There’s a joke that asks, “Where should you bury something that you don’t want people to find?”
Answer: On the second page of Google.
Sure, it’s corny. But there’s still some truth to that statement.
75% of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search.
That means you can’t afford to be ranking on the second, third, or fourth page.
You just won’t get the clicks and traffic you need to make SEO worth your time and money.
And you need that organic traffic because 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
On top of that, there are over 1 trillion searches every single month!
A good SEO presence has the power to drive inbound traffic that could grow your business for years to come.
But the average-joe website owner doesn’t have the power to rank on the first page of Google for the best keywords.
There are already countless high-profile websites capitalizing on the top industry keywords.
And there are thousands of other bloggers trying to rank for that keyword as well.
That means the deck is stacked. And it’s not in your favor.
You shouldn’t give up, though! There are a few proven methods that I’ve used and found success with to show up on the first page of Google.
And the best part is that you don’t need the authority or links to rank for many of these keywords.
I can teach you how to show up for them anyway.
First, I’ll explain why you’re doomed for now.
And second, I’ll show you how to use this problem to your advantage to rank on the first page of Google despite your shortcomings.
Ready to get started? Let’s do it.
Why you probably can’t rank on the first page of Google anytime soon
I’m going to be straight with you:
You’re pretty much doomed. If you’re trying to get noticed and rank organically on the first page for popular industry keywords like “SEO Guide,” it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
If you’re just starting out, you’ve got no domain authority, a tiny backlink profile, and hardly any traction as a result.
And if you take a look at Google’s first page results for “SEO Guide,” you’ll quickly see what the major problem you’re up against is:
See what I mean? The domain authorities of these top page rankings are going to blow any new website out of the water.
Moz? 93 domain authority. Kissmetrics? 85.
How many backlinks does that #1 spot have? 18,389 to be exact.
That’s more than most of us will get on our entire site. Ever.
Plus, these guides have been up for years!
The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz has been up for five years or so. Their website claims that over three million people have read it.
You get the idea.
Sites that have been around for a long time are going to dominate the top page rankings for popular industry keywords.
These people are producing stellar content and getting countless backlinks to their content.
If you’re just starting out, you need to pursue different strategies.
You can’t afford to wait around for five years to rank on the bottom of the first page for “SEO Guide.” Not with the number of hours and dollars it would take.
But that’s OK!
Just realize that you’re not going to rank organically for it right now.
The good news is that you don’t need to. There’s still hope.
The trick is to readjust your strategy and use different methods to still show up for your target keywords.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Start by dominating long-tail keywords
There are more long-tail keywords out there than big, popular ones.
Here’s a simple comparison to explain the difference:
And my own beautifully simple example:
- ‘Head’ keyword = “SEO guide”
- Long-tail = “SEO guide for small businesses 2017”
Each might not send you a ton of traffic. However, long-tail keywords do in total when you add a bunch of them up.
For example, I was able to increase my organic traffic to 173,336 visitors monthly using a long-tail strategy.
Long-tail searches also make up the majority of searches on Google.
You should target these long-tail keywords because they’re easier to rank for. And that means they’ll usually take less time and money.
So you’re not going up against the mammoth, industry-leading companies on these search engine result pages (SERPs).
Still skeptical of the power of long-tail strategies? I was, too, at first!But then I read about how Amazon makes 57% of their sales from long-tail keywords.
How? Because long-tail searches are looking for very specific information, whereas short-tail keywords are more general.
If you can give the searcher specific information, they’re going to stick around and convert.
Here’s an example SERP of a long-tail keyword search to help you get an idea of how it’s possible to rank for them.
Do you notice that the SERP isn’t overcrowded with industry influencers and top blogs?
Sure, there are still a few in there, but the top-ranking sites are ones that you’ve probably never heard of.
Instead of going up against a website with a 93 domain authority, here’s what the first ranking page for this long-tail search query looks like:
Now I’ve got your attention, right?
So sure, this keyword might have lower search volume than “SEO Guide.”
But remember that these long-tail keyword conversion rates are almost always higher.
And you know what I preach:
Traffic doesn’t mean anything if people don’t convert!If you’re getting 50,000 visitors a month from a popular keyword, but nobody is converting, it’s not doing you much good.
Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket for “SEO Guide,” create more content and optimize it for long-tail searches to dominate the SERPs!
Now let’s talk about a few ways to rank for the more popular terms that you just can’t seem to resist. And let’s do it without any ‘classic’ SEO.
2. Pay to reach the top of the AdWords search network
Now, you may be thinking, “Neil, my friend, my mentor, you do know that AdWords is not organic search, right?”
Well, just hear me out on this one, okay?
I’m going to start this one off with an example because it’s the only way to understand how truly effective this strategy can be.
So let’s fire up a search for “Best CRM.”
Here’s what the results page looks like:
It looks a bit different, doesn’t it? There’s not a single organic result until you scroll past the fold.
You’ve got four AdWords search network ads and a featured snippet from a single organic result.
It takes the user multiple steps just to reach the organic results and decide what to click on this SERP.
But something even more important jumps out at me here.
The keyword intent and the results that appear don’t line up.
Here’s what I mean.
Check out the first three ads:
They all talk about their own CRM and say that they’re the best in the industry.
That’s not surprising, necessarily. Everyone wants their products and services to be seen as the best.
But for this search, that’s a problem.
And more importantly, this is an opportunity for you to show up for that keyword.Here’s why.
What are people looking for when they type in “Best CRM?”
Are they looking for Salesforce or Zoho or Pipedrive right now?
No. They’re looking for a CRM comparison to see which one is the best. They want to consider their alternatives and options before deciding.
You can validate this by looking at the organic results, which all feature comparison articles and reviews.
Google wants to help the searcher find what they’re looking for as fast as possible.
That means the top organic results usually reflect the searcher’s intent.
So instead of looking for a branded PPC ad about one product being the best, a searcher is looking for CRM comparisons!
Now, do you remember those top 3 PPC results? They’re probably not getting any clicks because they’re not answering the searcher’s question.
The content doesn’t match the intent behind the search query.
But look at the 4th result:
If I were a betting man (which I am), I’d bet you that this low-domain-authority website is getting countless clicks for “Best CRM.”
I’d bet that this ad outperforms the ones above it.
This no-name site can rank with the big boys because they’ve done a better job matching keyword intent with their ad.
It’s practically cheating the system, and it works perfectly.
Now check out all of the traffic you have the opportunity to steal without competing for it head-on with massive brands in the organic rankings:
Instead of preaching about their product, the fourth ad lines up their content to look exactly like the organic results.
However, they show up before the organic results with no effort spent on link building.
You don’t need to organically rank for a keyword to get traffic for that keyword. Just remember to match the searcher’s intent and mimic the organic results to drive traffic.
3. Write more blog posts than your competition
What’s the downside of a long-tail keyword strategy?
You can’t stuff a bunch of random keywords onto the same page. You should still focus on one or two keywords per post, max.
That means you’re going to have to create a lot more content!
This is no great secret.
If you write more content, you’ve got a better shot at ranking on the first page of Google.
The more you write, the more pages get indexed, and the more traffic you bring to your site.
If you’re writing 5-10 posts a month, it’s still not enough.
Your competition and industry leaders are writing 16+ every single month.
You can’t reasonably expect to outrank a competitor or catch up to an industry leader by writing less, can you?
You need to write like your business depends on it. Because based on the information above, it does!
And it can’t be any old 500-word blog post that you slap together in an hour.
Here’s what the top content on Google looks like on average.
Everything on the first page of Google is over 2,000 words.
That means that you need to write more in-depth content that guides users through the process of solving their problems.
This content should be actionable and filled with images, examples, and step-by-step instructions.
Now is about the time when you start thinking, “How on Earth am I going to carve out time to write more?”
If that’s the case, maybe you need to hire someone.
The good news is that content marketing costs 62% less than other marketing mediums. All while generating 3x the number of leads.
If you want to start ranking for the top keywords, you need to produce valuable, unique content — and lots of it.
On top of that, you also need to optimize your content to generate the highest CTR possible.
Why? Because optimizing headlines and meta descriptions for searchers can result in a 10% increase in CTR.
And an increase in CTR means you’re on your way to ranking higher.
Here’s an example:
Why do you think this Search Engine Land post outranks the post below it?
Take a look at that headline!
Instead of a basic headline, they make you think about what you just searched.
It goes against the grain of normal, acceptable advice. It’s like a pattern interruption that causes you to stop what you’re doing.
Now you’re rethinking everything you once thought was true!
Here are a few powerful headline templates to try immediately to boost your organic CTR:
[ ______________ ] Using These 5 Strategic Moves
10 Quick Moves to [ ________________ ] and Increase Revenue
How I Used These 5 Moves to [ ____________ ]
Interested in more headline tips to increase your CTR and boost your rankings? Start with my in-depth guide on headlines.
4. Get reviewed and featured in round-ups
Sometimes, spending money on PPC ads to rank higher for keywords isn’t an option.
Spending too much time and money on creating long-form guides to rank for your desired keywords also may not be feasible.
Luckily, you can still get your name featured in top-ranking content! All while doing a fraction of the work.
Rather than having your official site placed on the top page of Google from AdWords or organic rankings, you can get featured in round-up posts with minimal time and effort.
Here’s what I mean:
Just go to Google and search “best SEO tools 2017”:
All the results are roundup-style posts in which the authors review and analyze the top tools.
It’s basically free advertising.
You can get your name out to thousands upon thousands of consumers a month who are clicking on those top-ranking posts.
For example, let’s click on the first result from PC Magazine:
They cover each SEO tool, providing reviews of each feature the tools have and then helping to prioritize them for everyone else.
Now, you can use these roundup-style posts to your advantage. Rank well on these posts, and you’ll get tons of traffic in return.
For example, thousands of people are already searching for “SEO tools.”
Then you can conduct outreach to have your tool featured in those comparisons.
And that traffic can be huge:
If you’re featured on all of the comparison posts that already rank on the top page, you’re going to get traffic from each one of those.
And this traffic will already be primed to buy from you.
A few simple outreach efforts can now save you years of grinding away in obscurity to get your brand in front of eager searchers.
No time, no money, and just a little effort can still get your brand in the top results.
If the deck is stacked against you in one game, just switch the game that you’re playing.
Showing up on the first page of Google is nearly impossible if you’re just starting out.
That’s harsh, but it’s also true.
Industry leaders who’ve been producing content for years dominate all of the best keywords and SERPs.
Many of them have been spending millions on big-budget ad campaigns, too.
So you can’t expect to rank first when you’re new.
The competition is already so far out ahead. They’ve been accumulating thousands of links and countless shares while this business was still a twinkle in your eye.
Their brands are well-established, and their authority is too high.
But you still need organic traffic to thrive and keep your business growing.
Thankfully, there are a few workarounds.
Try researching and producing content for long-tail keywords. The volume might be lower, but so is the competition.
Use sneaky tactics like PPC ads to rank above the organic results for an extremely popular ‘head’ keyword that you know you’ll never be able to rank for organically.
Try getting reviewed in roundup-style posts to get featured on top articles.
There’s plenty of unconventional methods to get your brand in front of the traffic that you crave.
You just have to get a little creative and understand that you might not always rank for the top terms.
But other methods exist to get similar results if you know where to look.
What strategies have you used to rank on the first page of Google?
Described as the “ultimate survival guide to the dynamic and tumultuous world of search marketing,” SMX — run by Search Engine Land’s parent, Third Door Media — is a conference series designed to highlight the reach and opportunities that can be achieved through search advertising and outline search’s position in the wider marketing mix.
From my own perspective, one of the more enlightening sessions of the London event featured a presentation by Pete Campbell, founder and managing director of Kaizen, on the subject of voice search — a prominent theme given the ongoing battle of the AI assistants.
Despite existing for half a decade — Siri has been around since 2011 — voice search has only recently surged in popularity, with over a quarter (27 percent) of US smartphone users now utilizing voice search assistants once a week or more. This rise in usage is largely due to the shift in focus from voice search to voice command.
Just being able to search for information using voice doesn’t add a great deal of value for the user; it’s not that different to searching by typing. But being able to make something actually happen using voice? Well, that’s a far more useful experience — and it is something Amazon’s Alexa is excelling at.
Through voice commands, users can now order their favorite pizza, schedule an Uber, or even buy a dollhouse – as Amazon Echo’s incident earlier this year ably illustrated. Rather than using voice as an alternative to a keyboard or touchscreen for entering a search, users want to be able to control the world around them by talking to it and driving action, creating a far more personal and interactive alternative to traditional search.
At present, the voice search functionalities available through personal assistants remain within the realm of narrow AI, meaning they can only perform relatively basic tasks. Moving forward, Google’s DeepMind machine learning technology is likely to be integrated into Google Home, shifting voice search toward deeper AI as it starts to learn and adapt itself to the unique needs of the individual. And while it is still fairly new to the B2C space, IBM’s Watson is also expected to drive voice search to a point where it is continually aware and constantly learning.
While the discussion around voice search was one of the most interesting at the SMX London event, the technology is still in its infancy, and advertisers don’t need to be rebuilding their entire search strategies around voice at this stage. While paid advertising is available via the format, the search engine does the heavy lifting, translating voice search into keywords and matching these to ads in the same way as a traditional text search.
Once AI evolves and the technological capabilities allow a better understanding of natural language, the way consumers utilize search could change. Currently, users know they must phrase their questions in a way their device comprehends, omitting slang terms and speaking in a more robotic manner than they usually would.
It will be interesting to observe how common search activities — in particular, shopping — will change as the technology develops. Perhaps at next year’s SMX London, we’ll be discussing new strategies for harnessing the power of voice that we haven’t even considered at this stage.
To really gain the most value out of search — be it voice-activated or not — we need to fill the gap between optimizing search advertising and achieving business goals, and put customer lifetime value ahead of return on ad spend (ROAS) when measuring success.
As the technology develops, companies that use voice search technology that reacts more naturally to consumers’ preferred language will attract more repeat visits and loyalty. And by aligning marketing efforts with inventory management to ensure only those products that are in stock and require promotion are advertised, brands can create valuable experiences that keep consumers returning again and again.
From combining search and social to leveraging moments that matter, last week’s attendees at SMX London gained a deeper understanding of the numerous ways they can optimize their search strategies.
Entrepreneur magazine contributor, Mike Templeman, shares his thoughts on the SEO snake oil being solicited by top agencies and advertisers alike. SEO takes time and like Mike references, there is no “overnight” fix or silver bullet that can take you to the top.
Don’t get burned by a snake oil salesperson when it comes to your company’s SEO needs.Do you know what snake oil is? It’s a term used to describe any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. If you read this Wikipedia article on the topic, you’ll see that real oil from snakes used to be prescribed as a cure for everything from small cuts on up to arthritis and skin diseases.
And a recent study came out touting that companies will be spending $65 Billion on SEO this year.
Now, as the title to this article would imply, I believe that the SEO industry, and the digital marketing industry in general is full of snake oil salespeople. Individuals who knowingly are selling a product that either will not work for the buyer or that they know is of inferior quality.
Let me explain. I run a marketing agency. I have to hear dozens of horror stories every week about wasted budgets, sites damaged beyond repair, digital campaigns that produce zero results and everything else business owners and marketers are terrified of. These stories are the grownup versions of the campfire stories we told each other as children. Except now, they end in the loss of millions of dollars. Terrifying, I know.
Now, I mentioned that I run an agency, as such you’d think that we’d have a pretty good grasp on marketing. But you wouldn’t guess that if you looked at my spam folder. I receive hundreds, yes hundreds of unsolicited emails every day from marketers promising to take my brand to the #1 spot in Google (total lie). Or to bring me thousands of visitors in a matter of weeks (liar liar pants on fire). They tell me that my site is breaking numerous rules set forth by the search engines and if I don’t fix them my company will die a fiery death (oh really?).
Related: Here’s What Really Matters for SEO in 2016
These are the Exhibit A’s in the snake oil industry of digital marketing and SEO.
To see the Exhibit B’s you’ll need to reach out to an agency of your choice and ask to speak with their sales team. Odds are you’ll end up talking with someone that will guarantee that your wildest dreams will be fulfilled by focusing on SEO. Or maybe they’re a social media agency. If that’s the case, their silver bullet will undoubtedly be social media. Either way, they’ve got the tonic that will cure your website’s disease. And if you act now, you’ll be guaranteed results!
Look, as someone who has worked in SEO and every other digital medium for the last decade or so, I can tell you that there are no silver bullets and that nothing is guaranteed. I also know that SEO doesn’t work for some companies. Just like PPC isn’t for everyone, nor is social media. After all, billboards and commercials don’t work for every industry, so why would digital marketing be any different?
But let’s examine what makes a lot of SEO services snake oil and give you the information you’ll need to protect yourself.
Why is it snake oil?
Snake oil originated in the medical industry. It was used as a cure for ailments. It was easy for salespeople to pull the wool over they’re buyers’ eyes because back in the day, no one really knew what the heck was going on with their bodies. Medical information wasn’t as readily available. And since medical conditions are by nature quite scary, the sufferers were ready to believe anything that was thrown their way.
Well, guess what? The Internet is the new medical industry when it comes to snake oil. You see, the Internet is still not that old. It’s really only become prolific over the last 20 years or so. With that being the case, most people don’t understand the ins and outs of it. Yes, like a medical condition, they can tell when something is wrong. But they’re not really quite sure what the cause of the issue is. Enter the snake oil salespeople.
Whenever there are uninformed customers, there will always be predatory groups looking to take advantage of that situation. And with a 65 Billion dollar industry up for grabs, the streets are running wet with snake oil right now.
Related: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant
What I’ve seen.
While some snake oils can be rather harmless, when it comes to your digital marketing snake oil is anything but. For instance, I wrote an article a few years back about a large company that was removed from the Google search results due to their digital marketing activities. They had some sloppy marketing being done and it ended up making them disappear from the search results. Harmless, right? Wrong. You see, this company relied heavily on their search results for new leads to their call center. This call center was staffed by dozens of people. These people had families, mortgages, and relied on that income.
Well, when the phones just stop ringing one morning, it’s going to be very hard for a company to keep employing an entire sales floor. And while the company did their best to avoid the inevitable, they eventually had to face the facts and they ended up laying off the entire department.
So this one company that unfortunately trusted a snake oil salesperson, ended up having to lay off almost 50 people at a time when the economy wasn’t doing so well. I’m sure there was a lot of financial pain felt by these families.
So, yes, snake oil SEO can be extremely dangerous in today’s digital economy.
How do business owners avoid getting burned?
This is probably the most important part of this article. As I mentioned earlier, the reason these groups are able to prey on consumers is because of the lack of information. To this end, you need to gird yourself with knowledge. Do research on the topic you’ll be discussing with your potential agency partners. Have talking points and specific questions that you’d like answered. By doing this, you’ll be able to avoid the bottom-of-the-barrel snake oil salespeople that can’t even face mild scrutiny.
Related: The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead
Once you’ve weeded those ones out, you’ll want to really do your research on the agencies that have made the first cut. Check the background of the founders, look for third party reviews. Ask them for case studies, testimonials, and references. Do not look at a slick sales deck and assume that because they can put together a decent PowerPoint that they can provide you with proper marketing services. I’ve seen hundreds of dreams crushed on the expectations set by a nice sales presentation. Any group you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with should be cut after this.
Now that you’ve made it to your third round of choices, you’ll want to watch what they produce for you very closely. Don’t accept an agency that does not give you full visibility into what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how often I see shoddy work being done, and the business owner would have been able to identify that work as being shoddy, but because they weren’t aware it was being done, they had no way of stopping it.
Because of this you’ll want to make sure that the group you’re working with is willing to show you everything they’re doing and will actually take the time to explain and train you on what they’re doing. After all, an informed client is the best kind of client.
And if you follow these steps, you’ll be assured that you’ve probably weeded out all of the snake oil salespeople and you’ll be working with a reputable agency. Now, this doesn’t guarantee that you will get great results. As I mentioned above, sometimes SEO isn’t a solution for all industries and sometimes marketing campaigns don’t result in massive successes. But those are the chances you should be willing to take. If you know you’re working with the right group that does things the right way, then you’re in it together. And the engagement should feel like a partnership, rather then a vendor relationship.
So, as you’re out there trying to spend your marketing dollars wisely, watch for those shady characters that are touting the magical properties of their services. Odds are, there’s a lot of snake oil in their pitch.
The vertical lead generation programs for credit cards, auto insurance, mortgages and travel insurance will start winding down Tuesday, February 23.Google’s lead generation product known as Google Compare, will start sunsetting this week.
In an email sent to partners and acquired by Search Engine Land, the Google Compare Team told Compare partners on Monday night that the product will start to wind down on Tuesday, February 23, 2016. Google Compare will shut down completely in both the US and UK — the two markets where Compare is offered — one month later on March 23.
The email to Compare partners:
From: Google Compare Team
Subject: An Update on Google Compare
Beginning on February 23, 2016, we will start ramping down the Google Compare product, which is currently live in both the US and UK. We plan to terminate the service as of March 23, 2016. As you know, Google Compare (formerly Google Advisor in the U.S.) has been a specialized, standalone service that enables consumers to get quotes from a number of providers for financial products such as car and travel insurance, credit cards and mortgages.
Despite people turning to Google for financial services information, the Google Compare service itself hasn’t driven the success we hoped for. We greatly appreciate your partnership and understand that this decision will be disappointing to some. But after a lot of careful consideration, we’ve decided that focusing more intently on AdWords and future innovations will enable us to provide fresh, comprehensive answers to Google users, and to provide our financial services partners with the best return on investment.
We’re grateful for all the feedback that you have provided over the course of this product’s development, and we are looking forward to partnering with you to achieve greater success in the future.
We will work with you during this transition and beyond. Please reach out to your Google representative if you have any questions and to discuss the next steps.
The Google Compare Team
Google has confirmed the email’s authenticity.
The company only recently began rebuilding the Compare product from the ashes of the Advisor program in the US. The single piece left standing from that initial effort was the credit card offering — savings accounts, CDs and mortgages had all discontinued. Compare for Auto Insurance launched just last March, starting in California. Then Google relaunched Compare for Mortgage quotes in November with Zillow and Lending Tree among the launch partners. Both of those relaunches had limited roll outs. In the UK, Google Compare has been running since 2012 for car insurance, mortgage rates, credit cards and travel insurance.
A Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that while searches on these queries remained high, the product didn’t get the traction it hoped for and revenue was minimal. That’s in part due to the limited availability of the products in both the US and the UK.
In the UK, the Compare product also came under scrutiny in 2014 by the Financial Conduct Authority, the UK financial services industry regulator, when comparison sites complained Google was competing unfairly by placing its own product at the top of the search results. However, any legal concerns did not play a role in the decision to close Compare, we’re told.
What’s next? Google says the focus will primarily be on AdWords and transitioning partners to standard ad products. However, it may still focus on the space and look at new product avenues.
While the move will come as a surprise to many outside the company, apparently internally this decision to terminate Compare is not coming as a shock. The Google spokesperson said the company will help Googlers currently working on Compare find new roles within the company.
What BuzzFeed’s Dao Nguyen Knows About Data, Intuition, And The Future Of Media | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
To understand what makes BuzzFeed tick, you need to know how Dao Nguyen thinks about data.
As the publisher in charge of BuzzFeed, which has annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, you might expect Dao Nguyen to be getting the best tables at fancy restaurants in order to land advertising deals with chief marketing officers. Instead, Nguyen meets me at a Le Pain Quotidien cafe wearing a grey fleece with the Dow Jones logo on it. She’s every bit the down-to-earth geek who you’d expect to be building BuzzFeed‘s technology and data infrastructure.
It turns out that BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti bestowed the title on her based on a much older definition of a publisher’s role. “Traditionally that meant owning a printing press and dealing with delivery trucks and newsstands,” Nguyen told me. “Whereas with digital media, getting your content to the public is all about your technical platform, your distribution plans, on social networks or other technical platforms.”
For BuzzFeed, the newsstand (and sometimes even the printing press) is your social feed, and its delivery trucks are you sharing a story. The digital circulation for a piece of content is constantly being monitored and communicated back to the organization through dashboards, emails, and Slack.
“What is the competitive advantage that you can gain as a publisher today?” says Peretti. As the value of content approaches zero, “Having technology, data science, and being able to know how to manage, optimize and coordinate your publishing is the thing that gives you a competitive advantage.”
Here are some of the highlights from the interviews with Nguyen I collected as I reported this month’s cover story on Buzzfeed‘s growing media empire.
Dao Nguyen: If you look at the word “publishing,” actually meaning making content available to the public, it used to be you had to have all these things in place, including advertising. You no longer need those things. Making content available to the public is entirely a technical talent.
Noah Robischon: Have you ever thought you would want to be a publisher? What did you think you would be?
I always wanted to work in computers. I’m going to be 42 next week. I’ve been coding since I was seven. I’ve always loved programming and working on computers.
What was the first thing you programmed?
When I was 7? The first program I was really excited about was a low-res stick figure doing jumping jacks. Animated, but totally low-res, not high-res graphics. Basically, he was doing jumping jacks. I remember in school I had those printouts with those weird white strips with the little holes on the sides. I had this printout of this program I was working on and I was trying to debug it. I looked at it in class under my desk and the teacher says, “What are you doing?” She comes over and sees me reading this computer printout. It was my program. She said, “Did you write that?” And I said, “Yes.” So she then asked me to program a thing that quizzed students on state capitals.
Jumping jacks. Fascinating.
But I’ve never been super ambitious, actually.
In what sense?
When you say ambition, what do you consider ambition?
I’ve never wanted to start a company. I always knew it would be incredibly difficult. If you start a company, a lot of what you’re doing is non-technical. It’s advertising. I’ve had this amazing career, and it’s difficult to explain why. [Laughs]
When I worked in France for a long time, I eventually became the CEO of the Internet subsidiary of the newspaper [Le Monde]. I refer to that whole period as, I was the accidental CEO. Coming around and suddenly I was there and there it was.
How did you end up in France?
That’s a fun story. It was 2000 and the Internet bubble was bursting in New York. I was working for an Internet start-up and I was having to fire all of my friends. I said, “I don’t need this, why am I doing this?” I decided I wanted to learn French, so I said to my then boyfriend, now husband, “I’m going to quit, move to France, eat cheese, drink wine, and sit out the Internet recession for a year.” He’s like, “Great! Let’s go.”
I ended up getting this job at Le Monde IT as a technical project manager. I was like, “I can do this job in my sleep, I just don’t speak any French, that’s why it will be a big challenge for all of us.”
I signed a one-year contract. In France, it’s very hard to get hired because most people want a permanent, lifetime, un-fireable contract. I don’t want that contract, I want a one-year contract. They were happy to have me and after the year they switched me over to another contract.
Was that the time you started to understand how media worked?
Was there a particular moment where things clicked into place? Where you understood both what was wrong and how to fix it? Was it a more slow, testing experimentation that brought on each insight along the path?
I had a lot of great mentors when I was there who had thought a lot about news and news consumption. One of the things I learned at Le Monde I think is still true today is news consumption is different from consuming other products. It’s not like one day someone will just wake up and go, “Today, I want to be informed,” like the way of: “I want to have chocolate chip ice cream”, they wake up, “I want to wake up and have ice cream today,” so they go out and buy ice cream. News isn’t like that. Nobody just wakes up and goes: “I want to be informed. I’ve never been informed before, I was informed in the past, I was informed a bunch a couple of years ago, it was pretty cool, maybe I’ll be informed again. I’m going to go out and purchase something or do something to inform myself.”
No. It’s a habit. It’s a person’s identity. The thing that will shape the most about how you are informed at all today is how you were informed yesterday. It’s a habit. If you read The New York Times front page every day to get informed, you would probably read it tomorrow to become informed.
Thinking about actual people and how they think about news is something I learned when I got started in this industry in France. It’s important, especially when people work in data, “Oh, you’re a good unique visitor.” People forget that what you should be thinking about is the person who represents that, and what are they doing. That is an example to me.
Is data the hub for these spokes of the company or do you look at it a different way? Describe how you see the way data interacts with the different pieces.
I think that’s a good question because I think it’s a strange thing. Depending on who I talk to, sometimes I say to people, “[Buzzfeed] uses data much more than you think.” And then depending on the person, sometimes I’ll say, “No, no, no, it uses the data much less than you think.” I think there are some myths. One myth is data scientists are telling reporters what to write and what to cover. That’s totally a myth. I’d like to dispel it at every moment I can. That’s totally untrue. I take no responsibility for what these insane reporters cover. They just come up with all that themselves.
I assume that people look at a Buzzfeed story that did well about “These Are 27 Sandwiches That Are Better Than a Boyfriend,” and think there must be some deep data science behind sandwiches, and sandwiches and boyfriends, right? Actually that requires a creative mind more than anything, you know?
That myth stems from people’s desire to have a black and white explanation, a simple explanation. The reality is that things are more nuanced than you would like them to be, and more complicated than you would like them to be. And so it’s the easy way out to have a very sort of simplistic view. The key is, when I speak to editors and people in general, they have a very healthy view of data. They understand there are many things data can tell them. But they also understand there are many things data can’t tell them.
You have to use a lot of intuition and a lot of creativity, and the data is one part of the input you take in to think about why this could do well, why do people share it. The data never tells you why anything happens. Data will tell you, if you’re very lucky, what happened. It won’t ever tell you why. If you want to understand why, that requires a different set of skills, largely in your brain and in your heart. Why did this story resonate with people?
Reading comments is often a very good barometer—you can’t only use comments, you can’t only use data, you can’t only use anything. You can’t only use your own intuition, either. It has to be all of those things you use. When talking about things, “Oh, maybe it’s this. Maybe it’s that.” Then we can test it. “Let’s test whether or not this hunch I have is right based on something I’ve seen out there.”
Which is why for us, publishing volume is actually really important. It’s not that we want to crank stuff out there for no reason at all. The more you publish, the more opportunities you have to look at things that are happening, read comments, have a new hypothesis, test a hypothesis. And if you can do that relatively quickly, then you remember what you were testing. Two weeks go by and I haven’t touched a thing, “What was that thing I was trying to test?” But if you’re publishing every day and get a lot of signals that are both quantitative and qualitative, and anecdotal even, you can begin to form ideas about content. How it should be made, how it should be presented, and where it should be distributed and whether or not that has an effect.
There’s data, which is quantitative. Then there’s qualitative information you can gather.
Reading comments, reading tweets, reading articles about your article—all of that is qualitative. I feel like the third part that is necessary, critical, is the culture encouraging all that. That, in many ways, is one of our biggest competitive advantages. Our staff and our culture is one that encourages this, and praises it, and has a pretty healthy appreciation of data as well as a healthy appreciation of other things, like intuition.
The stereotype of a traditional reporter is, “Only what I think matters and what I think is important matters and I’m not going to look at any other signals.” And that’s, I guess, one kind of intuition. But the humility that comes with, “Oh, I’m just learning about my audience, learning about what is interesting.” That is something we actively seek out in people.
I don’t think that Buzzfeed has the monopoly on data. I just think we use it well.
Given your curiosity about the human condition, how does data help you understand the human condition?
I think data helps people affirm, deny or continue to explore hypotheses about the human condition.
You said confirm, deny or continue to explore. Interesting. You could also develop social science. There are many methods of doing that.
Yes, but at scale.
Most people don’t think of data being able to do that. Let me put it this way: who else out there is using data the way you think about it?
Probably Netflix. Like I said, I think we’re still at the beginning. We still have a pretty rudimentary apparatus in place, and it’s okay because you also want the creative people on the other end to realize it’s just one input. No one’s a slave to it. A lot of it grows out of the fact we have people who have grown out of the video side, people who used to make YouTube videos. If you make a YouTube video, you immediately get feedback: how many comments, what they said, how they liked it, whether it was shared. Talent that is emerging now is already very familiar and comfortable with the idea you receive these signals back and it tells you something or suggests something to you.
I think our competitive advantage is having a pretty rounded view of that, and not making it out to be some sort of magic solution and getting all wrapped up in it.
There’s always a curve. There’s always like very few posts that get a lot of traffic. That’s totally great, actually, because it means if we didn’t have enough posts that failed, it means we’re not trying enough things. I think that’s—one of the first all-company presentations I did when I came toBuzzfeed, a long time ago now, I guess three years ago, is called the Dot Presentation. People still ask me about them. I just took all of the posts and I bucketed them into traffic buckets and the size of the dot was the number of posts were in each bucket. What I showed was over time, the size of the dots started to increase and got higher. There were more posts getting more traffic. But the reality is the super viral ones, like the million-plus ones are always going to be very small.
I said, “That’s okay,” because our sweet spot is actually in this other bucket, 100-250k, that’s our sweet spot, that’s going to allow us to make posts for the next bucket and that allows us to make posts for the next bucket.”
How did you figure out that was the right bucket versus the bucket two rungs up?
You look at it over time. “Oh here it is,” for each month you can see how it changes. It wasn’t the biggest bucket, the biggest bucket was the failure bucket, the bucket with no traffic. But that’s fine too. I’m not embarrassed to say it. The bucket that’s shared pretty well, did pretty well, wasn’t meant to be viral, but still performed pretty well, it was a solid performer. Don’t let all the attention get given to these viral ones. The attention should be on the bread and butter.
Why should it be?
That’s where you’re learning.
Why do you learn more from those than the mega-viral hits?
There’s more of them, the sample size is higher.
I have a good example about that, because it’s something that I was involved in personally. The first post I wrote on Buzzfeed was called “27 signs you were raised by immigrant parents.” It was published two years ago now, so I feel kind of terrible still talking about it. The point of it was it was incredibly viral, got like 2 million views—it got like 1 million views in the first 12 hours. Two and a half years ago we were a very small site, so it was a big deal. It wasn’t the first post that we ever wrote about having immigrant parents, there were previous posts called “Signs you were raised by immigrant parents.” There was one that was “Signs you were raised by Pakistani immigrant parents.” There were many versions that all did pretty well, but this one blew them out of the water. That’s because the concept was piggybacking off other people’s work. The whole post was gently mocking your parents. Like “Your dishwasher is only used to dry dishes, not wash them.” Or “Your mother is always telling you you need to wear a sweater.” And then the very last one, number 27, it was the opposite. It was much more like, “You realize your parents sacrificed so much to bring you to this country and you wouldn’t change it for the world.” You love them. Sort of the opposite of everything. Then you read the comments. The comments were like, “I was laughing so hard until I got to number 27 and now I’m crying.” Or “Number 27 made me send this to my parents.” Many of these comments were basically saying, “Ha ha ha, BRB crying.”
Without any official communications, editorial style, people immediately started employing this technique. No one said anything. Everyone read the post, they read the comments. It had the sticker at the end that made you want to share it with someone. When you share it then it makes you look good because you’re making fun of your parents and laughing with your siblings, or sharing with your boyfriend or girlfriend, “This is my life,” but also, “I love my parents.” That’s something you learned from the comments. If you didn’t read the comments, it was like, “Asians share a lot. More than the Pakistanis!”
We track all of our Facebook activity, obviously, and all of our page activity—we have 90 Facebook pages, that’s insane. We track all of the posts, the stats they generate. We can look at traditional things, like when is the best time to post? And how does using video for certain Facebook pages affect fan growth? And how the rates are different between pages. We can use that to optimize what pages we post videos on. And then how it gets re-shared by bigger pages. Like, how do you use a big page to grow a small page? What media do you want to use? Why do some fans on some pages seem to respond better to videos versus other pages? What is the breakdown? Is it a demo breakdown?
We work really closely with the social team, which is in edit, to talk about what we think is happening… It helps because it’s a really direct feedback loop that is not currently supported by Facebook’s tools.
Are you using Facebook insights to get the raw data?
Yeah, we call the APIs. We don’t normally compare the pages to each other but more like this happened on this page—sometimes we’ll compare that but if it’s really the same content, like this same thing was posted to multiple pages. We’ve grown a lot of small pages into bigger pages. How can we do that? Can we replicate that all the time? That requires a lot of understanding that there are many questions that data can kind of give pointers to, but all you can do is try things out. It’s nuanced, there’s no magic formula, a lot of it is based on good content.
Dan Oshinsky, our newsletter editor, reports up to edit. But when he started he reported to me. That was always the deal. You come in, you report to me, we make a product together, talk to you about data. You’re still obviously working with edit, make sure it’s the right voice. But you work for me and when we feel that you’re ready, then you’ll move over to edit. Newsletters data—we use Campaign Monitor, and there are some tie-ins to the analytics product but not that many. From a data perspective, he is charged with and is free to interpret the data in the way he feels will most improve his product and improves his readership.
Is he looking at click-through rate?
For a long time, it was: you want to get subscribers up, you want to get clicks up, you want to get unsubscribes down. But one of the things we talk about all the time is there is no one metric you are optimizing for. Anyone who just optimizes to one metric is going to eventually have a problem. This obsession over time spent. In some way I feel that sort of rhetoric has died down. There really is no one metric.
On the one hand, you want to go up. You don’t want it to go up and have all the other numbers decline. We will go and routinely purge our list. If you don’t open the newsletter for X number of months, then you get an email saying, “You’re going to get removed from this list unless you opt in in the next 24 hours.” When that happens, newsletter numbers go down. I don’t need newsletters subscriber numbers to be up for the sake of being out. I want to actually get people to look at the stories, to read them and share them.
So his subscriber rate would go down, but his clickthrough numbers would go up, and then his clicks back to BuzzFeed would remain flat because you haven’t changed anything, right? [Laughter]
But your data is better.
One of the things Buzzfeed has done really well—and I’m sure this was all Jonah’s plan from the beginning—but I feel like the business side and editorial side are really aligned. They’re really aligned because we don’t sell banner ads in newsletters—we do monetize the newsletter, we just don’t sell banner ads. The idea that you’d like the subscriber numbers to go up, so you can sell it at a higher rate, is not clickable because neither side cares about that, right? Because native advertising is about something else, it’s about getting people to look at the actual sponsored posts or branded video that we have made. And also on the editorial side, the goal isn’t to just be in a bunch of people’s inboxes, it’s to go look at the content and learn something about it or cook something or whatever. They’re actually aligned and I feel like we’re so fortunate in that. Because in so many media industries the two are not aligned.
That’s what makes metrics and data more complicated at those organizations. One set of people feel that one metric is important and the other feels it’s not important, or is much less important.
They’re almost adversarial.
Sometimes. I feel like the role of data we have is a luxury. A luxury out of the fortune or genius, this business genius, this vision where you don’t have that tension. Where both sides are trying to achieve the same thing. Sometimes I feel badly for organization’s where the data team is caught in the middle and can’t, and they don’t know how to talk about it to their constituencies because the constituencies have such diverging values. I feel like mostly my job is easy, but it’s easier because of the way that’s set up.
I feel that is underreported. The fact that native advertising is a better user experience, that’s reported on. But the thing that is not reported on is that native advertising aligns groups within the organization in a way that makes everyone more effective, and advertisers happy.
The FBI is pressuring Apple to help the agency bypass the iPhone’s security features to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist’s smartphone. Here’s Mark Cuban’s thoughts on the matter.
Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the basketball team the Dallas Mavericks, says Apple is doing the right thing by refusing to build special software to help the FBIunlock an iPhone belonging to one of the terrorists who carried out the mass shooting in San Bernardino in 2015.
Using a 227-year-old law, the FBI is demanding that Apple write a new version of its iPhone operating system to help the agency bypass the encryption security features in the iPhone belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people at a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Dec. 2. But Apple has refused to build the backdoor, explaining in a letter released to the public this week that the new iOS program could have disastrous effects on the privacy of every iPhone user.
In a blog post, Cuban writes that if Apple complies with the FBI’s demands it could start rolling down a “slippery slope of lost privacy.” The FBI says it just wants a one-off program to decrypt the locked iPhone, but Apple says once the ability to decrypt an iPhone is created it could be used to unlock any iPhone user’s phone–effectively opening a Pandora’s box that could never be closed.
Cuban says the potential for abuse could threaten the privacy millions of people.
“Every tool that protects our privacy and liberties against oppression, tyranny, madmen and worse can often be used to take those very precious rights from us. But like we protect our 2nd Amendment Right [sic], we must not let some of the negatives stand in the way of all the positives. We must stand up for our rights to free speech and liberty,” Cuban writes.
The major sticking point is that no law exists that would compel a company to write software to crack its own encrypted software, so the FBI is using the All Writs Act of 1789, which George Washington signed during the creation of the federal court system. The Act is a vague catch-all that empowers courts to issue orders even though a law doesn’t exist yet.
Apple is framing the FBI’s use of the law as a dangerous precedent, reminiscent of the NSA’s mass surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden.
“If the government can use the All Writs Act to make it easier to unlock your iPhone, it would have the power to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data,” Tim Cook wrote in a customer letter. “The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge.”
But Cuban has an answer. Cuban admits he is not one to propose more laws, but he says the All Writs Act is dangerously vague and could lead to the wholesale loss of our nation’s privacy. His answer is to create a new law specifically tailored to this unique situation, which was created by the fact that technology moves faster than law. Check out Cuban’s proposed law below:
“A company can only be compelled to remove any type of security or encryption from a smartphone or tablet, and only a smartphone or tablet, under the following circumstances:
1. There has been an event, with casualties, that has beendeclared an Act of Terrorism
2. There is reason to believe that the smartphone was possessed by a participant in the Act of Terrorism.
3. The smartphone must have been on premise during the event.
4. The terrorist who was in possession of the smartphone or tablet must be deceased.”
[G o o d] Morning #digital friends! Not sure where we’d be without ☕️????.#didyouknow Neurofuse, one of the most popular nootropic formulations out there, was originally developed by Harvard students looking to gain an academic edge but not interested in the risks associated with prescription products. They built a safe and effective formula and recently released it publicly. Read the full article —>http://nextshark.com/9-reasons-elite-entrepreneurs-are-using-study-pills-to-crush-work-1/ #google #instadaily#instapic #instagood #guardianowldigital #louisville #coffee #coffeeaddicts#me #love #energy #awake #business #women #girlboss #marketing#professional #life #goodmorning #googlepartners #louisvilledigital #tech #technology #entrepreneur #seo #sem
[G o o d] Morning #digital friends! Not sure where we'd be without ☕️?. #didyouknow Neurofuse, one of the most popular nootropic formulations out there, was originally developed by Harvard students looking to gain an academic edge but not interested in the risks associated with prescription products. They built a safe and effective formula and recently released it publicly. Read the full article —>http://nextshark.com/9-reasons-elite-entrepreneurs-are-using-study-pills-to-crush-work-1/ #google #instadaily #instapic #instagood #guardianowldigital #louisville #coffee #coffeeaddicts #me #love #energy #awake #business #women #girlboss #marketing #professional #life #goodmorning #googlepartners #louisvilledigital #tech #technology #entrepreneur #seo #sem #keurig
Things you LOVE are made with CODE. Less than 1% of girls study Computer Science; I want to make a difference in changing that statistic. From fashion, film, technology, etc. things you love are Made with Code.
– Some statistics to think about-
-In the United States, 74% of girls express interest in ScienceTechnology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in middle school.
-In high school, only 0.3% girls plan to major in Computer Science
-Computer Science jobs will be the highest paying sectors over the next decade, paying almost $15k more than average.
To many startups, search engine optimization (SEO) is a task that sits on their company’s back burner. Yes, there’s an element of uncertainty with SEO (after all, Google doesn’t publicly reveal the factors they use to rank websites). But according to a new ranking-factor study, SEO doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. In fact, you can prioritize your SEO tasks based on what’s likely to give you the most bang for your buck.
With features to launch and customers to support, the idea of spending time fiddling with your title tags can seem like a fool’s errand. That’s especially true when there’s no guarantee that your hard work will result in a single additional visitor from Google. That’s one of the reasons that a recent study ranked SEO as the third most important marketing priority for startups (behind social media and content marketing).
Why do startups tend to shy away from SEO? From working with dozens of startups, I’ve found that founders hate the uncertainty that comes from SEO. Indeed, success with SEO can seem like throwing two dice and hoping you roll double sevens.
Backlinks, content and page speed are key
Backlinko recently teamed up with a handful of SEO software companies to evaluate the factors that are most important for success with SEO today. To do this, they analyzed one million Google search results.
Of the 20 potential ranking factors they looked at, five were revealed to be especially important. I’m going to deep-dive into these five important ranking factors, and show you how you can apply them to squeeze more juice out of your SEO efforts.
Content is king?
The study found that the most important ranking factor was number of different websites linking to your page.
This ranking factor is as old as Google itself.
Despite the fact that so-called “black hat SEOs” manipulate Google with phony links, it appears that this ranking factor remains an integral part of what makes Google tick.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Google’s reliance on backlinks has taken it from two guys in a garage near Stanford to one of the most valuable companies on the planet. And today, Google’s worldwide search market share remains relatively stable. This makes it unlikely Google will completely remove backlinks from their algorithm. This data suggests that, at least for today, backlinks are still heavily relied upon by Big G.
You can prioritize your SEO tasks based on what’s likely to give you the most bang for your buck.
Another interesting wrinkle is that this finding flies in the face of what many SEO consultants recommend: Many SEO agencies preach a “quality over quantity” approach to link building.
While there’s no question certain backlinks provide more benefit than others (for example, a link from TechCrunch is significantly more powerful than a link from your average mommy blog), this study suggests that backlink quantity is also important.
This is an important lesson for founders and startup marketers to learn. As someone who does PR consulting for startups, I notice that many founders shoot for the moon with their link and PR aspirations. In other words, to many founders, it’s “CNN.com or bust.” This new data suggests that this approach may be a mistake. In fact, one of the chief reasons I took Polar to 40+ million pageviews is that I wasn’t overly picky about which sites we got mentions and links from.
If a site looked legit and wanted to cover us, I said, “Let’s do it.” That’s part of the reason I’ve landed 1,300 mentions over the last few years.
As you can see, a lot of these mentions were on major news sites. But the funny thing is that a good chunk of these major mentions came as a result of a smaller blog or niche news site writing about us. In fact, this is the exact strategy that Ryan Holiday recommends in his PR classic “Trust Me, I’m Lying.”
Not only are mentions from smaller sites beneficial for startups’ PR, but they can significantly boost your Google rankings, as well.
Slow loading site = SEO death
Backlinko’s new study also found a strong tie between site speed and Google rankings. Using site-loading-speed data from Alexa, they discovered that fast-loading websites significantly outperformed slow sites.
This finding shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who follows SEO. Google has come out and said they use site speed as a “signal in our search ranking algorithms.” Because users hate slow-loading websites, Google doesn’t want to show them to their users.
Fortunately, taking your site from “tortoise” to “hare” is relatively simple. If you happen to use WordPress, there are no shortage of plug-ins that can boost your site’s loading time. Even if you don’t use WordPress, a few quick steps can typically move the needle for most websites:
- Upgrade your hosting: Cheap $5/month hosting plans like Bluehost aren’t bad, but their servers aren’t typically optimized for speed.
- Cut image file sizes: For most websites, images are the No. 1 factor that slow down a page. You can usually compress them or reduce their size without sacrificing much in the way of quality.
- Hire a coder: If you’re not a coder, hiring a pro to analyze your code with an eye on site speed can be a game changer. Most sites have at least some code bloat that can be easily cleaned up.
Long-form content wins the day
Backlinko also found that, when it comes to SEO, content may not be king, but it’s certainly queen. Specifically, their data revealed that long-form content tended to rank above shorter content.
According to their analysis, the average article on Google’s first page boasts 1,890 words.
Does this mean that Google has an inherent preference for long content? Maybe. The study authors pointed out that this finding was simply a correlation, and they couldn’t say for sure. But they hypothesized that Google would want to show their users through content that fully answers their query. In other words, long-form content.
However, it may be that longer content generates more shares (in the form of tweets, Facebook likes and backlinks). In fact, BuzzSumo found that longer content tended to generate more social shares.
Considering that shares can lead to higher rankings, long-form content may simply outperform short content in the share department, leading to higher Google rankings.
If you haven’t attempted to publish long-form content because you feel your audience doesn’t have the attention span for it, this finding may give you the impetus to at least give it a shot.
Adding focus to your content may improve rankings
Additionally, the study found that focused content outperformed content that attempted to cover several different topics. Using software called MarketMuse, each article in their database was scored for “topical authority.” A high score represents an article that covered a topic in-depth. A low score indicates that the article skimmed the surface of a given topic.
The authors guessed that Google would prefer comprehensive content. This is because of a fundamental shift in the way Google indexes content. In the last few years, Google has moved away from simply looking at the words on your page to actually understanding what your page is about. This is known as semantic search.
For example, before semantic search, if you Googled “who is the CEO of Starbucks”, Google would look for pages that contained the exact term “who is the CEO of Starbucks” on the page. And they would present 10 links to those pages.
Today, they know the actual answer, and present it to you.
It turns out that Google may prefer in-depth content, as it gives them a deeper understanding of your content. This study found that content rated as having high topical authority ranked above content with a poor rating.
The old writing adage “go an inch wide and a mile deep” may also now apply to SEO, as well.
Bounces aren’t just hurting conversions
This research also found a correlation between a low bounce rate and poor rankings in Google.
According to the study, Google may use bounce rate as a proxy measure of content quality. If someone searches for a keyword, clicks on your page and quickly leaves, it sends a message to Google that your page isn’t a good fit for that keyword.
On the other hand, if you stay on the site and browse through several different pages, it implies that that person had a great experience and enjoyed reading your content. That may push Google to show your page to more people.
While this finding is interesting, there are a few important caveats I should point out.
Also, being a correlation study, it’s impossible to say whether Google directly measures or uses bounce rate as a ranking signal. A high bounce rate may simply reflect content that isn’t very good.
Regardless, reducing your bounce rate certainly won’t result in lower rankings — and it can boost conversions, as well.