Optimizing for Hanukkah: Sometimes it’s still strings, not things

My wife came to me with a problem. She wanted festive, whimsical, and potentially matching Hanukkah pajamas. But there weren’t enough options coming up in Google under one spelling of the holiday’s name, so she told me she was systematically going through all spellings to compile her list of shopping items.
I was pretty surprised by this — I had expected Google to be smart enough to recognize that these were alternative spellings of the same thing, especially post-Hummingbird. Clearly, this was not the case.
Some background for those who don’t know: Hanukkah is actually a transliterated word from Hebrew. Since Hebrew has its own alphabet, there are numerous spellings that one can use to reference it: Hanukkah, Chanukah, and Channukah are all acceptable spellings of the same holiday.
So, when someone searches for “Hanukkah pajamas” or “Chanukah pajamas,” Google really should be smart enough to understand that they are different spellings of the same concept and provide nearly identical

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Visualizing your site structure in advance of a major change

In our last article, we looked at some interesting ways to visualize your website structure to illuminate how external links and PageRank flow through it. This time, we’re going to use the same tools, but we’re going to look instead at how a major site structure change might impact your site.
Search engine crawlers can determine which pages on your site are the most important, based, in part, on how your internal links are structured and organized. Pages that have a lot of internal links pointing to them — including links from the site’s navigation — are generally considered to be your most important pages. Though these are not always your highest-ranking pages, high internal PageRank often correlates with better search engine visibility.
Note: I use the phrase “internal PageRank,” coined by Paul Shapiro, to refer to the relative importance of each page within a single website based on that site’s internal linking structure. This term may be used

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A balanced approach to data-driven SEO

We have nearly unlimited access to information and data. For search marketers, this can be a blessing or a curse. It’s very easy to get sucked into the never-ending pool of data — but this rarely, if ever, benefits our work. So how do we protect ourselves from information overload?
Futurologist Alvin Toffler predicted in 1970 that the rapidly increasing amounts of information produced would eventually cause people problems. More than a few times, I’ve found myself overwhelmed and overloaded with information, and my guess is that you have also experienced this phenomenon.
If you take your SEO seriously, then you understand the necessity of tracking your efforts — after all, data is at the core of good SEO.
Management thinker Peter Drucker is often credited as saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” While I agree completely with the statement, it seems as though some SEOs have resorted to just measuring everything, which is simply not practical. If

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Links: To speed or not to speed

When we first started as an agency, our link builders were evenly split into two camps: One would send out a flurry of emails to all sorts of sites and deal with them if they responded. The other would spend a significant amount of time doing due diligence prior to outreach so that anyone who did respond had already been vetted.
I always thought it was a good idea to let each new link builder find his own way, so I didn’t usually express a strong opinion about this divide. I could see the points of view of both sides, too. Why bother doing a lot of work up front if the webmaster wasn’t even going to respond? Why disappoint webmasters who did respond when you couldn’t work with them?
On the whole, I have grown to favor the prior due diligence approach as opposed to casting a wide net. I’m firmly of the opinion that some link-building tasks

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It’s time to change your SEO reports!

You’d think that after a year or so of these posts, I’d run out of things to be on the soapbox about, right? Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, since they give me material to write about), there are still tons of mistakes and missteps out there in SEO land — and lots of marketers who need help.
This time around, I’m talking about SEO reports. I’ve taught several intensive Local SEO training courses at conferences all over the world, and monthly reports always come up. Marketers never seem to be really satisfied with what they’re providing to clients, and clients never seem to be really satisfied with the report they’re given every month.
The big problem is that most of us live in our little Local SEO bubbles and don’t fully consider how a layperson thinks about SEO. We live, eat, breathe and bleed SEO — some of you out there even name your pets after algorithm updates. No one

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Four brand-building activities that lay the foundation for SEO

At Google’s inception, one innovation differentiated it as a search engine: It used information gained from off-site sources to inform its estimation of the relevance, importance and quality of pages in its index. Originally, this source of off-site information was the network of links found by crawling the web.
Nearly two decades later, in 2017, with countless other rich data sources at its disposal, Google uses a more diverse and sophisticated set of data to determine just how big a deal you really are in the marketplace. In my experience over the past 10 years working in SEO, Google has always been pretty good at making this determination, and the signals have become harder and harder to fake over time.
At this point, the most efficient and sustainable path to making your company look like it is a significant player in the marketplace is to become a significant player in the marketplace. What does that mean for SEO folks?

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The changing SERP: Understanding and adapting to dynamic search results

Consumer search behaviors are changing rapidly. According to a recent report from BrightEdge (disclaimer: my employer), 57 percent of searches now begin with a mobile device, and last year Google revealed that voice search has increased to about 20 percent of all Google mobile search queries.
And of course, Google is constantly adjusting their SERP layout in order to better align with a searcher’s context and expectations. Consumers now expect to see rich content in SERPs that includes not just standard text listings, but video, images, local map results, featured snippets and more. The standard organic listings themselves also sometimes feature rich snippets, which enhance the listing by presenting information in a way that is easy to scan and often visually appealing.
Paid search ads have changed as well — in 2015, Google doubled the size of its highly visual product listing ads (PLAs), and last year they announced that up to four search ads could appear for “highly commercial queries,”

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Looking to get out of the SEO business? Good!

It’s not your imagination — there’s no denying that SEO has become increasingly difficult over the last few years.
A recent thread on WebmasterWorld highlighted this fact when a poster lamented the challenges he has faced adapting to changes in the SEO industry, and he said that he was considering leaving the industry entirely. This prompted Barry Schwartz to share a poll collecting feedback on the topic from a wider pool, and I was initially quite surprised to see that a large percentage of respondents shared the same concern as the original poster.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. I can definitely understand the frustration. You build a business based on what you think the rules are, and almost immediately, they seem to change.
Isn’t that the nature of every industry, though? Amazon, Uber and Netflix all shook their respective industries in seismic ways. And as that happened, we heard the same cries that things are getting too

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The four pillars of an effective SEO strategy

SEO can be complicated — in many cases, overcomplicated. How many ranking factors are involved in generating strong organic search results? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Two hundred?
A quick search for “SEO ranking factors” will give you all of these answers and myriad others. There is a lot of information out there. And the reality is, while there are likely hundreds of variables working together to determine final placement, much of what is suggested is guesswork. And certainly, not all ranking factors are relevant to every business.
Point being, it is easy to get lost down an algorithmic rabbit hole. It’s information overload out there, and you can spend all your time on a research hamster wheel and achieve very little.
In this article, I want to simplify things and outline the four main areas you should be focusing on with your SEO. Really, when it comes down to it, SEO is actually pretty simple at a strategic level.
The four pillars of

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Tips to troubleshoot your technical SEO

There are lots of articles filled with checklists that tell you what technical SEO items you should review on your website. This is not one of those lists. What I think people need is not another best practice guide, but some help with troubleshooting issues.
info: search operator
Often, [info:https://www.domain.com/page] can help you diagnose a variety of issues. This command will let you know if a page is indexed and how it is indexed. Sometimes, Google chooses to fold pages together in their index and treat two or more duplicates as the same page. This command shows you the canonicalized version — not necessarily the one specified by the canonical tag, but rather what Google views as the version they want to index.
If you search for your page with this operator and see another page, then you’ll see the other URL ranking instead of this one in results — basically, Google didn’t want two of the same page in their

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