Google Increases Meta Descriptions to 320 Characters – Why Care?

Yep. Another Google change.

This time they increased the length of your pages’ meta description. Strangely enough, this only has a small indirect effect on your rankings.

For clarification, meta descriptions now look like this:

And for once, this change doesn’t have much of an effect on your search rankings.

But smart SEOs and SMBs can still capitalize in significant ways.

Why Should You Care about the Length of Your Meta Description?

So if your meta description’s length doesn’t affect your search rankings, why should you care about it at all?

…Because it’s another opportunity to win more clicks (and sales too). A higher click-through rate for your page does improve your search rankings.

It’s not a huge factor. But it is one nonetheless.

The bigger (and even hidden) opportunity lies in your meta description’s ability to drive more qualified customers to your website.

You can’t jam much value into 160 characters.

But 320 is more than enough.

So, you have more room to include benefits, product and service differentiation, and attractive features about your company (like no contracts, same-day service, limited time offers, or whatever you have).

You can also add another relevant search phrase or two that your customers might use. The keyword they enter, along with closely related terms, appear in bold.

Searchers click listings with their bolded terms more frequently also.

Should You Change All Your Meta Descriptions?

…You don’t need to.

At a minimum, you should at least revisit the meta descriptions for your highest-trafficked web pages.

Make sure they include the primary keyword you target, and possibly a closely related term or two.

Include all the most powerful benefits, differentiation, and product and service features that light customers’ eyes up when considering whether to purchase.

If that doesn’t fill all 320 characters up, no big deal! A long meta description does you no good. But a value-packed one does.

Then, as you have time, work your way down to the pages on your website with the lowest traffic.

You may even ignore your lower traffic pages if you don’t have the time or the money to spend.

Not a Huge Change, But One Smart SEOs and Companies Pay Attention To

In the grand scheme of search, this isn’t a monstrous change.

But, most companies likely won’t prioritize updating their meta descriptions because they exclusively focus on search rankings and know this won’t help them much in that regard.

That means this can be your opportunity to be more persuasive and snatch more customers.

Just like in any other profession, the most successful do all the little things right.

Google Rolls Out Yet Another Core Algorithm Change

You may have heard about Google increasing the length of meta descriptions, which won’t have a huge impact on search rankings.

But they actually said this on their Twitter account about their latest update:

“…It’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded. There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well, other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

So doesn’t that make you feel kinda helpless?

What if your rankings get completely trashed and you lose 25% of your site’s traffic or so?

Google’s saying you just gotta wait that out?

What if you can’t?

Search Engine Land reported the story.

Wait a Minute! Actually, You Can Do Something About That

So let’s focus on the fact that Google says they’ve rewarded certain pages less than they should have for some time.

Theoretically, for any one keyword or key phrase, you have one page on a website that’s better than all the others.

Truly, the best.

So even though Google tells you to wait, you can actually do a lot to improve your search rankings.

But let’s qualify that statement somewhat: this becomes much more difficult with your services pages that sell what you have.

Because, what’s so special about any single services page?

They all sell practically the same thing anyway.

Well, you can stand out a little by adding a FAQ section to your services page. You could also add video to give your prospects more of an idea of what it’s like to experience the results of your service. You might add a couple images to break up the text and make it faster and easier to read through your services page.

Your real opportunity to climb the search rankings lies in your content. A simple blog post runs a few hundred words – and that’s what you see most frequently at the small and local business level.

However, the leading online experts create posts thousands of words long. And they only make 1-2 of these per month.

They load the posts with useful videos and graphics. And they offer information you simply can’t find anywhere else.

For example, read any post at Conversion XL, a leading website conversion optimization blog (and bookmark it too).

If you mimicked that at the small or local business level and promoted your post like crazy, you’d win all sorts of traffic, links, social media shares, and customers.

…But You Must Have Realistic Expectations

So yes, you don’t have to sit there helplessly if Google begins to push you down the rankings negatively.

At the same time, understand this isn’t an overnight fix. It can easily take more than a year.

And blog posts rarely instantly attract more customers. People don’t read your posts, revel in how amazing they are, and then buy immediately.

Instead, they read, find your post useful, subscribe to your email list, or bookmark your website. They continue to pay attention to you for months, and possibly years.

Some just use your advice to fix their problem themselves. However, many remember your name, trust you because they love what you say, and then they buy from you when they have a problem you solve.

If Google pushes you down in search a little, it’s impossible to always know exactly why.

But you can absolutely increase your rankings at any time with the right approach.

Frightening New Negative SEO Attack Makes it Almost Impossible to Find the Attacker

 

Yes, negative SEO attacks, where someone who really wants to see you fail and takes active action to ruin your search rankings, happen.

They don’t get publicized a lot. Most competitors also realize it’s more worth their time and effort to increase their own SEO instead of ruining yours.

However, you still have situations where someone with a bad attitude decides to lash out. And in this case, its’ nearly impossible to detect them.

How This New Attack Was Discovered

Bill Hartzer of Hartzer Consulting discovered exactly this attack, which was later reported by Roger Montti at Search Engine Journal.

A client approached Bill concerned with a sudden drop in their search rankings. Bill found links to an odd site, but the client themselves didn’t actually link to that site.

So, Bill investigated that unusual site. And that led him to discovery of the source of the negative SEO attack.

Just How Does This Attack Work?

To destroy your search rankings, unscrupulous attackers copy the entire header of your web page. Then they find a spammy, crummy, horrible, awful website that Google doesn’t like – and they paste your header into that website’s code.

Included in that code is a “rel=canonical” tag. This tag tells Google that this page is the primary version of the website – and that it should ignore the web page it came from when figuring the search rankings.

Google then follows right along and considers the spammy version of your web page to be the primary version. And your rankings get trashed.

How Do You Stop This Attack?

Unfortunately, it’s absurdly difficult. In this case, the SEO consultant was able to identify the source site of the attack because of a tool called Majestic. However, attackers don’t always leave evidence of their actions behind. So sometimes the exact same thing happens – and you have absolutely no clue who did it or why.

Your only recourse in such a situation is to use Google’s Disavow tool. With this, you can tell Google to ignore specific links pointing back to your website. However, it takes time to do, and you don’t always fully recover your rankings.

The other defense is good content. This makes you easy, and desirable, to link to.

For now, that’s the best you can do. Ideally, Google takes action and changes how canonical tags work so this issue doesn’t happen anymore. But, they haven’t said anything about it yet.

So for the time being, make sure you have a SEO company you really trust. Monitor your search rankings closely for any changes, and react fast if they do!

When Optimizing Google Ads for Quality Score Doesn’t Make Sense

Quality Score.

It’s Google’s way of determining the ranking position and cost per click of your PPC ads.

Quality score can be a step in helping you achieve your business goals. But sometimes, it doesn’t always work in your best interests.

Remember, Google makes most of its money from its ads. Last year, they raked in $95.38 billion of their $110.9 billion in total revenue (86%) from their ads.

While Google has done a superb job of perfecting how Quality Score works so it gives searchers the best experience, this hasn’t necessarily led to making it easier for you to drive real business results. For example, you might look at ROI, leads generated, revenue generated, and so on.

So if you set your sights on perfecting your Quality Score, you can actually sometimes also be shooting your business results in the foot. For example, it does happen in campaigns where you increase CTR (click through rate), which also increases your quality score. However, conversions may not increase.

So, you’ve just increased your costs – with no associated increase in your sales.

The Best Uses of Quality Score

One helpful way to look at your Quality Score lies in its relationship to your keywords. Let’s say one of your keywords generates a high number of total conversions. However, it has a lower rate and lower Quality Score. In this case, you’ll more than likely improve your conversion rate by also improving your Quality score.

You might also find your Quality Score so low that you don’t get any real business results from certain keywords. In this case also, it makes sense to focus your time and effort on improving your Quality Score.

Clearly, experience and professional judgment play a role here. If you don’t have much of either, how can you know the relationship between Quality Score and the business metric you’re looking at, and whether you should focus on Quality Score or not?

 

You Don’t Need to Fear Quality Score

Despite Quality Score’s imperfections, it’s not something to be ignored. It simply shouldn’t be the measure of success. It shouldn’t be your goal.

Your business goals should be written down. And Quality Score should be seen as a step on your journey to online advertising success.

As long as you keep that perspective, you’ll do just fine in your PPC campaigns.

3 Disastrous SEO Mistakes to Avoid in 2018 That Could Tank Your Rankings

Yeah. SEO’s gotten a lot tougher.

But for the market, that’s been a good thing. Because, even though Google’s imperfect, it’s still awfully darn good at getting the most useful websites at the top of its search rankings.

Just think of your own search experience. Yeah, you find a garbage website from time-to-time. But just a search later, you’ve got reliable information that gives you a precision answer to your question.

Unfortunately for small and local businesses, SEO gets tougher. So, make sure you avoid either doing your own SEO, or hiring a cheap SEO company foolish enough to make these mistakes:

  1. Not Setting Goals…or Metrics to Measure Them

Have your SEO efforts succeeded? When done right, SEO is the most cost-effective marketing method for small businesses.

If your SEO strategy and tactics have succeeded, how do you know?

You can choose from many metrics to measure success. Ultimately, you’ll want sales. And to that, you could add rankings, traffic, and links.

You might set some of these as leading indicators of success. And then a couple could serve as your actual goals.

The point is you have a system of measurement to understand how your SEO strategy is doing.

  1. Accidentally Creating Duplicate Content

Duplicate content happens. It doesn’t mean that your SEO plagiarized someone else’s work (although it can happen that way).

If you have a WordPress-based website that you’ve run for some years, it’s entirely possible to create duplicate content without even knowing it.

Your SEO should never do this by accident. It’s a simple mistake every pro knows to avoid.

But if you yourself have made it, don’t worry. It’s an easy fix.

  1. Not Thinking Like a Human/Minimizing User Experience

In the end, Google really ranks your website based on how much value you offer relative to other websites that provide the same service or cover the same topic.

Yes, Google naturally supports democracy in its search rankings. What searchers like the best climbs to the top.

As you create your website, add content, and do various technical changes, it’s easy to shift your focus too much on pleasing Google.

While Google is the god of the internet, ultimately you want to please your visitors first. They’ll stay on your site longer and share your website with their friends and family. And those actions get measured in your metrics, which Google also measures and uses to rank your website.

Your website should be easy to use on a laptop, desktop, table PC, and smartphone. Your content should be clear and feel natural to read. It shouldn’t even be noticeable to the average person that you optimized a certain page for various keywords.

You can get into all sorts of minutia with this. But you get the point.

It’s easy to slip into some of these because they’re concepts. Some of this is subjective. Google doesn’t have clear, hard, and fast rules.

So that’s why it makes sense to ensure you have a proven and experience SEO company watching your six.

5 Tips for Creating High-Converting PPC Ads

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”

…You remember how the cliché newspaper boy from the 1920s would shout that to get attention.

And then he’d hand out a newspaper with an exciting title in big, bold, black letters you couldn’t possibly miss.

You shouldn’t necessarily capitalize like that with your PPC ads. But the general point remains the same: the titles on your PPC ads need to capture attention. They need to be so fascinating they can’t possibly be ignored.

How do you do that?

Here’s some ideas:

  1. Differentiate

You know your niche. You can also easily research their PPC ad headlines.

Simply differentiate to stand out.

Remember, searchers see the same headlines over and over. So, they get used to them and stop noticing what they say.

Find a way to be different…and you’ll end up with more clicks and sales.

  1. Tell Searches What They Get When They Click

Do you offer a free consultation? Even better, can you change the wording of that to more accurately reflect what your customers get from your consultation?

For example, if you’re an HVAC company, you could say,”Get your free home comfort analysis today!”

Comfort? That’s what people ultimately want from their HVAC systems isn’t it?

Consider how you can use the same thinking to create an attractive offer in your own niche.

  1. Use Numbers And Symbols

When people see search listings, they typically see lots of letters. Numbers and symbols, because they look different, naturally get noticed more.

So instead of “Save Big!” say “Save Up to 50% Now!” or “Save $$$” or “Save $25 Now!”

You can expect more sales as a result.

  1. Compare Your Offer to Competing Ones

You don’t have to call your competitors out by name. But you can certainly observe their PPC ads, and the offers they propose.

Then, if it makes sense for your business, simply top their offer. You don’t have to do it by a lot.

And if you don’t like offering discounts, toss something else in for free when customers order.

  1. Pre-Qualify Customers

Do you have a pricier service you offer to an exclusive market segment?

Then make your ad qualify searchers in an obvious way.

With your pricier service, you may want to mention the price: “Starting at $950.”

That way, you don’t have people clicking on your ads who will never purchase. In addition, your niche understands you created your offer just for them. That’s a powerful trigger for driving buying behavior.

Armed with these techniques, creating cost-efficient PPC ads that drive high-revenue, loyal customers will be no problem for you!