visitor needs and how you can provide the best experience and give them exactly what they are looking for when they come to your website.

Need help with a Website User Experience Audit? Contact our SEO Team to get started!