March 27th, 2018

Reinforcing Your Brand via “People Also Search For”

Google has recently added a new feature to its SERPs where, if a user searches for something and visits one of the first page results then clicks back to the SERPs (a.k.a. “short click”), a box will be shown under the visited result with search suggestions, similar to those we have been seeing at the bottom of the SERPs for a few years already. Is this good for the users? – perhaps, as if they got back to the SERPs because they did not see what they expected on the site they just visited, this should in theory help them clarify their query. Is this good for Google? – you bet, they get to keep the users on their site for at least one more additional search (and increase their chances of clicking an ad as opposed to an organic result, too).

What’s in it for the sites ranking in the SERPs though?

Regardless of how well you rank, some “people also search for” suggestions (showing only for the first page results) can be a complete disaster:

Other sites displayed as suggestions in people also search for box

All right, Money Supermarket is a comparison site, so if the user has clicked back from it to the SERPs, perhaps they do indeed want to go to a provider site directly instead – but that’s complete value loss for Money Supermarket.

However, if you play your cards right, you can do much better and turn this new feature into a way to reinforce your brand to the searchers.

Example: Sky Vegas ranks number 1 for a great number of casino related queries in the UK, such as “online casino games”. If you click from that SERP to their site then come back to the SERP, this is what appears under it:

Turning People Also Search For into your site links

Out of 6 suggestions displayed, 3 are brand related – so Sky Vegas is pretty much turning this ominous visitor-stealing box into its own sitelinks – not unlike these:

site links

Of course, should a searcher click on one of these branded suggestions, they are taken to the SERPs fully dominated by Sky Vegas and have no other option but go back to the site:

fully branded serps

Sky Vegas is effectively turning these suggestions into its own site search, showing the searchers different options related to their initial search available on their site. And in fact, this is even better than aforementioned site links because this is also reinforcing the brand to Google – showing it that people search for the brand in connection with generic terms, further proving the brand’s importance!

So how to achieve this? – This is up to Google to decide what suggestions to display for any site in the SERPs, you cannot simply set them up somewhere in the Search Console or in the form of some markup on your site, but there are things you can do to improve your chances for a better outcome. Make sure people who search for generic terms your brand ranks for, also search for your brand plus whatever (semi)generic queries make sense for you because you have it on your site and could benefit from traffic to those pages. Make sure you (of course!) rank for those branded+generic queries – better yet, that you dominate those SERPs. Perhaps also make sure you have in-depth content covering different related topics on your site (cannibalisation? – mwahahahah)

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Sky Vegas, nor are they my client – this is just something I am observing in the SERPs.

Apart from the obvious visitor-retaining value, controlling your site’s “people also search for” suggestions is important to ensure you’re not becoming a victim of a brand hijack by a competitor or even a negative reputation issue. It’s relatively easy to track what suggestions Google offers for your site in different SERPs where your site is present on the first page – they are hardcoded into the HTML of the first page SERPs as a hidden div which becomes visible if a user clicks through to the site then comes back to the SERPs. Or if you can’t be bothered digging through the source code, there is a bookmarklet made by Jon Hogg which reveals them all at once.

In other words, this is one of those cases where brand management, customer retention and (preemptive) reputation management should go hand in hand. If you want to hear more about preemptive reputation management, I am speaking about it at BrightonSEO next month so if you’re there, be sure to attend my talk.

 

 

December 28th, 2016

How to Research a (New?) Domain before Purchase to Avoid Past Penalties

While researching an aged domain before buying typically goes without saying, most people seem to be more relaxed about buying new domains – and sometimes come to regret it later. While the idea of unknowingly “inheriting” a previous owner’s problems is nothing new – I’ve had a client ages ago who bought a domain they had thought was new back in 2004 and struggled to rank it, thinking it was “sandboxed” when infact it had acquired a penalty under a previous owner before expiring and this penalty lingered through the new ownership for some time – as of today, making sure you’re not buying somebody else’s Penguin or Panda reject is even more important.

Think of this: why does a domain owner normally let their domain drop? Either the domain has never been a success and the owner lost interest in developing it, or it’s had its heyday and then lost its rankings. While there’s not much wrong with the former, you definitely want to stay away from anything like the latter.

How do you go about checking a domain’s history?

  1. The only way to know if a domain has ever been registered before is, well, to checkĀ  if it had been registered and dropped before. Of course registrars won’t tell you this, unless you are buying dropped domains in an auction. Use this domain history tool to see if a domain has a previous history – here you can see all its nameserver changes including domain drops. If the domain’s TLD is not supported by WhoisRequest, try Domaintools’ WHOIS data – what you’re looking for is WHOIS history (disregard the salesy pitch about the domain being on sale that sometimes appears there), but before you part with your $49 for a report (which could be a worthy investment if you’re only researching one domain but if not doesn’t it add up quickly?) just go to https://domainreport.domaintools.com/[yourdomainname.com] and you will be able to get quite a bit of data as a free preview.
  2. Wayback Machine is your best friend and should totally be your next step if you discover your domain candidate has been registered before – check it there to see when the domain has been active as a live site and what was on it. However, some domains disallow WaybackMachine’s robot from crawling their sites so sometimes you won’t be able to see anything.
  3. Invest in a SERP / online visibility tracking tool such as SISTRIX (my personal favourite, other options being SEMRush – although with a more limited coverage, SpyFu – excellent tool but only good for US and UK SERPs, and SearchMetrics) and use it to see a domain’s ranking history – has the domain ever ranked? have there been any sharp drops? Do they coincide with any known updates? (Hint: they do not have to, in case of a manual penalty it can happen anytime) Ideally, verify the historic ranking data via more than one source.
  4. Head over to Majestic and check the domain’s link profile. If nothing shows up currently don’t forget to check the historic link profile too. Are these the links (and/or anchor texts) you would be comfortable with? Do they look like something that can cause a penalty?

Hopefully these few checks will save you some headache later.

April 5th, 2016

Should You Publish a Post about RankBrain?

Here is a quick chart to help you figure out.

RankBrain

(Click for larger size)