Posts by A. Chris Turner

Goodbye Keyword Research…

For those SEOs in the audience, you are likely aware of the sad news, but for those just getting started or unaware, Google has killed the keyword planner used by so many in their keyword estimations, research, and planning. Okay, “killed” is a bit strong but damn it, we need some inside data, GOOGLE!   What Actually Changed Well, data is still being provided in Google Keyword Planner, but the keyword data isn’t isolated to exact-match of the keyword(s) entered anymore. In a RankBrain world, relevance matters, so the keyword planner now offers a consolidated search volume for similar, variations, and close synonyms of keywords. This update went into practice at the end of June, beginning of July. Over the course of the month, some users also experienced error messages stating: To use Keyword Planner, you need to have at least one active campaign. If you have an active campaign and are still seeing this message, try reloading Keyword Planner in a few minutes. Although, Google contradicted this messaging when users responded and questioned Google on social media. @recalibrate@jenstar@rustybrick@pedrodias To clarify, you do not need an active campaign to use the Keyword Planner. (2) — Google AdWords (@adwords) June 27, 2016 But I digress. The keyword planner, when using it to gather keyword data and find new keywords, the system gives the same volume for search variants. RankBrain does the same thing from an organic search perspective; hence the expected correlation between the two. Here is the example all us SEOs are using (usually just SEO vs Search Engine Optimization): What should be noted in the example above is that the competition, bid, and other segments appear to still align with specific keywords.   The Good, The Bad, and The Workaround Is this a sign that [not provided] is coming to Adwords too?! Will Google limit the number of keywords users can evaluate? Will we feeble marketers need to sacrifice young animals to obtain data from the Google gods? No, no, and hopefully not. That isn’t to say that we know everything Google has planned or up their sleeves but indications are that this change aligns well with organic search; where ads are meant to appear. Remember, Google isn’t a charity and the planner is meant to be used for paid media efforts–with Google. Although we love the tool and use it in a number of areas, not just for Adwords campaigns, that is its purpose. We can’t fault Google for aligning their tools together. So, how do you get some sweet, specific keyword average search volumes? Currently, the workaround is to use the budget planner (within the keyword tool) to get that data. In the “Plan your budget and get forecasts” block, you can specify the match type, targeting, and parameters. From there, the tool will provide daily forecast for the keywords entered. Depending on the match type, CPC bid, and budget you will see details for the clicks, impressions, cost, CTR, average CPC, and average position. In previous posts, we talked about pricing SEO, well, here is how you do some of that work. Make sure the move the selector to the plateau on the chart and open up the keyword group to see the specifics. Again, this update to the keyword planner and this workaround align well with Google’s strategy for organic search quality and personalization along with connecting paid media deeper to the overall strategy and search experience.   The Wrapper The purpose of Google’s Keyword Planner is to help marketers market things. They (Google) wouldn’t want to hurt their bottomline by taking away the ability...

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Getting Hacked: A Cautionary Tale

If you’ve been in the IT industry for a few years, then you’ve had the wonderful experience of dealing with hackers. Whether it’s a small, simple hack into your theme to mess with your links to a larger infiltration to takeover your website, hacks are a common occurrence and one every website faces. ChocolateSEO is no different. Although we’ve been safe since our inception in 2012, our strong run was marred recently by a mid-level hack that crashed our hosting and lead to the hackers being able to verify ownership of C.SEO in Google Search Console. There are different types of attacks, Denial of Service (DoS), PHP injection,  brute force, and many others. For us, the attack started with a PHP injection following brute force attacks on our login screen. The goal was to erase any existing content, setup aliases to spam URLs using “chocolateseo.com” and submit a faulty sitemap to Google using the ChocolateSEO’s Google Search Console account. The “fake” sitemap contained over 1,000 spam URLs and was very well formatted. Real slick there smooth… By having the GSC setup properly, we were alerted immediately that someone had been verified as an owner of the account (using an HTML file). As no one else was recently added to the staff, this was a very red flag. Not to mention the email, ful56675@gmail.com, being unfamiliar to the team. However, scouring the site, we couldn’t find any files matching the HTML file used to verify this gmail address. Once we finished chatting with the hosting company and pulling server logs, changing all MySQL and website passwords; our co-founder, Savannah, was able to locate this wonderful little code in our blog header PHP file. In short, this cool but evil little code generates a page dynamically to match any verification page Google may request. The dark side of PHP… Now, the issue was that when we evaluated files, the modification dates on the files hadn’t been changed recently, so our first scans missed this change in our core file. After consulting sites like, SecurityWeek and Sucuri, we needed a solution that would check the website (and our clients’ sites) against the known repository versus checking the last modification dates. The solution we chose was WordFence based on the recommendations of a few good friends of C.SEO. The Wrapper Everyone knows that WP and PHP have their weak points, but offer a lot of great functionality. Eventually, we all hit snags like this. Being prepared and having some type of prevention are always a necessity in the IT world. For most websites, high-level encryption, RSA tokens, and secondary-verification may be a bit of overkill. But, having strong passwords, regular backups, file version controls, and programs that block login page attacks are all easy ways to avoid issues like the one we faced this past week. And to the blackhaters… use your powers for good. Not sure if they are really based in China, but according to Whois, they are, and they are just trying to make a yen–but there are better ways to do that then attacking little guys trying to make an honest...

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RankBrain: An investigation of a Search AI

RankBrain. It sounds like some snake oil concoction an SEO thought up to help sell the local mom and pop shops on SEO. But, it’s not. It is actually one of the top ranking factors for Google. It’s existence was announced in October of last year, although the patent was submitted in 2012. So, what exactly is “RankBrain” and what does it do? RankBrain is officially considered an artificial intelligence system. Reason being is that it “naturally” evolves; growing in “intelligence” as time passes and it accepts search data. What search data you say? Your search data. Online search is considered natural and organic when users perform search actions without other input and as a way to find answers to their questions (queries). RankBrain’s intelligence is focused on evaluating the way organic search is being used, semantic web activity, events, and much more. So there are no worries about this AI developing sentience and enslaving us all. RankBrain is an artificial intelligence program, not a ‘true’ AI in the traditional Terminator or I, Robot sense. According to the actual patent, RankBrain focuses on contextual matching and substitution data to help improve the search results. What this means to the layman is that Google search results will “seem” more intelligent as it produces results that may include organic (and some paid results) that may not align directly to the query. Now, that doesn’t mean RankBrain replaces search results; it is one of the more than 200 search ranking signals used by the search engine. Even more so, it is one of the top three. The other two most important Google ranking factors? Content (duh) and links (double duh). Search Engine Watch pointed out that RankBrain fills in a need that exists around live updates. Content is and has always been and will likely going to always be, king. Links provide signals of importance, authority, and credibility of said content. But, what about live actions and search activity in connection to the content and links? Hello RankBrain! 15% of all queries completed each day are new. Furthermore, Search Engine Land outlined that Google processes 3 billion searches each day. With that and the 15% means 450 million entirely unique searches are created daily! Forbes‘ contributor and SEO Jayson DeMers offered a great outline of what RankBrain is NOT: Not the ‘new’ Knowledge Graph. (KG is a AIP too, but focused on offering definitions and details on the query) This isn’t an algorithm change or update. RankBrain isn’t a new type of search. It impacts what shows in the results. RankBrain isn’t a robot. It is really just mathematical equations working together. I think of it like compound interest, as time goes on and the calculations are completed, the completed calculations impact all future computations. Will there be more announced algo changes? In the past, Google would have to internally test updates, develop the change, then push the change live. This is where we got some of our fun names like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird to name the latest. Those days are over (or deprecated for the techies in the crowd). Now, if there are any changes to the algorithm, they will likely come in the form of live updates or “bolt on’s” to the current algorithm. That isn’t to say Google won’t update the core like when they switched to “Caffeine” in 2010 and “Hummingbird” in 2014. The Wrapper You’ve probably done a search or two since RankBrain was released on Google. Any changes to the SERP aren’t being completed by some robot locked in a closet. Design isn’t RankBrain’s forte, search is. Verve Developments offered some great examples of what RankBrain “physically” does to...

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Yext adds Google+ Support, Finally

For those of us marketers that have used Yext, the need for easier integration of Google local pages has been a sticking point for years. Although support has existed for setting up Yext to allow business owners and web marketers to allow Yext access to their Google+ profiles for posting to the Page of their choice, it has never synced listings on Google. The difference is around the valuable NAP information used to ensure citations align to the business in question along with promoting specials, the website, and other pertinent information. NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number and sometimes website (just like “Y” in the alphabet). However more often than not, the website is a key element. Each year Yext adds new partners and valuable services. By adding Google syncing services, they are now allowing users to sync to the largest search engine system in the world, literally. Google has roughly 70% of the search market and continues to put more emphasis on local and mobile. Syncing with Google make Yext viable for local lead generation as well as reinvigorates the value of the service to B2B services that resell the solution for directory management. According to the launch email, the sync option should be available on February 16th. Along with syncing, the integration will include: Rapidly update location data around closings or changes to opening hours across Google platforms (search, plus, and Maps). Control the data Google receives about your clients’ locations and ensure it is always consistent, authoritative, and up-to-date. Manage information on Google My Business and across the web from a single interface using the Yext Location Management Platform. There are a number of solutions that provide this type of service, WhiteSpark, SignPost, YellowPages, etc. So, what platform do you use (if, any) for this types of service? The Wrapper Sure, it’s been years since Google Maps came out and even more since the transitions from Maps to Local and Local to Google+ and Google+ to Google My Business, but hey, sometimes APIs aren’t easy to manage. It’s great that Yext is finally adding this functionality. For the sake of honesty, I do use Yext, but this isn’t a paid post and I have little dog in this fight. If there is a more worthwhile solution, I’d love to hear about it! Vendesta was a potential replacement, but just like BrightEdge for SEO, for the pricing and the SMB clientele C.SEO serves, it was a little pricy and more work than value at that level. #QuantityvsSize UPDATE Following the launch webinar, Yext has released the webinar recording along with details on how to integrate the Google+ Page into your Yext account. View the webinar (and the C.SEO shoutout) or follow the login link if you have a Yext account and ready to sync Google! You’ll need to still verify listings in Google but updates and changes can be made in Yext once syncing is linked up....

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Instagram expands advertising and support with Instagram Partners and connects Facebook

Instagram started as a simple photo sharing site. Once Facebook got involved, purchasing the 2-year old company for $715 million (first reported as 1 Billion), their intention was always to turn a profit. With the creation of Instagram Partner Program, Facebook/Instagram steps into their next evolution. Instagram started as an iPhone app on October 6, 2010. Ads, more of a type of sponsored posts, went live on Instagram on a few weeks ago, going global on September 30, 2015. The advertising update allowed for delivery of ads across both Facebook and Instagram (more info on that). Instagram Partners is similar to Google’s Adwords support where business partners have been given the authority to act as agents for Google. Instagram Partner Program is starting off with 40 partners that are specializing in three categories for businesses: ad tech which focuses on planning, buying, and optimizing ads. Community management, specializing in engagement and interaction with communities. Content marketing, which supports curation of content and sharing on the social platform. Make sure to read up on the ad platform and partners on the Instagram Tumblr page, Instagram for...

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