SEM / SEO News


Phrase match is dead. Long live phrase match!

Reports of the demise of phrase match have been greatly exaggerated, finds contributor Steve Cameron. It turns out that there are certain situations in which it comes in pretty handy.

When Google launched their broad match modified match type some years ago, some marketers hailed the demise of phrase match as something of a foregone conclusion.

Many, ourselves included, quickly shifted gears and rolled out new campaigns using a combination of broad match modified (BMM), exact match and negative match keywords. And others did not.

Let’s consider why we did this. First — and this should be writ large wherever AdWords advertisers congregate — no one likes broad match. No one except, perhaps, Google.

Using broad match is essentially lazy, the equivalent of holding out your hand with all your money it in and letting Google take what they want. They’re getting better — broad match is nowhere near as bad as it used to be — but it still allows Google a freedom you wouldn’t want your car mechanic or your electrician to have.

As a result, many advertisers instead opted for phrase match and exact match for their keywords, often having to develop hundreds of phrase match keywords to cover a multitude of possible search terms. For example, if we were trying to promote our blue widgets, we might start with “blue widgets” as a search term but soon have to add “widgets in blue,” “blue color widgets,” and so on.

With the introduction of BMM, advertisers were suddenly able to cover hundreds of possible search terms by simply using +blue +widgets. In our agency, we then monitor the Search Query Performance reports, pull out those search terms that deserve special attention and move them directly into exact match status, thus making the intermediate phrase match version redundant.

This streamlines the process and, with new build campaigns, seems to be the simplest way to get campaigns live and generating real data. We can then crunch this data faster to get to the kernels of optimization that will drive ongoing success.

Phrase match is still holding its own

We reached out to other marketers to discover how phrase match fits into their account management approach and found that reports of phrase match’s demise may be a little premature.

As Mark Kennedy from SEOM Interactive comments:

“While the changes to match types over the last few months have leant towards the demise of phrase match, it still has its place. I won’t remove it from older accounts where phrase match KWs have good history and conversion value (although I will prune those with no value). And if they are in accounts where ad groups are broken out by match type, I tend to keep them as well — again, especially where there is historical data. The other time I use them is when I am mining search query reports for converting phrases that I want to test. So I’ll use different match types on these new terms (including phrase match) to see what performs well. So while phrase match isn’t ‘necessary’ anymore we haven’t taken it totally out of the utility belt.”

Kennedy’s comments about historical value are particularly significant. Google loves historical data — especially when it comes to Quality Score, for example, and it could take a new BMM keyword some time to achieve a high QS already enjoyed by a long-term phrase match keyword that has consistently performed well.


Google adds 30 languages to voice search & makes it possible to use emojis with voice typing

Included among the new languages are Swahili and Amharic, two of the most popular African languages.

Aiming to make its voice typing technology more inclusive, Google has added 30 new languages to voice search — bringing the total number of languages supported by speech recognition via Gboard on Android to 119.

Included among the languages are Bengali, Lao, Sundanese, Urdu and two of the most popular African languages — Swahili and Amharic. It has also added Georgian, an ancient language that dates back to the 10th century.

From the Google Search Blog:

  • To incorporate 30 new language varieties, we worked with native speakers to collect speech samples, asking them to read common phrases. This process trained our machine learning models to understand the sounds and words of the new languages and to improve their accuracy when exposed to more examples over time.


Developing content for the customer journey

Columnist Bobby Lyons explains why SEOs must move away from ‘SEO content’ and start thinking about content that meets users’ needs throughout the buyer journey.

Ten years ago, referring to content on a page as “SEO content” was often appropriate. Keyword density was still a strong factor for ranking page content, and SEO professionals struggled with achieving SEO objectives while still providing an engaging content experience for the customer.

Today, I still occasionally hear content requested and/or developed by my team referred to as “SEO content.” While it is easy to be offended, the fact is that there was a time in SEO where content quality was not our top priority, so we must own our past. Certainly Google, Bing, and Yahoo share part of the blame, as we were simply playing the hand we were dealt at the time.

Google has since reshuffled the deck, and the hand we are dealt today requires that our content compete at a quality level. Now when I hear someone refer to content as “SEO content,” I take a deep breath, and I begin my education process. The process always begins with acknowledging the past, and then it is followed with a detailed explanation of how search engine optimization has evolved into search experience optimization.

SEO today is about user experience

Search experience optimization is focused purely on enhancing the customer journey. These days, a search query is often the starting point of that journey. Unfortunately, we rarely know the exact phrase or keyword the customer typed into that search box to start their journey, but we know the page they landed on when they reached our website.

Based on data from Google Search Console, we know what keywords and phrases a page is ranking for, and we can therefore make a fairly educated guess as to what keywords the customer used to arrive on the page. We can then use this data to build an inventory of keywords and phrases, each of which may dictate a completely different user intent.

Identify gaps in the customer experience

The page keywords and phrases serve as our inventory of the customer intents, and this allows us to perform an audit to identify the gaps in our experience. What objectives may the customer have that our website experience fails to help them achieve? We map the various intents to each stage of the customer journey, then perform a gap analysis. The gaps define the work that needs to be done to optimize our website content for the entire journey.


Google Search Console average impression data change is not a bug, it is a reporting change

It’s not a bug, it is a new feature, says Google, referring to the change in some of the metrics reporting in the Google Search Analytics tool.

Google has informed us that they have updated how they measure the metrics they report in Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report specifically for search results in lower positions. Google updated the data anomalies page to say that this change started on July 14, 2017, and goes forward from there.

It reads:

An incremental improvement in Google’s logging system now provides better accounting for results in lower positions. This change might cause increase in impressions, but also a decrease in average positions. This change only effects [sic] Search Console reporting, not your actual performance on Google Search.

This came up yesterday when we reported that many webmasters were noticing changes in the average position metric starting after July 13.

This is not a bug, as we previously thought; it is, however, a feature change in how Google measures the data in the lower positions.

Google is clear to say that no actual ranking changes have occurred specifically around this report, but rather it is how Google accounts for those positions in the Search Analytics report.



Google publishes new FAQ on job search postings for webmasters

Google’s Mariya Moeva answered some of the top questions webmasters and SEOs have around marking up their job listings for Google’s new jobs for search.

google webmaster search Get Google SEO

Mariya Moeva from Google posted a new and helpful frequently asked questions document in the webmaster help forums around the new job search functions in Google.

Google is encouraging webmasters to mark up their job listings so that Google can show them in web search for job-related queries. Yesterday, Google published this helpful FAQ around this topic.




Here is a copy of the FAQs for job search postings for webmasters:

Q: Why aren’t my jobs appearing in this feature? As with any other structured markup feature in Search, having markup doesn’t guarantee appearing in the Search results. To debug any issues that are related to the markup implementation, go through the following:

  • Validate the markup in the Structured Data Testing Tool.
  • Check that your sitemap has been crawled and does not contain any errors. Sitemaps need to be accurate and correct in order to be processed.
  • Go through your Rich Card Report in Search Console to check if there are any potential issues with your markup.

Q: How do I check how many jobs are indexed? Use the Rich Cards Report within Search Console.

Q: Should we put the markup on the canonical or mobile page? Markup should be placed on all pages, not just the canonical link.

Q: Can we include markup on our job listing pages? No, job listing pages should not reference any job posting markup.

Q: Can we include listing pages on our sitemap? We strongly recommend that only job leaf pages are included in the sitemap. If there are job listing pages in your sitemap, please ensure that no job postings markup is included on these pages.

Q: What does the ISO 8601 format look like for the tag in the sitemap? The format for date times must follow the following convention: YYYY-MM-DDTHH:mm:ss±hh:mm. Example: 2017-06-15T16:16:16+00:00

Q: Can we append our URLs with a tag or special attribution parameters? No. Only canonical links should be provided.

Q: Can two markup formats (e.g., JSON and Microdata) be used simultaneously on the same page? Although both formats are equally accepted, we prefer that only one format is used within each page to prevent any conflicting information between markup blocks. That being said, our team does prefer that the markup is implemented in JSON.

Q: Should we simply remove a sitemap from a sitemap index file as soon as there are no valid job posting URLs available? It is best that initially we are provided an empty sitemap file prior to removing references to the sitemap from your sitemap index file. This way, once we receive the next ping of your sitemap index we are able to properly detect markup removals for job posting pages. Once this has been done, the empty sitemap file can be removed from the index the following day.



Google begins rolling out messaging feature within Google My Business

You can now message with your customers directly via your Google local panel in mobile search.

Google appears to be rolling out a messaging feature to Google My Business customers. Both Mike Blumenthal and @AnthonyCGuzman posted that they and their customers are starting to notice the feature within Google My Business. This is a feature Google began testing in November of last year.

Google has confirmed this is now fully rolling out to businesses in the US and I am personally able to test it on businesses that I have access to under my Google My Business account.

When you go to the Google My Business home page, you will see this new section for “Messaging” on the left and an option in the middle promoting it saying, “Message with customers.”



Google says it lost 20 days of data of new Google Search Console users

Did you recently sign up for Google Search Console? Well, you might be missing some important data.

Google has updated its data anomalies page to document that there was data loss within the Google Search Console tool for new users who signed up between June 21 and July 10, 2017.

Those webmasters and SEOs who signed up to the Google Search Console and verified properties will not see those 20 days of data. Google seems to have fixed the issue going forward, but anyone who signed up as a new user to the Google Search Console during that date range of June 21 to July 10 will be missing data between those dates.


Google wrote:

All first-time Search Console users who joined Search Console during this period will be missing site data during this period. First-time users who joined before or after this period are not affected.

This does not impact those who signed up to the Search Console before or after those dates.