SEM search placements include an “Ad” designation. SEO does not. Search results that appear as a result of SEM or SEO look different on SERPs. Paid ads that receive placement through SEM tactics are often identified as an ad (e.g., by an icon appearing next to the placement), whereas the search results that appear as a result of organic SEO are not marked in such manner.
Both require knowing your audience. To succeed at both strategies, you must have a good understanding of your audience and how they act. By using buyer personas and psychographic segmentation, you can get to know your audience, discover what their needs are, and what they are searching for. Then you can create valuable content that shows up when they go looking for solutions related to your brand.
QUOTE: “So it’s not something where we’d say, if your website was previously affected, then it will always be affected. Or if it wasn’t previously affected, it will never be affected.… sometimes we do change the criteria…. category pages…. (I) wouldn’t see that as something where Panda would say, this looks bad.… Ask them the questions from the Panda blog post….. usability, you need to work on.“ John Mueller, Google.
QUOTE: “alt attribute should be used to describe the image. So if you have an image of a big blue pineapple chair you should use the alt tag that best describes it, which is alt=”big blue pineapple chair.” title attribute should be used when the image is a hyperlink to a specific page. The title attribute should contain information about what will happen when you click on the image. For example, if the image will get larger, it should read something like, title=”View a larger version of the big blue pineapple chair image.” John Mueller, Google 2008
Although more and more keywords are getting encrypted by Google every day, another smart way to come up with keyword ideas is to figure out which keywords your website is already getting found for. To do this, you'll need website analytics software like Google Analytics or HubSpot's Sources report, available in the Traffic Analytics tool. Drill down into your website's traffic sources, and sift through your organic search traffic bucket to identify the keywords people are using to arrive at your site.

QUOTE: “To summarize, a lack of helpful SC may be a reason for a Low quality rating, depending on the purpose of the page and the type of website. We have different standards for small websites which exist to serve their communities versus large websites with a large volume of webpages and content. For some types of “webpages,” such as PDFs and JPEG files, we expect no SC at all.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2015
This relationship between rankings and clicks (and traffic) is strongest amongst the top 3 search results. However, changing layout of the search results pages is constantly changing, with the inclusion of Google’s Knowledge Graph data and the integration of Universal Search elements (SERP Features) like videos, maps and Google Shopping ads. These developments can mean that the top 3 organic rankings are no longer the 3 best positions on the SERP. This has been demonstrated in heatmap and eye-tracking tests.
QUOTE: “Fixing the problem depends on the issue you have. For example, if it’s a pop-up, you’ll need to remove all the pop-up ads from your site. But if the issue is high ad density on a page, you’ll need to reduce the number of ads. Once you fix the issues, you can submit your site for a re-review. We’ll look at a new sample of pages and may find ad experiences that were missed previously. We’ll email you when the results are in.” Google, 2017
For example, let’s say you were running the website of an online pet store. You might be wise to create one keyword grouping for all your dog-related products, then one for all of your parakeet-related projects, etc. The next step would be to segment each individual group into smaller subgroups (parakeet cages, parakeet toys, parakeet snacks) and then even smaller groups for each type of product (low-fat parakeet snacks, luxury parakeet snacks… you get the idea). Now your pet store can create individual pages optimized for each small keyword group.

Experience can educate you when a page is high-quality and yet receives no traffic. If the page is thin, but is not manipulative, is indeed ‘unique’ and delivers on a purpose with little obvious detectable reason to mark it down, then you can say it is a high-quality page – just with very little search demand for it. Ignored content is not the same as ‘toxic’ content.


Most small businesses owners and marketers know a little something about SEO (search engine optimization) and the different tactics to help your website rank well in organic search engine results. Another important tactic for any Internet business to know about is SEM (search engine marketing), which includes things such as search engine optimization, paid listings and other search engine related services.

When would this be useful? If your site has a blog with public commenting turned on, links within those comments could pass your reputation to pages that you may not be comfortable vouching for. Blog comment areas on pages are highly susceptible to comment spam. Nofollowing these user-added links ensures that you're not giving your page's hard-earned reputation to a spammy site.
If you are using Responsive Web Design, use meta name="viewport" tag to tell the browser how to adjust the content. If you use Dynamic Serving, use the Vary HTTP header to signal your changes depending on the user-agent. If you are using separate URLs, signal the relationship between two URLs by tag with rel="canonical" and rel="alternate" elements.
The goal of successful SEO is to obtain a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines). Internet users often do not click through pages and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search results page is essential for directing more traffic toward the site. The higher a website naturally ranks in organic results of a search, the greater the chance that that site will be visited by a user.
To get even more insight and data to help you make those decisions, sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan. You’ll get access to tools that help you research competitor search and link building strategies, find keyword opportunities, review your site’s SEO, and learn about your target audience. These insights, paired with what you know about SEM and SEO, will help you uncover the best search marketing strategy for your unique brand and goals.
Great guide Sharon! Thank you so much for sharing. I was wondering if off-page SEO is still worth it? Like using Personal Publishing Accounts or other social media where you can share your content. I’ve been trying for some months now to spread around content but still waiting for better results. I’ve read it needs diversity but I still haven’t figured it out yet.
QUOTE: “Returning a code other than 404 or 410 for a non-existent page (or redirecting users to another page, such as the homepage, instead of returning a 404) can be problematic. Firstly, it tells search engines that there’s a real page at that URL. As a result, that URL may be crawled and its content indexed. Because of the time Googlebot spends on non-existent pages, your unique URLs may not be discovered as quickly or visited as frequently and your site’s crawl coverage may be impacted (also, you probably don’t want your site to rank well for the search query” GOOGLE
QUOTE: “Keyword Stuffed” Main Content Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users. Keyword stuffing can range from mildly annoying to users, to complete gibberish. Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2017
Consider the current status of your website. When you create a marketing strategy, look for the “low-hanging fruit”, or the opportunities that will make the biggest impact with the least amount of work Click & Tweet! . So before you launch a search marketing campaign, research your website to see where you may have the potential to grow an organic SEO strategy that is already working before putting money into an SEM campaign.
For instance, in a recent test (2019), if you have a page title longer than 12 words, all the keywords beyond 12 words evaporated from the page copy. This is a change from the way Google used to work, when the extra words were included as part of the page copy, not just part of the title. So, if you have a 15 word title, the last 3 words will not count towards ranking, if that test result was to be replicated.
to avoid throwing link equity away, you might create HIGH-LEVEL IN-DEPTH TOPIC PAGES on your site and redirect (or use canonical redirects) any related expired content that HAVE INCOMING BACKLINKS, to this topic page (and keep it updated, folding content from old pages, where relevant and there is traffic opportunity, to create TOPIC pages that are focused on the customer e.g. information pages)
QUOTE: “The purpose of a page is the reason or reasons why the page was created. Every page on the Internet is created for a purpose, or for multiple purposes. Most pages are created to be helpful for users, thus having a beneficial purpose. Some pages are created merely to make money, with little or no effort to help users. Some pages are even created to cause harm to users. The first step in understanding a page is figuring out its purpose.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2019
Google states, “News articles, Wikipedia articles, blog posts, magazine articles, forum discussions, and ratings from independent organizations can all be sources of reputation information” but they also state specifically boasts about a lot of internet traffic, for example, should not influence the quality rating of a web page. What should influence the reputation of a page is WHO has shared it on social media etc. rather than just raw numbers of shares. CONSIDER CREATING A PAGE with nofollow links to good reviews on other websites as proof of excellence.
Determine who your main online competitors are. Research how they work, how they market and how big of a market share you believe they have. Sign up for e-newsletters, research their press releases and determine the strengths and weaknesses of each online competitor. You may even need to purchase something from them in order to understand how they complete their sales process.
Mobile-first design has been a best practice for a while, and Google is finally about to support it with mobile-first indexing. Learn how mobile-first indexing will give digital marketers their first real swing at influencing Google’s new AI (Artificial Intelligence) landscape. Marketers who embrace an accurate understanding of mobile-first indexing could see a huge first-mover advantage, similar to the early days of the web, and we all need to be prepared.
QUOTE: “Some things don’t change — users’ expectations, in particular. The popups of the early 2000s have reincarnated as modal windows, and are hated just as viscerally today as they were over a decade ago. Automatically playing audio is received just as negatively today. The following ad characteristics remained just as annoying for participants as they were in the early 2000s: Pops up – Slow loading time – Covers what you are trying to see – Moves content around – Occupies most of the page – Automatically plays sound.” Therese Fessenden, Nielsen Norman Group 2017
This relationship between rankings and clicks (and traffic) is strongest amongst the top 3 search results. However, changing layout of the search results pages is constantly changing, with the inclusion of Google’s Knowledge Graph data and the integration of Universal Search elements (SERP Features) like videos, maps and Google Shopping ads. These developments can mean that the top 3 organic rankings are no longer the 3 best positions on the SERP. This has been demonstrated in heatmap and eye-tracking tests.
Hey Sharon, great post! Re. dwell time – I’ve read conflicting opinions, some saying that Google DOES consider it an ‘important’ ranking signal, and others saying that it doesn’t, because dwell time can sometimes be a misleading indicator of content quality. For example when a user searches for something specific and finds the answer immediately in the recommended page (meaning that the content on the page is actually spot on) so he returns to the SERPs very quickly. I have been unable to locate any definitive statements (written/spoken) from anyone at Google that suggest that dwell time IS still a factor in ranking considerations, but it makes sense (to me, anyway) that it should be. Do you have any ‘proof’ one way or the other re. whether Google definitely considers dwell time or not?

You likely have a few keywords in mind that you would like to rank for. These will be things like your products, services, or other topics your website addresses, and they are great seed keywords for your research, so start there! You can enter those keywords into a keyword research tool to discover average monthly search volume and similar keywords. We’ll get into search volume in greater depth in the next section, but during the discovery phase, it can help you determine which variations of your keywords are most popular amongst searchers.
QUOTE: “high quality content is something I’d focus on. I see lots and lots of SEO blogs talking about user experience, which I think is a great thing to focus on as well. Because that essentially kind of focuses on what we are trying to look at as well. We want to rank content that is useful for (Google users) and if your content is really useful for them, then we want to rank it.” John Mueller, Google 2015
Since heading tags typically make text contained in them larger than normal text on the page, this is a visual cue to users that this text is important and could help them understand something about the type of content underneath the heading text. Multiple heading sizes used in order create a hierarchical structure for your content, making it easier for users to navigate through your document.
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