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  SEO Newsletter | Volume 141 | February 24, 2016 This Month's News
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What Should You Expect from a Search Engine?

Author: Duane Forrester

Ever wondered what motivates a search engine to update its algorithm? Updates are a move from one state to a more advanced state. Updates happen because … pause for drum roll … something undesirable is happening! The end goal is making searchers happy.

After six years as a search engine representative, Duane Forrester describes the busy interior of a search engine. His experience guides his answers to these SEO questions:

  • When do search engines make updates?
  • How do engines feel about SEO?
  • How can businesses appeal to search engines?

Read more

  Back to Basics

A Week in the Life of an SEO Trainer

Author: Mindy Weinstein

Our SEOToolSet® training is not your typical SEO training course. By the numbers, we cover a massive binder of material, or two, depending on which course you take. And more than 5,000 people so far have attended our classes worldwide.

What’s harder to quantify is how the classroom becomes a place where friendships and business collaborations are formed. For three years, Director of Training Mindy Weinstein has watched people transform their businesses and move ahead in their careers after three to five days in her course. In this article from the trainer's perspective, Mindy shares:

  • What a business owner learned at SEO training that caused her to send four employees to the class.
  • What a manager took away from three days of training, including tools subscriptions and relationships.
  • How a black hat transformed his approach from exploitation to improvement in a week of intensive Q&A with trainer Mindy Weinstein.

Read more


Hot Topic


In what infamous computer hacker and whistleblower Edward Snowden is calling the "most important tech case in a decade," a federal judge has ordered Apple to build a "backdoor" into its next iPhone operating system that would allow the FBI to unlock any iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook is fighting the order. He wrote an open letter to customers citing why such a software feature would be "too dangerous to create."

Though Apple has complied with federal investigators' requests to unlock dozens of iPhones belonging to criminal suspects in the past, the current order goes further.

Other tech companies are voicing their support for Apple's stance. Google CEO Sundar Pichai as well as Snowden took to Twitter to publicly support Apple's position, agreeing that a backdoor to hack into any iPhone would jeopardize users' privacy. Twitter and Facebook agreed.


Education Matters


Last week, we invited some of the most respected SEO, PPC and social media speakers to join us live to discuss the hot topics of their respective fields. Each guest is speaking at SMX West 2016, and this is your chance to hear their latest strategies — for free from the comfort of your desk!

Today, we'll also be hosting an interview with Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes and Search Quality Analyst Nathan Johns at 3:30 p.m. PST. Join us today!

You will also want to view these pre-SMX interviews that we broadcast last week:

• Social Media Marketing hangout

In the Social Media Marketing Hangout, Mark Traphagen and Dustin Stout discuss common design mistakes they would like to rid the world of, the questions they're asked most frequently, and their views on emerging social platforms, including a lively debate on the brand value of Snapchat.

• Paid Search hangout

Two of the Bing Ads team's finest, Purna Virji and Christi Olson, talk paid search alongside David Szetela in this PPC Hangout. Find out how they advise on Product Listing Ads and Shopping Campaigns. They also share how to keep ads creative and how they're incorporating social ads into a paid search strategy.

• SEO hangout

Duane Forrester, Marshall Simmonds, Casie Gillette and Sha Menz take on the topics of linkless attribution, dark search, and digital marketing balance in this hard hitting SEO Hangout.

Remember, all next week we'll be covering SMX West live on the BCI blog. Sign up for emails when a new blog post is up with our handy new blog subscribe feature on the right side of the blog!




The head of Google search, Amit Singhal, is leaving the company to devote his time to philanthropy and family. His farewell letter on Google+ is characteristically warm and positive, and recounts the journey that included working for Google for the last 15 years. The former head of Google's web spam team, Matt Cutts, penned a word of appreciation for Singhal's contributions to search on his personal blog.

Taking over Singhal's position will be John Giannandrea, the current VP of engineering who has led artificial intelligence projects including RankBrain and has been at Google for six years. According to a Re/code report, Google has merged its search and research divisions under Giannandrea.

Cyrus Shepard announced he is leaving Moz after five years with the company. The former director of audience development plans to start a boutique online publishing/media company tentatively named Fazillion to "produce content with heart."

Four top Twitter executives resigned, causing Twitter's stock price to fall by three percent: Senior Vice President of Engineering Alex Roetter, Vice President of Global Media Katie Jacobs Stanton, HR Vice President Skip Schipper and Senior Vice President of Product Kevin Weil. According to CEO Jack Dorsey, COO Adam Bain and CTO Adam Messinger will be taking on additional responsibilities in the wake of these departures.

Twitter's departing product SVP Kevin Weil will be joining Instagram as its head of product, filling the vacancy created earlier this month when Peter Deng transferred to another Facebook-owned property, Oculus.

On the hiring side, Twitter announced that former American Express executive Leslie Berland has been named chief marketing officer. Natalie Kerris has been hired to head Twitter's communications unit (and report to new CMO Berland). Kerris formerly worked in PR and communications at Apple for 14 years, until her departure in April 2015.

The online measurement and analytics company comScore acquired Rentrak, a business whose TV and cinema audience tracking will complement comScore's Internet and mobile behavior tracking to enable cross-platform audience measurement.




Beyond the shindigs we highlight below, you can find more than 100 Internet marketing events happening around the world in our updated Digital Marketing Conference Calendar.

SMX West 2016 is coming to San Jose, California, March 1–3. Our team will be there! Arrive a day early and learn from Bruce Clay himself at the one-day SEO Training Workshop on Feb. 29. Use the discount code WS-BC10 to get 10 percent off registration. Be sure to say hello!

The second annual SEJ Summit Santa Monica will be at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on April 13. The show is sure to live up to its theme, A Day of Keynotes, with presentations by Googlers Maile Ohye and John Brown, Microsoft's Kevin Henrikson, and SEO leaders from Disney and LinkedIn. SEJ presented our readers with a special offer — $100 off the early bird ticket rate. The offer ends March 11, so register here.

ClickZ Live (formerly SES) happens April 11–13 in New York City.

Our next SEOToolSet Training Course will be in Southern California March 14–16 for Standard and March 15 and 16 for Advanced. For the first time, Google will be hosting Happy Hour for the class on Tuesday! Join us for this special face-to-face opportunity with Google.


Sound Bytes


Like what you read? Enjoy the weekly digital marketing podcast SEM Synergy with host Bruce Clay. Here are the latest episodes available to stream online or download to your podcast app. Subscribe on iTunes to get new episodes sent straight to your mobile.

Amplifying Your Content and Concerns over AMP

First up, content marketers Virginia Nussey, Mindy Weinstein and Kristi Kellogg talk about how to improve your content by focusing on being useful. Then, what about Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)? You'll hear arguments opposing the idea from Bruce Clay, Robert Ramirez and the rest of the team.

Branding Yourself to Better Your Business

Dive into practical ways to use today’s latest social media platforms like SnapChat, Blab, Periscope and Meerkat. In this episode of SEM Synergy, Duane Forrester, Virginia Nussey, and Kristi Kellogg provide tips on how to brand your business using them. The show ends with a discussion on the connection between personal brand and a company brand.

What To Expect from a Search Engine?

In a recent blog post, Duane Forrester reveals what motivates search engines and shares when and why they conduct updates. In this episode of SEM Synergy, Mindy Weinstein, Virginia Nussey, and Robert Ramirez follow up with Duane and dig deeper into why he believes user experience optimization is the bigger picture of internet marketing.

Deep Dive into PPC Hot Topics with David Szetela

Product Listing Ads and mobile site conversations get all the attention in this PPC-centered discussion with David Szetela, our VP of search marketing. In this episode, David chats with Virginia Nussey and Kristi Kellogg about exactly how he’s incorporating social ads in his paid search strategy, which PPC features he likes best, making the most of call tracking, and more.




In an effort to teach more people how to solve "real and interesting problems with deep learning techniques," Google is offering a free online course through Udacity on deep learning and Google's recently open-sourced machine learning platform, TensorFlow. The self-paced but intensive Deep Learning Course requires an estimated six hours of work per week for three months, and is recommended for people with at least two years of programming and some machine learning experience.

Twitter is cracking down on accounts using the platform to promote extremist violence and terrorism. The company has increased the size of its review team and has suspended 125,000 Twitter accounts since mid-2015 for "threatening or promoting terrorist acts, primarily related to ISIS."

Facebook has also stepped up its anti-terrorism efforts with a Europe-wide campaign called "Initiative for Civil Courage Online."

Instagram now allows users to switch between multiple accounts on an iOS or Android phone. This feature makes it easier for brand managers to manage multiple Instagram accounts from their mobile phones.

Three clever tweets won their creators $50,000 each by winning Doritos's "Crash the Second Screen" contest for the most creative social media posts about the chips on Super Bowl Sunday.


Word on the Wire


Google has been pushing its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project hard this month. AMP is an effort to make the mobile web faster as well as an attempt by Google to eliminate the need for ad blockers, which many people use to make browsing faster but which threaten Google’s ad revenues. Today, AMP went live in Google search results, showing AMP content in a carousel for some queries. A few weeks ago, Google launched an AMP testing tool for webmasters’ use. While best suited for publishers, AMP is not suitable for every business.

On Friday, Feb. 19, Google rolled out ad layout changes in its search results, removing text ads from the right-side column and increasing the number of text ads at the top of results for “highly commercial queries” to four. Google said that only PLAs and ads within the Knowledge Panel will be shown on the right. These changes make desktop SERPs look more like mobile results, but impact the visibility of organic results by pushing them farther down the page. The impact on AdWords costs is yet to be seen.

Google released a brand new version of its Webmaster Guidelines, after its redesign of Google Search Console last month. Jennifer Slegg has done SEOs a service by documenting the changes.

Google's John Mueller announced on Google+ that Google now supports JSON-LD in addition to schema for structured data markup of Reviews and Products. Structured data markup is what enables rich snippets to display in search results.

Google confirmed this week that when you move a website from http: to https:, there's no PageRank lost through the 301 (or 302) redirects. This point was one of 13 FAQs that John Mueller posted in G+ to help answer people's questions about moving to a secure site.

Google recently began seeking user suggestions in two parts of the SERP. First, you can now suggest changes to a Knowledge Graph card if you are an official representative of the person or company the card is about. Second, some featured snippets at the top of a search results page now contain "Is this helpful? Yes/No" to allow feedback.

Google took down a link network in Japan and announced it on the Japanese Google Webmaster Blog. It's the first time Google has publicly announced a link network penalty since 2014, causing some to wonder whether this may be the first of many.

Alphabet is in discussions with European governments to try to settle tax claims related to Google search, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai and EU's anti-trust chief will meet on Feb. 25. Google has agreed to pay $185 million in back taxes to the UK for profits made from UK advertisers 2006–2011, during which Google paid taxes through its subsidiary in Ireland, where tax rates are lower. The company agreed to pay UK taxes more commensurate with its UK earnings from now on.

In other news, Google has agreed to cooperate further with the EU's landmark ruling known as Right To Be Forgotten by scrubbing search results on all Google domains, including .com, on searches coming from Europe.

YouTube announced new Real-time ads that will enable advertisers to immediately jump on a trending topic, such as last year's "left shark" performance during the Super Bowl halftime show. Real-time ads can display across YouTube, apps, and the Google Display Network. Currently in beta with a few select brands, Real-time ads will be rolled out "more broadly later this year," according to the official announcement.

Nonprofit organizations in the U.S. can use YouTube's new donation cards to let people donate directly from a nonprofit's YouTube video, with 100 percent of the money going to the cause since YouTube is waiving any processing fee.

Picasa users need to know that Google is moving on from Picasa and transitioning users to Google Photos.

Google AdWords is rolling out a new format with four ads at the top of the page and none on the right. Google confirmed that this arrangement will apply to "highly commercial queries" where searchers have a high intent to purchase. The change applies to SERPs in all languages and worldwide.

Google released a new AdWords app for iOS that's available to all AdWords customers globally. Once downloaded, the app lets users monitor campaigns, update bids and budgets, and receive alerts on an iPhone.

Alphabet surpassed Apple this month as the most valuable company in the world. Google's parent company announced fourth-quarter financials showing quarterly revenue of $21.32 billion and per-share earnings of $8.67, far exceeding Wall Street expectations. The resulting after-hours trading sent the stock price up six percent.

Twitter announced the schedule for the #HelloWorld tour, an educational conference for developers interested in building for the Twitter platform. Dates are set from February to May in many cities worldwide.

Twitter's Q4 financials showed no growth in its user base, causing Twitter stock to slide 12 percent in after-hours trading. The company also announced a controversial new algorithm-based timeline called Show me the best tweets first, which is disabled by default for now — no doubt because when BuzzFeed reported rumors that Twitter was going to an algorithm-based feed instead of the current live timeline, a tweetstorm ensued with users and even celebrities protesting under the hashtag #RIPTwitter. Twitter plans to switch the new timeline on for all users in the coming weeks, and letting them turn it off if desired in settings.

Twitter may increase the length limit for tweets from 140 to 10,000 characters as early as this quarter. Though the timeline view would probably not change (since the user must tap/click to see the text beyond 140 characters), user backlash has been harsh. CEO Jack Dorsey responded that Twitter "will never lose that feeling," and though he avoided confirming that the change will happen, he emphasized the advantage of letting text be searchable — an ability that reporter Matt McGee observes would also help Twitter with ad targeting.

Twitter introduced First View, a new type of video ad that displays in the prime advertising spot on Twitter for 24 hours, appearing near the top of each user's tweet stream when first logging in.

Twitter also rolled out a new GIF button that lets users search for a GIF (thanks to partners GIPHY and Riffsy) and include it in a tweet or direct message.

Facebook's fourth quarter financials exceeded Wall Street predictions with net income above $1 billion for the first time, sending shares up by 14 percent following the announcement on Jan. 27.

Some new Facebook features have been announced. 1. Facebook Live Video streaming is now available to any iPhone user in the U.S., with rollouts planned for iPhone users worldwide as well as Android users in the coming weeks. 2. According to Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, Facebook Reactions will go live for users in the U.S. "in the next few weeks." The feature expands the Like button to offer five additional emojis — angry, sad, love, wow and haha. 3. Page admins can now reply privately to a public comment using a new Message option; Facebook promised the feature last August and has just released private message replies to all Pages.

The news hasn't all been rosy for Facebook, though. India's telecoms regulators blocked Facebook's Free Basics service on the grounds that it would violate net neutrality. Then a French appeals court ruled against Facebook for suspending a user's account that had posted a famous realist painting of a nude woman. As a result, Facebook was fined for censorship and a precedent was set for other lawsuits against Facebook outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Instagram began allowing 30-second video ads for advertisers, which is longer than the 15 seconds allowed for user videos, and is testing 60-second video ads with a few selected advertisers such as T-Mobile and Warner Bros.

Yahoo launched a redesigned home page and app to make it easier for people to find relevant content, follow developing news stories live, view comments inline, and converse with the Yahoo community. In other news, Yahoo's Q4 financials revealed revenue of $1.27, which beat Wall Street estimates. The company is cutting costs by reducing its workforce by 15 percent and closing its offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Milan. It is also considering selling off its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. Facing an uncertain future, Yahoo has formed a committee to explore "strategic options", including potential buyers, and may be headed for a board battle. Meanwhile, the company held its Mobile Developer Conference this month.

The latest search share statistics from comScore show that Google's share of desktop searches is 63.8 percent, down a little from the 67-ish range it held back in 2013 and 2014, while Bing's is up to 33.1 percent, a 5-point increase compared to 2013. Total desktop search volume, however, is decreasing, as might be expected with the rise of mobile search.

Hot Topics




Sound Bytes


Word on the Wire




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