2018 SEO, One of the Best Years or Challenging Years Ever?

What is needed to execute a successful 2018 organic search program is not a mystery.  The best practices are widely known with many outlined below. The challenge is the ability to execute against these best practices while keeping an eye toward the accelerating rate of change in the Google search algorithm and in how people search. 

As a white hat practitioner, my goal is always to produce high-quality keyword or thematically targeted content that is coded, formatted and executed in a way that exceeds the quality offered by the competition. Here are some quick thoughts on how to execute a winning organic search plan followed by some of the emerging challenges in the way Google is presenting content and advertising in the search results.

What is Working in 2018

Rank Brain, Googles AI Algorithm, Is About As Smart As a Third Grade Student

Google is getting very specific about the types of content that should appear for a particular keyword search. For example, someone looking for car insurance wants the names of local insurance agents. Another person that queries "car insurance plans" is interested in comparing features and benefits across companies. Google is getting really good at matching search intent to content delivery.

Carefully research the types of content Google is showcasing before executing any content plan.

Organize content into Google Snacks

Search results are often organized around blocks of content called snippets or the knowledge graph. These are a short question and answer blocks that feed sections of the search results. The goal is to appear in the "position 0" snippet which is above the organic search results. 

Use tools such as answerthepublic.com to discern the top queries or snacks for any search.


Content Must Be Semantically Relevant

  • Longer is better with no less than 895 words.
  • Make good use of headlines, sub-heads, internal links and external links
  • Add a table of content to boost engagement
  • Check content vs. the top 10 results with tools such as ntopic.org.

Links Count

While Google keeps on stating that these are of declining importance, I do not believe it. Links count if they are from high-quality sites AND if there is traffic moving through those links.

Social Has Influence

Social shares are less important than the quality of the profiles where the shares occur.  If an Influencer shares your content it counts.


Speed Matters

53% of consumers will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load (source: Google, 2018)

Write Longer Descriptions

Most organic search descriptions are now around 330 characters. Use the space to reinforce why a visitor should click on the result while including the semantically related keywords that speak to the search engine.

The net takeaway is simple. Produce great content that exceeds the expectations of visitors and that is better (quality, engagement, length) than the competition.

2018 Organic Search Challenges

While the rules of engagement for organic ranking are clear, search ranking is becoming more challenging for those topics where Google is reducing the amount of real estate dedicated to organic search. Topics such as travel and any search with a clear shopping intent are slowly being reduced in favor of Google produced content.

Mobile Results Do Not Look Like Desktop Results

Take the search for flu on mobile.

First Screen (all advertising)


 2nd Screen (via scroll)

3rd Screen


4th Screen:

IMG_0527 (1)


Organic results do not appear until the searcher scrolls to the 4th screen. Since Google has determined that the content above the organic results have higher relevance, the number of people seeking an organic result is significantly lower. Every search term has a different dynamic. In this case, if targeting the word "flu" a paid approach would probably make more sense.

Voice Search is Rocketing Higher

Voice search is being integrated into devices across the Internet of Things. Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and other devices are influencing how to think about search. According to ComScore, 50% of all searches will be by voice by 2020. Other estimates show that 40% of adults use voice search at least 1x a day (Location World).

Google Content Replacing Publisher Content

Google is replacing organic search results with content developed by Google. Just type a city name into Google and select travel guide.


Or a job search:



The good news is that Google is better at discerning the meaning of content and why it should rank. The bad news is that the amount of real estate dedicated to organic search is shrinking and promises to get even smaller. Factors like voice make organic even more challenging for marketing teams to succeed in this channel.

Regardless, every marketer should be identifying and tracking the bundle of keywords that align with the KPIs of the business. When executing a search plan, a portfolio of paid and organic can be used to optimize a company's search presence.




How to Post on Instagram from Mac Desktop

Instagram wasn't designed to post from the Mac desktop to Instagram. However, there is a way to get it done without too much effort.

How to Post on Instagram from Mac

  1. Go to Instagram.com using the Safari browser and Login to your account

  2. Open Safari and click Safari (upper left corner of screen) > Preferences > Advanced


  3. Check  "Show Develop Menu in bar"


  4. Close this and go to:  Develop (in the top nav) > User Agent > Safari - IOS 10 - iPhone


  5. The Instagram site will reload or manually refresh the site. 

  6. Click the camera icon on the bottom and a window should open asking you to select the picture you would like to upload to Instagram.  

  7. Review the preview of the image, edit, add a caption and then click Share.

Can You Embed Video in Email?

Every month I get a question from clients regarding the ability to embed video in email HTML templates. Unfortunately, the answer is that you cannot when using most email clients.

For the vast majority of desktop, tablet and mobile email clients, the answer is no, even with HTML 5. 


I found this chart from Email on Acid (they also supply all of the HTML code) that does a good job laying out the state of video support in email. From a market share perspective, about half of emails sent can support playback within the email client and a half cannot. Developers should code html so that the default image displays in any client that does not support video, particularly since some clients will display the video player, but the video is unplayable, creating confusion.

Net, the idea to embed video in email is still a bad idea unless targeting Apple Mail and Samsung Galaxy customers specifically that use the native mail applications of those platforms.



Cutting Edge Website Visitor Analytics

These web analytics platforms are leading the industry in helping marketers understand user behavior. They are all geared toward quickly providing actionable insights without advanced knowledge of how to set up an analytics platform.

Full Story - Cutting edge platforms for tracking user visits to web sites. Perfect session replay tells you everything you want to know about your customer’s online experience. Capture every click, swipe, and scroll.

Heap Analytics - Heap automates away the annoying parts of user analytics. No manual event tracking. No messy tracking plans. No custom ETL pipelines.

Mix Panel - Deeply understand every user's journey with instant insights for everyone on mobile and the web. Makes it easier to get actionable answers quickly.

GoogleBot Crawl Strategy for SEO

One important facet of Search Engine Optimization is understanding the depth and frequency of the GoogleBot crawl. Said another way, there are strategies for maximizing the number of pages indexed or crawled by the search engines. This is particularly important for sites that are not frequently updated, that do not focus on recent news or those that are 1,000 pages or more.

While at it, it would also be a good idea to review your server log files to ensure that campaigns are being crawled correctly, that traffic sources are being attributed to the right place and that any acquisition data is being properly tracked.

What is a server log file?

A server log file is a file that contains every request for a file from a server. It includes the requested URL, IP address, date and time of the request.

What do we care about server log files?

The log files indicate when a site has been crawled, access problems and any errors to name a few.  The log files contain the response codes such as 200, which means that there was a problem with page access.


 Here are some helpful resources to understand how to address both the crawl and server log issue:

Heat Map Software Alternatives to Google Analytics

I wanted to share some thoughts on Google's in-page analytics feature via email. In my experience, in-page analytics has always been super buggy, and I've never been able to get a lot of value out of it. That said, I'm definitely a fan of heat map analysis, and even more so, session recording services. 
There are two very affordable alternatives that are recommended over Google's in-page analytics. They're significantly more stable, and provide way more value.
FullStory (fullstory.com), which has a free 14-day trial, lets you easily record, replay, search, and analyze each user's actual experience with your website. They accurately sell it as a "super-searchable DVR for all customer interactions." Since it records every single interaction that happens on every page without having to add any additional event tracking code (similar to how Heap Analytics and Mixpanel's new Autotrack features work), you can search through every user recording and isolate specific recordings based on a user's action. For example...  you could say you only wanted to review session recordings where someone downloaded a specific PDF file, played a specific video, or filled out a specific form. Then you could watch those recordings and see how those people came to your site to begin with (from search, email, referral, direct, etc.) and watch how they eventually performed the event you're interested in. When it comes to answering questions about user experience, it's super helpful to be able to watch people's actual sessions vs. looking at aggregate data in Google Analytics and then attempting to infer behavior.
HotJar (hotjar.com) is another super affordable service that provides user session recording in addition to heat maps, form analytics, funnel reporting, etc. Its session recording features aren't quite as powerful as FullStory (not as easy to search through the recordings based on specific events), but it gives you the other features mentioned above that FullStory does not. They offer a 15-day free trial, and have a plan that costs $89/mo for up to 2,000,000 pageviews per day, more than enough for most marketers.
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Facebook IQ

I've recently been exploring the research coverage on Facebook IQ, a resource where they publish data that would be interesting to anyone that wants to understand select targets such as weddings.

IQ data is available for events, holidays and an eclectic group of topics under People Insights

For a good read, look at the analysis of health in the digital age as it asks the question, "will people be able to engineer the best physical version of themselves?"

Worth a look to see how this type of data can improve your marketing programs.

Free Facebook Advertising Guide

If you are looking for a guide to effectively advertising on Facebook, then I highly recommend this site put together by Buffer.The site and downloadable PDF covers the 11 ways you can advertise of Facebook along with specs and guidelines. It covers everything you need to know.  As a bonus resource, take a look at Snappa for creating Facebook campaign graphics (also good for any type of online graphics.)

Time Between Affiliate Sales and Clicks

Chat Waite of Avantlink published some helpful data on the time between initial clicks and sales. Data is helpful in determining cookie length on affiliate sites and as a general eCommerce guideline:

  • 78% of affiliate sales occur with 0-24 hours after the initial click
  • 8% of affiliate sales occur within 1-7 days after the initial click
  • 9% of affiliate sales occur within 8-30 days after the initial click

Price of the item and complexity of the sales will also impact results, but this provides a helpful baseline.



Guide to Minimum Organic Search Requirements

I'm often asked about the minimum organic search requirements for ranking on the major search engines. While search engine optimization (SEO) may appear like an overwhelming mystery, it often comes down to these basic elements.

  • 750 or more words
  • A headline on the page that is relevant to the topic (main or subhead)
  • Original images (1 to 2 minimum, more is better)
  • A link that is internal to the site or that links to a high credibility external source

That's it.  Beyond these easy to implement requirements, consider:

  • A title tag that contains the focus keyword or topic, preferably at the beginning of the title
  • A meta description that also contains the keyword to topic.

Google uses over 200 factors to rank pages.  The key is to have great content that when compared to content from others. Think about how a computer would determine whether one piece of content is better than another. In this context, factors such as length, the presence of visuals, video and measured engagement (clicks) start to make sense.

To go a step further, think about what the reader would want in a mobile environment and in a desktop environment.  Plan for both.