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New research from Yext and Forbes reinforces just how important it is to keep the information on search engine results relevant to your business accurate and up-to-date. 

The findings from more than 500 US consumers indicates that people automatically assume only half of the information they see in search results is accurate. Additionally, those consumers then hold the brands responsible for any inaccurate information about them, even when it appears outside of your official channels.

The study also revealed a few more bits of interesting information:

  • 57% of respondents say they bypass search and visit a brand’s official website first because they believe the information there will be more complete and accurate.
  • 50% of consumers regularly turn to third-party sites and apps to find information about brands.
  • 48% of those surveyed said a brand’s website is their most trusted source of information.
  • 47% say they are more likely to trust a third-party site over a brand’s website.
  • 20% of current and new customers trust social media to deliver accurate brand information.
  • 28% of consumers avoid buying a brand’s product after seeing inaccurate information.

Marc Ferrentino, Chief Strategy Officer of Yext elaborated on the findings, saying:

”Our research shows that regardless of where they search for information, people expect the answers they find to be consistent and accurate — and they hold brands responsible to ensure this is the case.

… there is a significant opportunity for businesses to differentiate themselves from their competition through verification on and off of their own websites.”

You can download the full report here.

A lot of people have come to think of search engine optimization and content marketing as separate strategies these days, but Google’s John Mueller wants to remind webmasters that both are intrinsically linked. Without great content, even the most well-optimized sites won’t rank as high as they should.

The discussion was brought up during a recent Google Webmaster Central hangout where one site owner asked about improving rankings for his site.

Specifically, he explained that there were no technical issues that he could find using Google’s tools and wasn’t sure what else he could do to improve performance.

Here’s the question that was asked:

“There are zero issues on our website according to Search Console. We’re providing fast performance in mobile and great UX. I’m not sure what to do to improve rankings.”

Mueller responded by explaining that it is important to not forget about the other half of the equation. Just focusing on the technical details won’t always lead to high rankings because the content on the site still needs to be relevant and engaging for users.

The best way to approach the issue, in Mueller’s opinion, is to ask what issues users might be having with your products or services and what questions they might ask. Then, use content to provide clear and easily available answers to these questions.

In addition to these issues, Mueller noted that some industries have much stronger competition for rankings than others. If you are in one of these niches, you may still struggle to rank as well as you’d like against competition which has been maintaining an informative and well-designed site for longer.

You can read or watch Mueller’s answer in full below, starting at 32:29 in the video:

“This is always kind of a tricky situation where you’re working on your website for a while, then sometimes you focus on a lot of the technical details and forget about the bigger picture.

So what I would recommend doing here is taking your website and the queries that you’re looking [to rank] for, and going to one of the webmaster forums.

It could be our webmaster forum, there are lots of other webmaster forums out there where webmasters and SEOs hang out. And sometimes they’ll be able to look at your website and quickly pull out a bunch of issues. Things that you could be focusing on as well.

Sometimes that’s not so easy, but I think having more people look at your website and give you advice, and being open to that advice, I think that’s an important aspect here.

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because something is technically correct doesn’t mean that it’s relevant to users in the search results. That doesn’t mean that it will rank high.

So if you clean up your website, and you fix all of the issues, for example, if your website contains lots of terrible content then it still won’t rank that high.

So you need to, on the one hand, understand which of these technical issues are actually critical for your website to have fixed.

And, on the other hand, you really need to focus on the user aspect as well to find what are issues that users are having, and how can my website help solve those issues. Or help answer those questions.”

Source: YouTube

Source: YouTube

March Madness is upon us and everyone is getting into the spirit, including Bing. The search engine has launched their smart answers in the search results for March Madness and other related searches to see brackets, scores, and predictions.

Users get three options above the normal search results for the basketball tournament. The default view shows the current bracket results, but users can also build their own brackets and see Bing’s predicted outcome. On top of all of this, Bing also offers the schedules and teams playing in the competition.

Below you can see a screenshot of the default view for bracket results, which expands by clicking on the down arrow or the results button:

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If you choose to view Bing’s predictions, the window gets even bigger. Barry Schwartz captured a large screenshot, which you can click to enlarge:

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Bing said:

Now that the bracket has officially been announced, our data scientists are in the lab, working tirelessly to perfect their models so our smarter bracket is powered by Bing Predicts and ready for you to access by Monday morning. Stay tuned for an updated analysis of the Bing smarter bracket on the Bing blog tomorrow.

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As of January 1st, Bing is officially powering AOL’s search results as the result of a long-term deal made by the two companies in June of last year. Rick van der Kooi, Corporate VP of Microsoft Search Advertising announced the change, saying:

“Today, I am excited to share that as of Jan. 1, Bing powers AOL’s web, mobile, and tablet search, providing paid search ads and algorithmic organic search results to AOL’s properties worldwide.”

Van der Kooi also shared some interesting bits of information to help illustrate the scale of the partnership, including:

  • 1 in 5 searches happen on Bing.com
  • Bing also powers search results for the third largest search provider in the US (Yahoo)
  • With Bing now powering AOL searches, the engine now powers close to one-third of all US PC web searches.

The company looks to gain even more ground by acquiring the built-in audience from AOL, which is responsible for generating billions of search queries a year.

Unlike Bing’s deal with Yahoo, Bing’s will be powering 100% of AOL’s search results across all devices. In the Yahoo agreement, only 51% of Yahoo’s desktop search results are powered by Bing, with no support for mobile.

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As the premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens grows closer, Google is getting in on the excitement. The company recently announced its new #ChooseYourSide campaign, and indicated it was planning a number of Star Wars Easter eggs ahead of the film’s release on December 18.

Well, you don’t have to wait for the Easter eggs to start popping up. The first surprise for Star Wars fans who use Chrome has already been found.

Just Google the famous first line from the original 1977 Star Wars movie (“a long time ago in a galaxy far far away”), and you will be treated to a page in the style of the series iconic opening crawl. Instead of an summary of intergalactic politics and jedi-related events however, the scrawl shows search results over a Star Wars-themed background.

You can find out more about the #ChooseYourSide campaign over at Marketing Land. Fans will have to keep waiting for the film’s release, but keep your eyes peeled for more exciting Easter eggs in the meantime.

Google is launching a new set of algorithm changes intended to remove hacked sites that spew spam from the search engines. According to the company, the changes will affect approximately 5% of queries and has already begun rolling out.

Google says it is cracking down on hacked spam to protect both searchers and site owners, but the move could have consequences for legitimate site owners unaware their site has been hacked. These sites are dangerous to those who visit them as they can lead to malware downloads, marketing of illegal goods, or completely redirecting people to unintended, low-quality sites.

For queries with a particularly large amount of hacked spam present in the SERPs, Google says you may see an overall reduction in the amount of results shown. According to the announcement, this is because Google is working to make sure users only see the most relevant results for their queries.

In some particular searches, as much as a quarter of the search results have been removed.

Google has said these changes will be part of an ongoing effort to continuously refine its algorithms to improve SERPs and cut out bad content.

Every year, Moz publishes a complete review of the search ranking factors that most influenced the search results pages for the year. Now, they have released their latest study, which they say is the largest they have yet to do.

The study attempts to lift the veil on Google’s search ranking factors by surveying industry experts and using correlation studies to measure the search results and rankings. This year, Moz interviewed over 150 leading search experts, as well as using data from their own correlation studies and data from SimilarWeb, DomainTools, and Ahrefs.

The most notable finding from the new study is that, despite continuous cries of “links are dead”, links to the domain and page level are still the highest ranking factor for Google. The lowest factors included in the study were social metrics, TLDs, and basic on-page markup such as schema.

The infographic below summarizes the findings of the study, but you can also see the full study for more in-depth details.

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It might not be a surprise to learn that Amazon dominates the search engine results pages, but you might be surprised by just how much they lead all other major brands.

A recent performance study of 10 leading U.S. brands published by SearchMetrics makes it clear that Amazon has by far the most visibility across Google’s search results on both desktop and mobile.

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In the study, SearchMetrics used the top 10 retail sites listed in the National Retail Federation’s list of top 100 retailers and parsed the search results of millions of Google search terms to establish a mobile visibility score along with a desktop visibility score.

To calculate the visibility score, the study evaluated the number of times a brand appears across a keyword set, the brand’s rankings within those search engine results pages, competitiveness of keywords, and the click through rate of those results pages.

Even compared to other major competitors, Amazon is an absolute giant. With the staggering rating of 11,145,359, the online retail company dwarfs Walmart, its closest competitor with a score of 1,816,192.  Following Walmart were The Home Depot with 881,538, and Target.com, with a score of 771,839.

The focus of the study was mobile search, as it is most often the first touch point to purchase. However, the analysis also showed the rankings remain the same on desktop.

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The first round of March Madness games begin in earnest tomorrow and Bing is helping you get prepared for the big NCAA tournament. The search engine is offering predictions and tournament brackets so you can gauge the best picks for each match-up and even get in on the action by submitting brackets to the official contest on NCAA.com.

Anyone searching for terms such as “NCAA,” “March Madness,” or “college basketball” will immediately see the entire tournament bracket, as well as Bing’s predictions for every one of the 69 games.

The responsive search features are the result of a partnership between Bing and NCAA announced last week, which allowed Bing greater access to stats and data. According to Bing, the wealth of data took over seven hours of data crunching Sunday evening to prepare their predictions this soon.

In a blog post, Bing Predicts chief Dr. Walter Sun claims there are more than 9.2 permutations involved in the tournament bracket, and explains how Bing used over 10 years of data to inform its predictions.

This includes offensive and defensive statistics, conference success in previous tournaments, the proximity of tournaments to each team’s home campus, the style of each team, their individual strengths and weaknesses, and many other factors which might result in them favoring certain match-ups over others. After ingesting these initial data sets, we applied our analysis of web and social sentiment to tune our predictions, resulting in projected outcomes for each of the 67 games of the tournament, including both predicted winner and probability of the team winning. We then present to you the 1 bracket which we think is the most likely to transpire.

Bing has pegged the Kentucky Wildcats as the team who will take the championship this year, which isn’t exactly a daring prediction given the team’s perfect 34-0 record. Bing’s team of statisticians are not the only team thinking the win streak will leak the Wildcats to win it all. The analysts from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com give Kentucky a 41 percent chance of winning. For comparison, the second most likely team, Villanova, only received an 11 percent chance.

Bing’s special results page for the tournament also includes game schedules as well as team breakdowns similar to what the search engine showed during last year’s World Cup.

Bing’s partnership with the NCAA has most likely given the search engine a lead on preparing this search feature. Currently searching for anything similar doesn’t show anything special on Google, but that will most likely change before the opening games tomorrow.

Those who have been following search trends in the past couple years have likely heard that being the first result on the search engine results pages (SERPs) is not nearly as important these days, mostly because the results we see are now customized based on location and user habits.

This is absolutely still the case for desktop searching, but a new click-through ranking study conducted by seoClarity suggests the difference between first and second in mobile search results may be the difference between success and failure. Their findings show such a large drop-off between the first and second rankings that there was no notable difference between the second listing and those that followed.

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In the graph of mobile click through rates, you can see the first result receives nearly three times the number of clicks compared to the second ranking, while desktop rankings continue to show a more gradual slope following the first result.

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To conduct the study, seoClarity examined over 2 billion impressions from Google Webmaster Tools data over a 90 day period between June and August. You can download and view the full report here.