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Google Expanding Their Business Offerings for SMBs

Posted by on Jun 28, 2017 in Google Maps, Google Updates, Local Optimization | Comments Off on Google Expanding Their Business Offerings for SMBs

With so much happening in the world with businesses, regulations, and consumer engagement, it was only a matter of time before Google began working on ways to expand it’s reach (and revenue) through SMBs. Google+ was one of the first foray into these types of efforts, beyond Google Local and Google My Business.

Google Hire

By now, you likely heard about Google Hire or Hire with Google. This function is now enabled and allows job seekers to find available job posts right in the search results. Are career placement services, staffing services, and job search tools a thing of the past? No, of course not. Concierge career services help both businesses and job seekers connect, often taking on the role of hiring manager or talent agent. Google is not going to operate in this capacity. The hiring application is really a job posting solution for businesses.

Google acquired Bebop, a startup focused on productivity and enterprise tools, in 2015, that is the backbone–we believe–of this functionality. The tool isn’t fully active yet but offering to let you sign up for announcements at hire.withgoogle.com.

Google Posts Via Google My Business

Access to the Google Posts is found in Google My Business. Enabled accounts should show a “Posts” option for your business listing(s). The posts can be from 100-300 words, feature for images, videos, and GIFs like most social media updates but Google Post will only display the first 100 words of your Post (ref. RevLocal, Google Apps). Posts appear directly in Google search results, as such they are extremely quick to load. Business posts can contain a status update (similar to something you’d post on social media) or an image. Some appear as a carousel of images and text; searchers can use right and left arrows to scroll through the post contents.

Google Posts for Local Businesses

Posts appear on your Google business listing. Customers can tap to read the full post, and they can also share your post with their friends directly from Google.

Despite what some outlets are saying about these updates (looking at you SEL), these changes are inline with Google’s business model and desire to focus on business. Why should Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social platforms have all the social fun? The concern however, with these and other changes like AMP, are that Google is taking content from the businesses, websites, and references. Historically, the search engine facilitated traffic reaching the content on the site’s of the content owner. SEL and others worry that as Google continues to use content, resources, and details from publishers, users won’t reach the properties themselves, reducing the value of organic for these businesses.

The Wrapper

The concern is valid, but ultimately, Google can’t be every business, provide every product, solve all the problems. Is it right that they play intermediary? No, not really, but in the end, users and consumers reach the answers to their queries by finding the businesses that can help them through a mixture of digital solutions, to include Google.

Malware & Ransomware Everywhere: What The Hack?!

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Information Technology, Security | Comments Off on Malware & Ransomware Everywhere: What The Hack?!

  1. If you’re stumbling across this post, you’ve likely been researching the latest events to hit the digital world, ransomware. Namely the WannaCry and the Petya ransomware attacks. I’ll spare the fluff and get into the meat.

We thought it would be good to craft an article to help educated our clients and teams on what these threats really are. Although these types of attacks don’t directly impact search platforms, they have ramifications that impact several systems that are all interconnected; from healthcare to banks and financial institutions. As the term “ransomware” implies, these attacks encrypt vital systems and computer data to prevent users from accessing the information. The only remedy is to pay for the system to be decrypted by the same party that encrypted the computer or wipe the system clean. According to many cybersecurity experts, these malware attacks are only the beginning of a growing trend that proactive measures can help stem.

Petya Ransomware Effected ATM

Petya Ransomware Effected ATM in the UK. C/o Telegraph

How Did This Happen?

Malware, ransomware, oh my! They all have the same mission, disrupt with the goal of generating funds to illicit individuals using their computer talents for ‘evil.’ As no one knows what they are really doing with the funds these efforts generate, we can only assume they are up to nefarious no-good with the ransoms or bot network generated revenue. With WannaCry and Petya, the vulnerabilities were identified in Microsoft and Microsoft Office operations.

WannaCry (also known as Wanna Decrypt0r) leveraged an operating system vulnerability in outdated versions of the Microsoft operating system, including Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 (ref. Fortified Health Security). And, although Microsoft had put a patch out for the vulnerability, some major organizations, such as the National Health Service, neglected to update, and were hit on May 12th.

Petya (also known as Goldeneye and Petwrap) struck the European and Russian areas early today, quickly spreading through systems of networks worldwide, even as far as Australia. With Petya, the system made use of a Microsoft Office vulnerability (again, patched earlier this year CVE-2017-0199) and once it found it’s in, it altered the Master Boot Record. What made this ransomware even more dangerous is it’s ability to use the data on a networked computer to log into other networked computers and propagate further.

Where Did These Infections Come From?!

No one knows just yet. However, based on the code architecture and the way both of these malware attacks operate, it is known that they are built from knowledge gained from the National Security Agency leak of cyber tools. The NSA connection is based on programmed vulnerability, an exploit called EternalBlue, that would give the agency access to systems using the compromised programming. Worser still, there could be other programs waiting in the wings or mining data right now… (ref. The Verge).

The Wrapper

If you’ve been impacted, nothing less than a full factory restart will do. Having regular and secure offline backups is always a good plan. There are several methods for performing backups online as well. For enterprises, there are several resources focused on preventing and being proactive, offering do’s and don’ts with malware/ransomware. The best thing to do is either get a Mac or make sure your computers are updated regularly. Sh!+ will inevitably hit the fan, it’s unpreventable. Being prepared is always step zero. Backing up is step one.

 

New Year & 2017’s Big SEO Areas

Posted by on Jan 15, 2017 in Business Strategy, Search Engine Optimization | Comments Off on New Year & 2017’s Big SEO Areas

Happy New Year, CSEOers! Here’s hoping your winter holidays were merry, bright, and more. It’s 2017 now, though, and it’s already go time. We saw some big changes in UX trends and more updates from Google’s Penguin and Possum in 2016. While these changes were great for users and consumers of web content, these updates left a lot of people scrambling to catch up to these changes. But we don’t want you to fall behind in 2017, which is why we’ve put together this list.

Here’s what you can expect in SEO in the new year:

  • Mobile First

OK, so this isn’t exactly news, but what is new is the way that people are consuming content is. More and more people are using their phones, so having a responsive, UX friendly, optimized mobile site is key. Google AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages was all talk this past year. AMP is a framework that Google implemented so pages load faster.

This will take a little time to set up on your site, and your users may not recognize they’re using an AMP site, nor will they necessarily care, and switching your framework will involve rewriting some content to fit your new needs. Take some time to see if AMP is right for your needs, but also note that in November of last year, Google announced “experiments” to make indexing mobile-first, which almost definitely means that it’ll happen this year. You’ll have to make the switch sooner or later, so why not add that to your list of resolutions and get it done sooner.

Do not, however, neglect desktop, just make sure that the content presented on mobile and desktop pages is the same. Our next trend will see more changes to mobile, but in the way that mobile content is presented.

  • Progressive Web Apps

What? Don’t worry if you hadn’t heard of them before now. Google’s definitions is:

A Progressive Web App uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience.

Basically, we’ll be seeing mobile sites take the place that apps would, and mobile sites will present more like apps. Theoretically, they’ll be great for any browser, since they’re built with progressive enhancement, they’ll be responsive, and since they’ll look and feel like apps, they’ll feel fresh and exciting. App development will also be an interesting field to watch this year, however, we’ll emphasize: This is not something you need. And we’re not entirely sure on how it’ll rank, but know it’s a cool bonus and we’ll see PWAs a lot more in 2017.  Moz has even more information on PWAs if you’re so inclined.

  • Longer Content

Content will always be king, but now we’re seeing emphasis on longer posts. Google Bots have updated to conduct smarter searches, and are prioritizing longer, more informative content (read: higher quality) are now favored over the 300-500 word articles, which bots can flag as “spam”, even if the amount of time spent on the page is the same.

The reasoning for favoring 700-1000 word articles is that is the approximate word count/length necessary for an author’s authority to come through. What is also does is give you more room to work out your keyword readability. Keyword density is not totally a thing of the past – keep your buzzy headlines and first paragraph – but Google is now favoring keywords up top and joined association with complementary phrases.

Want more? PC Mag made a handy chart of the best SEO tools of 2017 to implement all these new changes. Happy New Year, everyone, and let’s hope it’s better than 2016.

Updates on Social Media Strategies & Updates on Facebook Organic Reach

Posted by on Dec 28, 2016 in content & content optimization, Social Media | Comments Off on Updates on Social Media Strategies & Updates on Facebook Organic Reach

As 2016 comes to a close (good riddance, too!) We’ve seen some significant updates to the way that people are using social media in 2017. We’ve also noticed some declines in Facebook posts’ Organic Reach, which we’ll cover in this post, too. Let’s get started!

What’s Trending? Well, a lot of the same stuff that we saw in 2016, but with a continued emphasis on mobile.

I.M. ME

Facebook is pushing their messenger app harder than ever, and all of the top instant messaging apps (WhatsApp, WeChat, HeyTell, and Viber) have more users than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram according to Forbes. That’s a HUGE pool of people, and millennials are driving this trend. Messaging is their preferred form of communication.

Marketers are also taking notice. A lot of Facebook ads now come with a chat feature, and service websites are seeing similar popup chat-boxes. Users want to connect directly with your brands, so if you don’t already have a bot in place like to contact a new follower via message, you may want to consider something like Botsify or Chatfuel that gets the conversation started (It’s also worth nothing that these bots are a trend in themselves, also making the rounds in social conversations and message boards.)

EVERYONE’S STREAMING

Another big trend expected to grow in 2017 are Live Videos. Instagram introduced their live video feed this year, and Facebook live launched. Candace Payne went viral with her Chewbacca mask, and Facebook and Instagram are backing these live video efforts.

Facebook’s algorithm pushes live video to the top of your feed (and more on why you’re seeing what you’re seeing in your Facebook feed and the decline of organic reach in a second,) and Instagram notifies you when a friend stars a live message. Now even major news and media sites are using live video on their feeds.

Ok, so you’re messaging, you have your live videos – but my posts aren’t reaching as far as they used to!

No, they aren’t. Facebook updated their newsfeed algorithm for a few reasons:

One is that there is too much content being published to Facebook. More than a billion people use Facebook, and with all of those posts, photos or updates, it’s harder for content to show up on your feed for any significant amount of time. This led to the next reason for the algorithm change: Facebook’s algorithm update prioritizes posts from family and friends.

Users are getting content more specifically for them, as opposed to all of the content that could show up on your feed. You’ll notice ads based on recent online searches or page likes, and the rest of the posts from people you have followed. This is to prevent users from getting overwhelmed from the sheer amount of content in their feeds, and to help users get content that is specifically tailored to them.

However, you can counteract these changes a little bit with something you already have in your SEO toolbox:

Keep publishing quality content.

Being more selective about your posts means your followers will notice an update.

The Wrapper

Boost posts for maximum reach. All it takes is $10-$20 to get a lot more reach, and if you boost high-quality posts that are doing well on their own, you’ll maximize your dollars spent. Also, periodically remind your followers/page fans that they can update their settings to see your content in their news feeds. We’ve all come to expect a simple “Like, share and subscribe!” with our posts or as outros to our videos, and that simple of a call to action can be enough to get back to the top of that feed!

Goodbye Keyword Research…

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Google Adwords | Comments Off on 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.

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):

Comparing SEO terms in Tennessee

Comparing SEO terms in Tennessee

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.

Plan your budget and get forecasts

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.

Keyword Planner Forecast for SEO

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 of paid marketers to research and plan keyword-based search ads just to reduce the amount of freeloaders that make use of their tools without ever using Adwords. (Image: throwing a baby out with the bath water) That said, the change makes sense when tied to RankBrain, semantic web, and personalized/predictive search.

The value of the keyword, from a search perspective, isn’t just the keyword itself, but how Google delivers media to users via the term used. Step into the mind of a user searching for, say, “best burgers in town” and most can understand how several long and short tail queries could align with this search. We have all put our faith in search systems to provide us with the answers to our burning questions and over the years, they have refined that craft just as we, the brand ambassadors and marketeers, have refined and redefined ours.

It’s just good business… savvy?

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End. Walt Disney Pictures.

 

Getting Hacked: A Cautionary Tale

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in black hat, Information Technology, Security | Comments Off on 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.

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