Stop the madness – Understanding Google’s Algorithm

The everlasting mystery of the internet, the Google algorithm. Ok, maybe it isn’t a complete mystery. We have a pretty good idea of how it works conceptually, the details are just a little bit hazy. It is easy enough to understand the process, the criteria, and the philosophy behind it. Exactly how they are all combined, and in what ratios, is somewhat tougher.

Crawling
All search engines use tools known as “crawlers” to go through all the web pages on the internet and analyze them for content. These automated bots strip information out of html text and prepare it for indexing.

Indexing
This is where all the data that has been viewed by the crawlers is stored. When you initiate a search, it is this database they use to look for relevant information. As you might expect, going through this meticulously organized index is much faster than scanning billions of web pages each time a search query is entered.

The Algorithms
These are the programs that determine which results to show and where to rank them. Google uses a variety that apply depending on the type of search. There are several things these programs do in an attempt to provide the best results:

Analyze the words
They use language code to look beyond the exact words that are used and estimate what the user actually means, in case the wording isn’t clear or ideal. This will take care of typos and try to narrow down words with multiple meanings. This is also why you see the “Did you mean…?” text.

Match the search
At this point, the algorithms are comparing your search terms to the information on web pages in their index. They are looking for volume of keyword occurrences and apparent relevance.

Page ranking
The competition starts here. For most searches, there are millions of sites with related information, so it is Google’s job to rank these pages as accurately as possible to meet the desires of the user. In addition to keyword volume, they will also measure the age of the content, the user experience of the site, and its popularity among previous searches.

Context
This is information that is specific to the user. Past search history, location, and search parameters are three of the main criteria they use to provide the best results for each individual.

Best Results
Before spitting out the results, the algorithms do one more pass to evaluate the quality of the results as a whole, in an attempt to provide a diverse, comprehensive set of options for the user to choose from.

Therefore, while details and emphasis change from time to time (i.e. mobile-first indexing), the overall method remains the same, which means the basics of SEO continue to be quality content, effective keywords, and easily navigable sites.

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2018 Google’s Algorithm Changes and Optimization Strategies

Optimizing for the New SERP Features

Google has gone and given itself a serious overhaul for 2018, and most are still wondering exactly how these changes will affect their business and its page ranking. SERP, or Search Engine Results Page, features refer to all the different formats Google now uses to return search results. Although the majority of these features will only apply to first page results, those with realistic aspirations of getting there need to understand how to optimize for them. Two of the most common features are “Top Stories” and “Ads”, but since the first is normally reserved for large news outlets and the latter is mostly decided by how much you pay, we’ll focus on the other main features.

Local Packs

These occur when the user searches for something for which multiple options can be provided within their geographic area.

Optimizing for this feature requires detailed location data on your site and profiles, plenty of user reviews on sites like Yelp, specific schema markups, and accurate information on Google My Business.

Site Links

This is when Google displays a full set of more specific links to pages within your site in addition to your home page. Achieving this feature puts your site in a commanding position, as it not only dominates the page but also makes it easy for the user to click directly to the page they want.

To optimize for a spot in site links your site must have a very organized, easily navigated structure with unique content on each relevant page. Internal links, keyword metadata, and submitting a site structure to Google Search Console will all increase your chances as well.

Related Questions

These come up when the algorithm isn’t entirely convinced you are asking for exactly what you want to know or they simply want to provide you with options. Either way, this is good for the user as they receive ideas to further improve their search, and it can be good for websites that provide a lot of related content that could be useful.

Optimization strategies for the related questions section include using similar keywords, subtle variations in wording, thorough content, and even including actual questions in your content (i.e. FAQ).

Featured Snippets

This useful feature involves providing another level of information about a site beyond simply a link and description. There are a variety of formats in which these appear—paragraphs, lists, charts, tables—and they tend to match the search very closely and are usually the top choice.

The best ways to earn featured snippets are to directly answer the question that is being asked, to provide extremely relevant and related results, and to offer it in the format most users are looking to find, in this case, a ranked list.

In all likelihood, it is impossible to optimize your site to match all the new SERP features, so choosing a couple of the most likely fits and focusing on them is usually the best strategy.

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7 Tips to Keep You on the First Search Page

It’s no secret that the drop-off in traffic from Google page one search results to page two is disproportionately large. In this day and age of instant gratification, people seem to feel as though they simply don’t have time to search beyond page one. Obviously, that isn’t literally true, but it doesn’t change the fact that optimizing your site to appear on the first page can reap tremendous benefits for your business. Here are some tips to help keep your Google ranking as high as possible:

Relevance
The primary goal of any search is to track down relevant information. Which means your ranking is going to be extremely dependent on how closely your content matches the search criteria. Once you have determined the specific searches you want to target, make sure all your content applies to that area.

Quality
Google is now doing a much better job of evaluating content as opposed to simply counting keywords. If your content is consistently informative, well-written, and entertaining your chances of a top ranking go up accordingly.

Quantity
While excellent content is non-negotiable, the fact remains that in most industries there are many businesses providing high-quality information. Therefore, good content will get you into this group, then producing the most content possible will help set you apart within the group.

Common Questions
Providing relatively direct answers to very specific questions is one of the best ways to get your site to appear in a featured snippet in position zero. Work out the question, or questions, that are most likely to be asked by your ideal customer then strive to provide a comprehensive and accurate answer.

Long-Tail Keywords
There is far too much competition out there to realistically achieve high rankings on common one-word searches. Similar to targeting exact questions, you will want to focus on long-tail keywords, which are longer, more specific keyword phrases that narrow the target group.

Spend
It may not be your first choice but one of the most straightforward ways to get yourself on page one is to simply bid high enough on Google AdWords. The feasibility of this plan will depend on the details of the topic and product, but usually, enough money can get it done.

Guest Posting
Not only do guest posts provide great exposure to new audiences and help to establish you as a thought leader in the industry, but they are also a terrific source of backlinks which are a big help to your ranking.

The complete list of SEO techniques for maximizing your Google ranking is continually evolving, but if you follow these key strategies you will develop a strong platform to work from.

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5 steps to becoming a thought leader

 

If you’ve decided that your next career aspiration is to become a thought leader, that’s definitely a great decision. As an individual who drives innovation, ideas and industry experience, the path to thought leadership should be an easy one to attain – if you know the right steps.

  1. Create a strategy

Decide what your main purpose is in becoming a thought leader or having thought leadership within your organization. While monetization could be the ultimate goal, consider what other goals you’d like to see attained. Once you know what these are, you can create a strategy for content, networking and marketing.

  1. Establish your personal brand

As an individual thought leader, you need to create a brand for yourself. First, define your target audience and then decide who you will be for your audience. While authenticity is one of the best ways to succeed and have continued success as a thought leader, having a consistent image that resonates with your audience is going to be the best way to pull off an authentic personal brand. Your personal brand is your reputation and if you have a good one up until now, continue to grow it. Building your personal brand will also involve creating content and building up your online assets, which we talk about below.

  1. Work with other influencers

The best thought leaders are always educating themselves on the industry, on other thought leaders and on just the world in general. If you have access to mentors or influencers, take full advantage of this and reach out to them for advice. Subscribe to their blogs and social media accounts and learn everything you can as you try and build your own reputation and knowledge base. Keep abreast of studies and happenings in your industry, again by subscribing to relevant content and making time each week to read it and understand it. Be sure to comment on your mentor’s work regularly on their social accounts, as this will help you to get your name out there.

  1. Create valuable content for your audience

One of the most important steps on the journey to thought leadership is to create valuable content. You should be publishing this content regularly to a blog you created, as well as sharing it in as many places as possible. If your ideas and thoughts resonate with your audience, they’ll share them too and you’ll begin to build up a good subscriber base. Reach out to others in the industry and see if you can publish on their blogs as well, driving their readers to your space. If your knowledge is great, but your writing skills aren’t, consider hiring a ghost writer who can succinctly develop your ideas on paper. This can make a huge difference in how your content is received, as readability is very important.

  1. Network every chance you get

Move outside of your circle and introduce yourself to people with which you wouldn’t normally interact. Take every opportunity to be present at speaking events, conferences and other networking events, where you can really make an impact on getting your personal brand recognized. With more people in your network, your work will be shared more frequently and your authority will increase. This often happens exponentially, so put in the man-hours and do the work to show your face and speak your mind. Networking doesn’t just have to happen in person anymore either – there is quite a bit more you can do online these days to develop contacts and reach out to potential leads and subscribers.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

Creating a thought leadership strategy that drives results

For many organizations, establishing thought leadership within the business is a top priority. While your individual goals may vary, the basic purpose of creating thought leadership and its incumbent assets is to differentiate yourself from the competition, to gain the trust of your audience, to gain leads and eventually, to monetize what you’ve done. Anyone can create thought leadership content and other assets, but can they drive results? Here is your quick guide to creating thought leadership that helps you meet your ultimate goals.

Strategize

Going into anything without a strategy is a poor idea and the same goes for your quest to become a thought leader. Align your thought leadership strategy with the growth strategy of your organization. This should include how you position your brand, how you communicate and should integrate the sales process and sales goals. In order to see results, your efforts need to parallel the efforts of the rest of your organization.

Your focus should always be quality over quantity, but should be consistent and continual. Think one month, six months and one year ahead when developing your strategy and decide where you’d like to be and how you’d like to be there. What results would you like to see? Be realistic in recognizing that becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight, but that your consistent effort will help to keep your goals moving forward and drive results.

Create content

Content is king when it comes to thought leadership. Not only will you want to deliver new ideas to your audience in order to gain leads, you want to provide them with relevant advice and solutions that will help solidify their trust. A trusting audience is one that is buying your products. Thought leadership assets can also be all-encompassing and create a system of education for your own team, allowing them to be more effective and easily recognize the goals and innovations of the company. They will then go into the sales process more prepared and better able to close a sale.

Establish a consistent publishing process for all of your thought leadership work. As an organization, you will want to put one person or one team in charge of the documentation process for your thought leadership assets. This person should have valid experience in creating and publishing your assets and furthering your organization’s goals. You may also want to get professional help from organizations that provide thought leadership advice, so that you can ensure you are on the right track. Keeping up with the content needs of your organization may be somewhat difficult if writing is not in the skill-set of your team. Hiring a ghost writer is a good solution for ensuring you stay on track with your goals and for having your thoughts expressed in a thoughtful and engaging way.

Multi-channel delivery

Aligning with your organization’s strategies, ensure that all of your thought leadership content is shared, using a multi-channel delivery system. You don’t want to just publish on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, you also want to share this content with email subscribers and on your other media and sales channels. Getting your content out to the largest and most-relevant audience is the best way to drive results and monetize your goals.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

What inspires you?

As many of you know, I have made it my mission to help people better understand what it takes to become a “thought leader”. One of the thought leaders that inspires me is Simon Sinek, a self-built thought leader whose motivational “Start With Why” axiom has enjoyed great celebrity. Not only does Simon Sinek motivate people towards success, he does so by telling us how other thought leaders inspire people to act.  Here’s a link to one of his recent youtube videos that I’ve summarized below. I’ll be curious to find out if any of his words of wisdom inspire you. Let me know (ron.morris@executiveoutlook.com).

  1. Go after what you want, but don’t deny others access to it

One of the first general rules for any person is to go after what you want. Obviously, if you don’t try, you can’t achieve. But, for Sinek, this includes not getting in anyone else’s way. Achievement shouldn’t be focused on what you can take from others, but what you can achieve and bring to others.

  1. Interpret what you’re feeling differently

Sinek says the best athletes are the ones who’ve interpreted their feelings differently. Rather than see fear as an obstacle to a challenge, those who interpret that feeling as excitement, rather than fear are more apt to move ahead. By changing your interpretation of what your body and mind are feeling, you are essentially telling yourself to go at full speed, rather than be cautious and hold back. This doesn’t just work in the fear sense, but with other feelings that you’re having that may be holding you back.

  1. Take accountability for your actions

With great success comes great failure and by being accountable to this, you’ll make yourself an even better leader. Sinek believes in a balanced equation of taking credit and holding yourself accountable. Sometimes you are the problem and by recognizing this, you are truly on your way to success.

  1. Set your goals to beat only yourself

Finite players play to beat all of those around them. Infinite players play to beat only themselves. In order to be successful you only need to be playing the game to become a better version of who you were yesterday. Once you make yourself the competition, you are ensuring you can stay in the game longer and enjoy it more.

  1. Stack the deck

When you surround yourself with those who believe what you believe, you essentially stack the deck, Sinek says. Rather than work with people who put you last or even in the middle, work with the people who put you first. While the ones who put you first could be “bit players”, they will help you gain strength because they’ll support you and you’ll support them.

  1. Be the last to speak

One of the most important skills any successful leader can have is the ability to speak last. Many leaders employ the tactic of stating facts and then listening to arguments. By letting others speak first, you are doing two things: 1) allowing everyone to feel like they have contributed and 2) lets you make an informed opinion after hearing what others have to say.

  1. Be authentic

The things you say and do matter and it makes you who you are. If you aren’t being honest about who you are, by coveting a look or a vision that is someone else’s, it will show. Many people and organizations tell people what they want to hear, rather than speak what they believe. The unfortunate side effect of this is that when you get found out, you get branded as a liar. If you put something out there that is truly authentic, you will attract others who share your beliefs. Sinek says that once people give themselves up, strange things start to happen.

  1. Feel passionate

To Sinek, passion is not an actionable word, it is a feeling. You feel passion when you are engaged in something you love – something you love so much that you’d do it for free if you weren’t already paid for it. Your career should always follow what you feel passionate about because it is one of the best ways to realize success.

  1. Communicate from the inside out

The main tenet from the Start With Why movement, thinking from the inside out consists of thinking about why you are doing something before thinking about how and what. You want people to believe in you because you’ve got a reason for why you are doing something. Apple computers is a great example of a company that thinks from the inside out. They believe in thinking differently and attract those that feel the same. From there they create innovative and beautiful products (the how) and make great computers (the what). Rather than figuring out how to make great computers, they’ve figured out why they do what they do and then create the what (the great computers).

  1. Follow your beliefs

Sinek believes Martin Luther King Jr. started with why and took his “dreams” to make a cause and inspired others to follow him. Because he followed his beliefs, he attracted others with the same beliefs and made something big out of it. Follow your beliefs and the rest will come.

What you need to learn to stay on top as a thought leader

Becoming a thought leader isn’t an easy task. It takes a superior amount of knowledge and a solid effort of consistently presenting your voice to your audience, whether that is through weekly blog articles or appearances at networking events. Once you’ve made your way up and have a large following, your next challenge is how to stay on top and keep your audience listening. One of the most important characteristics of a thought leader is the ability to always be learning. So, what do you need to learn to stay in the thought leadership game?

The latest research in your field

Sure, you’ve got a wealth of knowledge in your speciality and your audience has been very keen to hear about it, but if you don’t keep up with the latest, you’ll be cast aside like yesterday’s dinner. It is very important for thought leaders to keep up on the latest research and news in their field. Even better, when publishing new posts on your blog or social platforms, try to incorporate any real-time news on subjects that concern your audience. Your credibility will only go up when your audience hears the latest news from you, even before it hits general news sources.

What your audience wants

Just because you’ve already got the proverbial bull by the horns and have a massive following, doesn’t mean you should forget about what it is they want. The best way to stay in any relationship is to communicate and grow, based on the other’s needs. Keep your mind open to what you audience wants and needs and change your perspective accordingly. Using metrics to see if your numbers are growing, stagnating, or worse, declining, will help you easily realize if you aren’t giving the audience value.

What others have to say

When you were making your way up the ladder as a thought leader, you were probably looking up towards others who were already considered thought leaders or influencers. You wanted to emulate their style somewhat and basically do what they did in order to gain the status that they had. As you became a thought leader yourself, you may have stopped looking to others for advice and mentorship. That is a big mistake. No one person is large enough that they can’t learn from others, and as a thought leader who wants to keep being heard, you need to continue listening.

Humility

Some thought leaders who do all the right things and earn a sort of “celebrity” status may believe themselves to be invincible and develop a bit of an ego. After all, they’ve gained a large following and people look up to them. But, a little humility goes a long way towards keeping your initial voice intact. Rather than act like the all-important person that you may well be, the most successful leaders let their modest character and intelligence continue to take the center stage.

The best thought leaders are always learning and growing, as well as teaching and engaging.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

How to Establish your Credibility as a Thought Leader

One of the most important features that a person needs to be seen as a thought leader is credibility. Your audience needs to trust you and see that you’ve got integrity. Your innovative ideas won’t get heard if the audience doesn’t believe in them. Here’s how to establish your credibility as a thought leader.

Know your stuff

At the most basic level, a thought leader is someone who has superior competence on a subject – be it an industry, a product or a general topic. Thought leaders know so much about that specific topic that they could talk for hours, truthfully, about their thoughts on the topic. If someone were to ask a question, they wouldn’t need to do any research and their thoughts would purely come from the top of their head. Simply put, thought leaders know their stuff.

Make a solid effort

You’ve got the thoughts down pat, now you need to put the leadership into place. You do that with a solid effort to get your thoughts out there. Whether you are publishing articles on a blog and on social platforms or doing presentations and talks to other industry people, you need to do this often and well in order to earn the title of “thought leader”. When people see your face and hear your words over and over, they will come to trust that what you have to say is meaningful. If you don’t make the time to get yourself out there, you will easily be forgotten.

Be consistent

Your voice is one of the most important parts of your image as a thought leader. But, this voice needs to have a consistency to it in order to gain the trust of your audience. If your thoughts are “all over the place” (think: Donald Trump) your believability will crash and you will lose the belief of your followers. While it is always ok to change your mind, if your overall calls to action are not consistent, your audience will move on.

Actively listen and address your audience

A thought leader doesn’t just spout off their ideas – they actively listen and learn from their audience as well. They answer questions on social media and enthusiastically participate in discussions that others are having, in person and online. Even better, thought leaders show appreciation to their audience for their input and make it a large part of their strategy.

Don’t just self-promote

While one of the purposes of becoming a thought leader is to gain leads and build your brand in order to make a profit, being a thought leader shouldn’t all be about promoting yourself (or your products or companies). Rarely anyone wants to feel they are being sold to, so self-promotion can really alter your status as a thought leader. In order for your audience to trust you, they need to believe that you are giving them valuable information without expecting anything else in return. If you are taking the steps necessary to establish your credibility, your followers will believe in you and in turn, believe in your products and organization and you won’t need to do any promotion.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

4 Ways Thought Leadership Articles Differ From Content Marketing

Content marketing is an extremely effective way to build your business, increase sales and achieve the trust of your audience. Essentially, content marketing is a very strategic marketing approach where you deliver consistent and relevant content to a clearly-defined audience in return driving profitable customer actions. Most businesses from multi-billion dollar corporations all the way down to the sole proprietorship uses content marketing to build their brands and drive customer engagement.

Many believe that thought leadership articles are just another form of content marketing, but in reality, it is so much more. Yes, thought leaders provide informed opinions through published content that could be described as content marketing. And yes, many do realize the benefits of increased customer engagement and possible increased profit through their thought leadership content. But, thought leadership content holds quite a bit more value than content marketing.

Authenticity

With content marketing, there is so much information out there. As a reader, it is really difficult to cut through the muddle and find articles that are appropriate to you, provide value and are authentic. That’s where thought leadership content steps in. If you’ve already established yourself as a thought leader – someone with innovative ideas, unique perspectives and with superior knowledge of select topics – people want to hear what you have to say. This is because what you are saying is completely authentic – it wasn’t outsourced and relies on your own experiences and doesn’t just come through research or second-hand knowledge.

Crafted Ideas

Content marketing, as with most types of marketing, have set goals in place for factors like reach and engagement. The primary purpose of the written content is to reach that goal, regardless of how it may actually affect the content. On the other hand, thought leaders don’t write content with goals in mind. They write content based on the ideas they’ve crafted in their minds and basically, by being themselves in the process. Thought leaders focus on their message, not the medium or the outcome.

Gets Personal

Thought leaders don’t have a problem with getting personal and bringing their own experiences up in their content. By doing so, they credibly develop a trust with their audience, and readers see them as a fundamentally open book. While content marketing can be seen as a way to espouse certain values or beliefs, thought leadership is the value and the belief.

Learns from its Audience

A thought leader didn’t get to that status by sheer luck – they took the knowledge they learned along their journey and applied it to every facet of their life. With a growth mindset, thought leaders don’t just teach others, they listen and learn. When it comes to content marketing, insight into audience is limited to what can be done to get higher reach and engagement. With thought leadership, insight from the audience is always appreciated, well-received, and helps the thought leader develop and present better and brighter ideas.

Rather than think of thought leadership as content marketing at its finest, it should be considered to be in a category all on its own.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

What is a thought leader and why should you be one?

Just as there are different definitions for “success”, there are different ways to look at thought leadership. If you’ve never heard of the term “thought leader”, the basic terminology could be defined as someone who recognizes themselves as an expert or authority in a selected area of specialization and thus becomes the go-to person for information on that subject of specialization. To take this even further, a thought leader is also a person who profits from being labelled as such.

Many have dismissed the concept of thought leadership as a trendy buzzword. But, by looking at the actual goal of a thought leader, it is easy to recognize the value and substance of the concept and that it is a worthwhile goal to achieve for many in the corporate world.

What is the value of becoming a thought leader?

Taking the time to establish yourself as a thought leader is definitely a worthwhile endeavour. Being a person who an audience can trust to learn new information relevant to them in their industry, allows you to establish or enhance your relationship with this audience. Being that know-it-all in your field adds value, not only to your own career, but to their careers, as they learn and grow from your thought leadership. By becoming a thought leader, you not only differentiate yourself from your competition, you prove that your products and/or services are built on a solid knowledge base. Consider that if you own a “green” technology business and market it as so, but take it one step further by becoming a thought leader on the topic of environmentalism and green technology, it will add tremendous value to your customer base in a number of ways. They will understand that your “green” business truly practices what it preaches and it does so based on accurate, well-researched and real-time information.

Whether your audience is looking for information on the past, present, or even the future, when you establish yourself as a thought leader, your customers and potential customers are going to come to you to hear about what is going to happen next. Your insights will be respected and appreciated and this will definitely have a good effect on your bottom line.

How can you become a thought leader?

Deciding that you want to be a thought leader and having the ability to do so are two completely different things. Just as it took time to build your business, it will take time to establish your credibility as a thought leader. Using your knack for being able to engage people in conversations, combined with a very competent insight into your industry, you can build your thought leadership status in a number of ways. Using the tools accessible to you, writing articles, utilizing social media, giving speeches and attend networking events, will all fall under the guise of creating a reputation for yourself as a thought leader.

Even still, there is more to becoming a thought leader than writing blog posts and tweeting. Going above and beyond the simple act of explaining concepts and actually providing your audience with ideas and motivating them to connect and engage with those ideas are the true signs of a thought leader. By focusing on what you know best and what you care about will ensure your thoughts will be genuine and well-received.

As your thought leadership status grows, so too can your business and your profits, solidifying your status as a true thought leader.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.