Google: Why We Don’t Disclose Most Google Updates & Algorithm Changes

Google: Why We Don’t Disclose Most Google Updates & Algorithm Changes

Google’s John Mueller addressed the question of why they don’t disclose most Google algorithm updates and changes in this mornings Google hangout not just once, but twice. He did so at the 8 minute mark and the 14:18 minute mark into the video.

The short answer is that Google does hundreds of changes per year and it isn’t useful, in their perspective, to disclose that they did two updates today, 3 yesterday, 2 the other day and so on. He said it isn’t useful to do so. He added that when Google can give specific guidance to webmasters, like with the mobile friendly update, where they can give webmasters notice to make their sites mobile friendly, that is something actionable and useful.

I should note, Gary Illyes from Google recently said Google doesn’t deny algorithm updates. But not denying and confirming them are two different things…

Let me share each video embed and the transcript so you can watch yourself:

(Q) Can you tell me a little bit about this Fred update? Is this an official update or something?
(A) It is one of those updates that we make all the time. There is nothing really specific that we would have to communicate about that.
(Q) Why are you not disclosing this one?
We tend not to disclose most of the updates.
We make them like hundreds a year, so for the most part, it doesn’t make sense to say oh, we made a change today, we made a change yesterday, we a change today, we made two changes yesterday.

(Q) When or how does Google decide whether to announce a ranking boost or change? For example, the mobile interstitial, the HTTPS, the mobile-first, etc?
(A) So this is something that, from our point of view, is sometimes a bit tricky but sometimes it is kind of obvious as well. In the sense that if there are things that we can clearly tell webmasters what they can do to improve things on their side, then we will try to do that.

So for example, when it came to the mobile friendly ranking change, which was two years ago, that is something where we recognized that this was a big problem, a lot of sites were not mobile friendly. We wanted to make changes to search results in that regard. And to make sure sites had a chance to understand what is happening and kind of make that right decision as well we wanted to kind of spread that word and say hey, we are doing this, you can do this on your site to kind of make sure you are in line with this.

And in general the recommendations we have on this are not just for search, they are something that are relevant for webmasters and web sites across the board. So the mobile friendly change is something where of course we can take that into account for search but where half of your users are coming from mobile devices, it is something you want to take into account as well and kind of handle on your site too.


How a Web Developer Estimates Completion Time

How a Web Developer Estimates Completion Time


It’s common for software developers to underestimate the time it takes to create a new feature. It’s one of the realities of software development.

In this post, I’ll explain how a developer typically estimates a project, to help merchants understand the process.

Developing a Reorder Button

Let’s assume I’m going to develop a reorder button for an ecommerce store. This button will let customers reorder a product based on their previous orders. The goal is to encourage repeat orders by using the historical order data on hand.

Design new button. The first and most visible task is to create a new button on the product page. We could start with the existing add-to-cart button, but we’ll need to make a couple of changes to it.

Move it outside of the add-to-cart HTML form and into its own form.
Style it so it’s not as visually distinctive as the existing “Add to Cart” button.
Logged-in customers, only. Since this button only applies to returning customers, we need to add some logic that hides it from everyone else.

Most ecommerce systems have code to detect if someone is logged in. So we’ll need to find that code and use it with our reorder button.

Customers who have purchased the product. We also want to show the button only to customers that have purchased this product. We’ll need to access their orders and line items.

This will probably require a few queries to the database to get all of the data we need.

We’ll also need to check the performance of those queries because the load time of product pages is critical. That means we might need to add development time for performance optimization.

Connect the button to the server. Now that we know who will see the button, we need to connect it to the server so it actually does something when clicked.

First, we’ll need to wrap the button in a HTML form. We’ll also need to embed the product ID in a hidden field so the server knows which product the customer is looking at.

We’ll also need a URL created on the server for this form — an endpoint. Depending on the ecommerce system, that could be easy or difficult. In Ruby on Rails for example, we’d need to add a route for the URL and a controller to hold the server logic.

With the form, hidden data, URL, and an area to hold the server logic, we have connected the button to the server. But it still doesn’t do anything.

Find product in previous orders. With the front-end development complete, now we can focus on the backend and the actual goal of the button.

First, we’ll use the product ID that was sent with the form and look for that product in the customer’s orders. To do that, we’ll access the database and find the product we need. Since we did a similar version of this already —embedding the product ID so the server knows which product the customer is viewing — we should be able to use those same queries but with a few minor tweaks to find the product line item in an order.

Once we have the line item, we can copy it to the cart along with any options or sizes the customer ordered.

Redirect user to the cart. Finally, now that the product has been added to the cart we’ll want to redirect the customer to her cart page, to checkout.

Test everything. During the entire development, we’ll also need to test functionality as we go — at the very least some basic testing for each step.

Getting the code live. As the final step, all of this code needs to get onto the web server. Sometimes this is easy and just takes a few minutes. Other times, for large projects, there are weeks of scheduling, delays, and unforeseen additional tasks.

Many developers miss this part in their estimates. They call a feature “done” even when it’s not on the actual site.

More Complex Than It Appears

What might be surprising to non-developers is the complexity of implementing a reorder button, a small feature.

It is seemingly simple, but it required graphic design, front-end logic, HTML forms, database queries, and backend changes.

This is why a lot of software features feel like they take longer than they should. They’re like icebergs. The visible part is small but there’s a huge amount of work needed underneath the surface.

A good developer will go through this process and provide estimates that include everything. A mediocre developer will overlook tasks and might only estimate the time to simply place the button on the page. The actual functionality work could take four times as long.

And the steps that I’ve described above don’t cover it all. Having quickly thought about it, I realize there are additional questions that will need to be answered before development can start, which could increase the estimate.

What if there are multiple orders with that product? Should we use the most recent? Or should we have a pop-up asking the customer to choose one?
What if the customer wants to reorder but with a different option or variant? Can he change it in the cart or will he have to remove the one we added and then add the new one? Does that even save time over the regular add-to-cart button?
Would it make more sense to simply tell customers what they ordered last time and let them pick the option this time — reorder or new purchase? (That’s what Amazon does.)
What if first version of the button design and layout doesn’t look right? Should the developer changed it?
Each of these questions reveals an assumption, an area that might be a potential miscommunication, or something that might need to be discussed. Each can affect the estimate.

A Difficult Process

In short, estimating development time is difficult. Many projects appear simple but are, in fact, complicated.

Merchants should ask many questions before they launch a new development project. Ask the developer for details or clarification on anything that sounds vague. It could extend the time to assemble an estimate, but the estimate would be more accurate, and realistic

Which would you rather have: An project estimate of 40 hours that actually takes 40 hours, or an estimate of 10 hours that takes 40? The first you can plan for. The second screws everything up.

Google’s SEO advice

Why Google’s SEO advice is NOT (always) in your best interest

Google often provides useful information to the SEO community, but columnist Nate Dame argues that ultimately, the company’s advice is in their best interest, not yours — so make sure you understand the nuances.

4 major barriers to being linkable

4 major barriers to being linkable
Columnist Julie Joyce explores some of the most common issues that interfere with naturally attracting good links.
Julie Joyce on March 28, 2017 at 10:26 am

When it comes to being unlinkable, there’s a lot more to consider besides boring content, poor quality writing and low-end design. Of the many issues that could cause users not to want to link to your content, here are four major ones that I see all the time: intrusive intersitials, gated content, excessive pagination and avant-garde design.

You can find someone to argue for and against all four of these barriers, and I’d probably see some of those points in the last three cases, but I’m not sure much can change my mind about interstitials.

Intrusive interstitials
It’s only been a few months since Google rolled out the mobile intrusive interstitial penalty, so I’m still not surprised to see them being used occasionally, but they really are annoying, in my opinion. Intrusive interstitials are annoying on mobile devices and on my laptop. definitely has to be among the most notable offenders here, with their “quote and countdown” interstitial.

Forbes interstitial
Their quotes don’t offend me or anything, but if I click on a link, I want to see the site — not wait three seconds (an eternity!), and then have to click another button to say that I really, truly do want to go to the site. That’s like emailing to confirm that I really did want to unsubscribe from your email newsletter.

I am pleased to say that I do think most sites are paying attention. In doing some research for this article, I visited several sites that had been listed as having intrusive interstitials (in various articles surrounding the topic), and most of them were no longer using them.

Gated content
Speaking as a business owner who has to deal with a lot of “tire kickers” from web leads, I love the idea of narrowing down to the serious customers. However, an as SEO and link builder, I prefer the benefits of not putting content behind a gate. There’s a great piece on when to gate vs. when not to gate that lists six good examples for each. Of course, you want to gate content such as a live demo or anything that’s proprietary, but gating content like a normal blog post is silly. No one should have to enter their email before reading your latest blog post.

In my case, the only gated content that I have is an e-book where you have to enter your email address to get a link to the download. If I did on-site quotes, I’d gate that area, too. If I had a blog or a video where I was explaining our process, I would not gate that.

While there are some good guidelines about when to gate content and when not to, it still comes down to what you want from your content. Conversion rate optimization, usability and SEO don’t always seem so black and white.

I was recently looking at potential homeschool/online school resources and ran across this site:

Their guide is a physical guide that will be mailed to you. That obviously costs money for printing and shipping, so in order to get it, you have to give them some information, including your phone number. While I totally understand that, I can’t really see anything that I want to see without getting the guide. I can’t access content behind the main links on the home page, as all they do is take me to a form to request the guide. That’s not a great use of gated content. Maybe I am just browsing around, kicking tires, but why can’t I see an example curriculum or read a few success stories?

homeschool site
Want to guess how many referring domains link to them? TWO.

Excessive pagination
I love to blow time by looking at ridiculous things like photos of cats attacking toddlers and Siberian huskies being weird. In cases like that, I expect to have to click through page after page. However, when it comes to finding a source to link for an article that isn’t about vicious cats or funny dogs, there’s no way I am going to waste my time clicking around pages in order to find one to link to. I bolt immediately when I come to those sites.

Google has guidelines for paginated content, and that’s good for sites that need to paginate. I don’t have an issue with an article that is in four parts. I do have an issue with a piece of content that requires me to click 20 times in order to reach the end of it. When content exists to show ads and make money, I’m just not a big fan — and I’d definitely hesitate before linking to it.

Here’s an example from WebMD of foods that dogs shouldn’t eat. This piece has 25 slides to view! Why can’t it be a list?

bad food for dog
If I’m looking to point users to a resource for foods that dogs shouldn’t eat, I’d rather link to something like this ASPCA article on the no-no foods. It’s a nice list — no need to click “Next” 24 times, and no chance to view 25 different ads.

Looking at the links to each example above, the ASPCA page has 1.3K referring domains, while the WebMD has 404 referring domains. I’m sure there’s more to it than just the annoying pagination, but it’s interesting to note nonetheless.

Avant-garde design
Years ago, my friend and I went to New York City and ended up having to call the hotel staff to come help us figure out how to put the plug in the sink. While he was up there, I realized we also didn’t know how to turn on any of the lamps. As the trip wore on, it became obvious that the bathtub placed right in front of the bed, protected only by a sheer curtain, was really not as cute as we first thought. Oh, and let’s not forget that the only reason we even found this hotel was that I recognized a potted tree that was at the entrance, as I’d seen a photo of it on the web. Cool designs for everything overall, but I’ve never been back.

Do you see my point? When a cool design hides basic functionality, it’s not that beneficial unless you’re a site that exists to sell cool designs that hide basic functionality. I tend to bounce right off those types of sites. If I did stick around to look through one, I might link to something internal if I found a good resource — but in my experience, if the site is that difficult to navigate, I’m not likely to find what I’m looking for.

These sites may contain fantastic information presented in various formats, and maybe that’s all they need. So I’m certainly not saying that they’re not good sites for content consumption. I’m just saying that, in general, I would only link to one to use as an example of a site that wasn’t very linkable. Isn’t that ironic?

Final thoughts
While there are other irritations that would prevent me from wanting to link (like making link text blend in with the background, or making it stand out in glaring colors), I do find these four to be the major offenses.

I also recognize that not everything is about links; not everyone considers linkability a top concern when making a choice about their site or content. However, links still make you rank, and they bring you traffic — so if something is preventing you from getting the links you deserve, it’s worth taking a second look at how you can fix that.

12 Free Tools to help increase your traffic and SEO

12 Free Tools to help increase your traffic and SEO
March 27, 2017 By Lyndon

We are in the best of times when it comes to SEO tools. So many tools now exist for any SEO problem which will help build your online traffic to your website.

The great thing about all this competition from makers of SEO tools, is that a lot of tools are offered free as a form of content marketing.

The bad thing about this is that it creates lots of noise, right now there are so many offers it takes a lot of time to figure out which are the best ones for you.

So we are going to show you some of the ones we like and use. Whilst some are not strictly SEO tools they do ultimately help you with your SEO.


Keyword tool

Quick, clean keyword inspiration and data dump.

It’s quick and you can download to CSV with the free tool, which can give you up to 750 keyword ideas. A quick search for “guitars” threw up keywords that are missed by Google.

Keyword tool

I see this as being additional to the Google keyword tool and helps get a wider coverage. Getting your edge over you competitors keywords can really help, so worth trying out something new.

The paid version will give you more keywords, plus search volume etc…

Also: Check out

2. Google Analytics


It may be an obvious one to the seasoned SEO, but newer students of SEO may not realise this is still the best, free package available. The UI is sometimes confusing to new users due to feature bloat. But once mastered there is no better free tool out there for digging into your data.

Also: Another free alternative that has the benefit of being easy to use is Clicky, which is good to use if you don’t want your data gobbled up by Google.

3. Screaming Frog Spider

screaming frog

The free version of the Screaming Frog spider tool does a great job at crawling your website revealing information on webpages, links, images and other useful data.

It does have a paid option to crawl more than 500 links and lots of other features.

Also: Xenu which has been around for a long time and I still use from time to time.

4. Google Websmaster Tools

It is now called Google Search Console, but a lot of those who have years of experience still call it by it’s original name.
New users sometimes don’t realise the fantastic free, web tools that both offer. Both allow crucial analysis to take place on the health of your website, alongside with important, error alert tools. These tools are essential for any SEO toolbag.
Also: Bing Webmaster Tools

5. Open Site Explorer from
Moz seo tollbar
SEO toolbars are great for giving you quick, visual information for the website you currently have in your browser. This one from is particularly efficient and getting you the important data you need quickly and without fuss.
It has some little extras like a link highlighter which you can set to display “dofollow” links in a different colour to “follow links”.
Also: SEOQuake another free SEO tollbar, helping you build seo audits on the fly.

6. Google trends
Google trends
Knowing what’s hot and cold with regard to specific keywords can really boost your web traffic. Spot a hot new keyword and you can catch the wave just right. Google trends is an excellent addition to your keyword, toolbox. You should have a trend spotting system in place which allows you to update your content output in real time.
As with all tools in this list it’s free, but it’s also quick, clean and gives you the ability to drill down into the detail of the keyword, with comparisons over time ranges.
Also: I love this tool, it gives you limited functionality for free, but even this can give you an edge. Seriously look at going the paid route if you can afford it and you constantly need to be on top of social and who is promoting what content.

7. Similar Web
Sneak a peak at a websites statistics without them knowing
Similar web
I enjoy performing competitive analysis, it’s crucial to check how your website is doing compared to its competition.
Similarweb, allows you to access a number of types of data on competitor websites. I find it best use your own website as a control site to give you a fixed, data point. You do need to hand over your mobile number for verification, but it really is worth it. The tool givesyou a ton of info on web traffic, traffic sources, web content etc…
It’s impossible for a tool such as this to be 100% accurate, but this is a very good attempt.
Also: Ahrefs a very user friendly backlink, keyword etc… seo tool. Its free version can give you lots of great data and is worth having.

8. Check your rank for free
Rank chacker
Fast, clean and free tool to quickly check where a keyword ranks. To get serious and track 1000’s of keywords, look at a paid for tool, but as a free one this does the job.
You can compare keyword rankings with another sites, geo-target the results…etc.
It wins in simplicity by having nothing to get in the way of your task. Other tools fail because they add too many features and force you to invest time to think what to do next.
When all you want to do is check where a keyword ranks on a specific website.
Also:, although this is similar to Ahrefs, albeit with a busier user interface. It does have a great keyword ranking tool, which you can access for free. The paid version is also very good.

9. Create an XML Sitemap
Your website absolutely needs a site map, it can be uploaded to Google Webmaster Tools and help get your content ranked.
Does the job well, but also check out SEO wordpress plugin, by Yoast. It automatically creates a sitemap for you, plus a lot of other things for free.
Also: Google XML Sitemaps

10. Google mobile speed test
Google mobile
Make sure your site is fast on mobile with Google PageSpeed Insights.
Google has a free, mobile friendly test to check out your websites speed. Part of a great user experience is a fast website, and Google is spending a lot of time and money motivating website owners to make their sites faster and mobile friendly. Back in 2010, Google said the speed of a website would be a factor in web ranking.
For a more in-depth study on website speed and Google rankings, check out the article.
Also: not only checks speed, but a lot of other useful metrics.

11. Robots text generator txt
A robot .txt file will allow you to tell search bots which page to go to and which to ignore. Usually I create them by hand but sometimes it’s great to have a tool that will do the boring bits for you. The Internet Ninja Tool, from Jim Boykin’s company also allows you to do A/B testing to see how different Robots handle your site.

12 Optimise your images

As we all know website load speed in vital for user experience and ranking in Google. Optimising your images to load as fast as they can is an easy win and WP-Smushit is an excellent tool to crunch your images is using WordPress.
Also: Ewww Image Optimizer
I hoped you like my list of free, SEO tools.
If you have any suggestions of other tools, please leave them in the comments below.

How to Generate Leads from Social Media

How to Generate Leads from Social Media

Obtaining qualified leads is a challenge for many businesses. Social media can help, as consumers can discover brands that interest them. In this post, I’ll review examples of how ecommerce businesses are using social media to target prospects, build awareness, and gain leads.

Lead Generation on Social Platforms

Lead generation ad formats have been around for a while on Twitter and Facebook, and more recently on Instagram. Lead forms for these ads are built in, prompting the user for information without leaving the ad.

You can build lookalike audiences for Facebook and Twitter ads by uploading customer lists in each platform, to target similar consumers.

It’s important to test these ad formats. In addition to testing copy and images in a lead generation ad, consider testing ad formats, such as a native lead generation ad versus an ad with a compelling image or video. The example below is from Wantable, a fashion and fitness retailer, using a video to capture users’ interest to drive them to a landing page.

Offering something for free to drive user interest is worth testing. As an example, Brit + Co, a female apparel and lifestyle site, sells video classes and lessons to learn new skills. In the ad below, the company offers a free class to drive new customers.

For a more topical or keyword focused approach, many businesses use Twitter to build brand awareness and generate leads. Whether targeting competitors’ customers or replying to a user’s tweet, this tactic can drive prospects to a dedicated landing page. The example below from Green Chef, an organic food delivery company, uses tweets about trying new recipes to entice prospects.

Pop-ups with a Social Twist

Website pop-ups, wherein users provide an email address to gain access to a discount, are standard for ecommerce retailers. But consider using these popups to give visitors the option to like or follow your brand’s social media accounts. Apparel retailer FlyPolar, for example, gives users two options to obtain a discount code: follow its social media channels or enter an email address. The functionality uses Beeketing, a marketing platform.

Refer a Friend

Refer-a-friend programs — incentivizing customers to send prospects — have been popular long before social media arrived.

The challenge to ecommerce retailers for refer-a-friend programs can be lack of visibility, to ensure customers are aware. Retailers should include refer-a-friend programs across a many touch points, including email, on-site, social media, and packaging. For instance, Julep, a cosmetics retailer, includes a insert promoting its referral program in shipping boxes.

Post-purchase Sharing

Encouraging customers to share their purchase on social media can increase awareness and leads. Retailer Know Style offers a discount on a future purchase to its customers that share on social media.

If your site includes reviews or ratings, consider giving reviewers a discount or coupon code to share on their social media networks.

Sweepstakes and Giveaways

According to a Marketing Sherpa survey, incentives are one of the top reasons consumers follow brands on social media. My Pooch Face sells hand painted pet portraits and offers to visitors a contest for a free pet portraits.

Once entered, visitors are given additional entries into the sweepstakes by following social media profiles, referring friends, and signing up for email updates.

Further, asking your social media audience to tag friends as a method of entering a contest can expand your brand’s awareness and reach prospects on social media.




How Smart People Work Less and Get More Done

How Smart People Work Less and Get More Done
How you work is far more important than how much you work.

Some people have an uncanny ability to get things done. They keep their nights and weekends sacred and still get more done than people who work 10 or 20 hours more per week than they do.

Related: How Smart People Handle Difficult People

A new study from Stanford shows that they are on to something. The study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” — William Penn

Smart people know the importance of shifting gears on the weekend to relaxing and rejuvenating activities. They use their weekends to create a better week ahead.

This is easier said than done, so here’s some help. The following are some things that you can do to find balance on the weekend and come into work at 110 percent on Monday morning.

1. Disconnect.
Disconnecting is the most important weekend strategy, because if you can’t find a way to remove yourself electronically from your work Friday evening through Monday morning, then you’ve never really left work. Making yourself available to your work 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stressors that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off handling work e-mails and calls isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. For example, check your messages on Saturday afternoon while your kids are getting a haircut and on Sunday evenings after dinner. Scheduling short blocks of time will alleviate stress without sacrificing availability.

2. Minimize chores.
Chores have a funny habit of completely taking over your weekends. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. What’s worse is that a lot of chores feel like work, and if you spend all weekend doing them, you just put in a seven-day workweek. To keep this from happening, you need to schedule your chores like you would anything else during the week, and if you don’t complete them during the allotted time, you move on and finish them the following weekend.

3. Exercise.
No time to exercise during the week? You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a soothing neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. Innovators and other successful people know that being outdoors often sparks creativity. I know that a lot of my best ideas come to me while I’m surfing. While you’re out in the ocean, the combination of invigorating activity and beautiful scenery creates the perfect environment for an influx of creativity. Whether you’re running, cycling or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fueled introspection. The key is to find a physical activity that does this for you and then to make it an important part of your weekend routine.

Related: 9 Phrases Smart People Never Use In Conversation

4. Reflect.
Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization and your job. Without the distractions of Monday to Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a whole new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.

5. Pursue a passion.
You might be surprised what happens when you pursue something you’re passionate about on weekends. Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting or even playing catch with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge dividends over the coming week.

6. Spend quality time with family.
Spending quality time with your family on the weekend is essential if you want to recharge and relax. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Don’t let this bleed into your weekends. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favorite restaurant and go visit your parents. You’ll be glad you did.

7. Schedule micro-adventures.
Buy tickets to a concert or play, or get reservations for that cool new hotel that just opened downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven’t done before or perhaps something you haven’t done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something good to come is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have something interesting planned for Saturday will not only be fun come Saturday, but it will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.

8. Wake up at the same time.
It’s tempting to sleep in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep. Though it feels good temporarily, having an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your body cycles through an elaborate series of sleep phases in order for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One of these phases involves preparing your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock goes off (the brain is trained and ready). When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you end up feeling groggy and tired. This isn’t just disruptive to your day off, it also makes you less productive on Monday because your brain isn’t ready to wake up at your regular time. If you need to catch up on sleep, just go to bed earlier.

9. Designate mornings as me time.
It can be difficult to get time to yourself on the weekends, especially if you have family. Finding a way to engage in an activity you’re passionate about first thing in the morning can pay massive dividends in happiness and cleanliness of mind. It’s also a great way to perfect your circadian rhythm by forcing yourself to wake up at the same time you do on weekdays. Your mind achieves peak performance two-to-four hours after you wake up, so get up early to do something physical, and then sit down and engage in something mental while your mind is at its peak.

Related: 7 Challenges That Will Make You More Successful

10. Prepare for the upcoming week.
The weekend is a great time to spend a few moments planning your upcoming week. As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to focus on is execution.

Bringing It All Together
What do you do to make your weekends great? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

A version of this article appeared on TalentSmart.

Are technical and content audits still relevant?

Are technical and content audits still relevant?
SEO audits are very useful in identifying website issues and areas for improvement, but columnist David Freeman believes the way we approach these audits is outdated.
David Freeman on March 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Technical and content audits have been the backbone of SEO for many years, and while they play a valuable role, their scope has expanded as search has evolved. Audits now cover much more than purely technical factors such as indexation, status codes and broken links. To stay relevant, audits have broadened to include aspects such as site navigation, content engagement, content gap analysis and conversion factors.

For global and national brands, generic audits aren’t going to drive the change in performance that they are striving for, even if there are fundamental flaws with a website. Yes, these audits will certainly help — especially if, for example, there are indexation issues — but until we understand the consumer, their purchase journey and the barriers at each stage, we don’t know what we are trying to fix, or why.

Site audits which focus on resolving the barriers consumers face will help determine where the biggest opportunities exist. We can then prioritize and shape our efforts to meet the needs of the consumer and drive the largest return for our clients.

Adopting a consumer-first strategy does exactly this by ensuring campaigns have layers of hygiene optimization and insight-fueled strategic consultancy focused on identifying game-changing opportunities within the consumer search experience and conversion journey.

Hygiene optimization: the home of technical and content audits
Hygiene optimization forms the foundation for success and is where ongoing audits should sit. This activity is focused on getting the technical and content aspects of a site as well optimized as feasibly possible.

Hygiene optimization is about striving for continuous improvement by always looking to extract further performance. This approach is akin to the concept of the “aggregation of marginal gains,” which is summed up with the following quote from Jim Rohn:

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
The idea is that small improvements made consistently over time will eventually add up to produce significant improvement in the long run.

The concept of marginal gains acts as the perfect reminder that a site is never fully optimized. The hygiene optimization layer provides the environment where we can continually look to make small, incremental improvements through technical audits and insight-driven content optimization. For instance:

Increase CTR by using paid search insight.
Improve site information architecture to better surface information and improve the conversion journey.
Ensure all relevant pages are indexed and returning the correct status codes.
In this model, audits are an essential part of campaigns, aiding prioritization and actively looking to extract every ounce of organic search performance. This approach moves us ever farther away from audits being conducted as large one-off or periodic items and toward a process of continual auditing.

Strategic consultancy: the home of insight
This is the layer that can really move the dial in terms of performance. By developing a deep understanding of the consumer and how they interact with brands, a picture of their informational needs and requirements at each stage of the purchase journey can be built. Only now can we truly understand what opportunities a brand has across their owned assets to capture, engage and convert consumers. For instance:

Missing top-of-funnel or product content that prevents consumers discovering them.
Website experience causing a sizeable drop-off in the path to purchase.
Navigation not surfacing essential content to consumers once they land on site.
Site structure not optimal based on user experience (UX) and SEO best practices.
Having utilized this insight to identify the strategic opportunities, we know where to focus our efforts. We can now undertake an audit or piece of analysis with the goal of answering a specific question.

Based on the insight returned by this highly targeted analysis, a consumer-focused solution can be designed by combining SEO, UX, content and paid media expertise. This holistic approach ensures that the solution performs not only in organic search but across channels, and assists the consumer in their purchase journey.

Once a strategic change has been launched, it flows into the hygiene optimization process to ensure the maximum return is realized over the long term.

In summary
Audits and associated skill sets remain as important as ever, but their role has changed. One-off or periodic audits should be confined to the past, as they don’t provide any performance longevity. Within the hygiene layer, audits become an essential part of day-to-day activity. They remain vital in driving small, incremental performance gains that, over the long term, can add up to significant gains. Additionally, these audits are essential to identify the more critical indexation issues, as well as catching small issues early, before they spiral into something much larger.

Consumer insight and strategy are now the two biggest factors that can influence performance, and their importance will only increase over the coming years. Given this, focus needs to switch to this bigger picture activity that enables brands to achieve their full potential. It is within this strategic consultancy layer where the audit and analysis skill sets can be maximized by pivoting their application to provide the answer to a specific question, challenge or problem that has been identified through consumer insight.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

White Hat SEO Techniques: It’s Not About Gaming Google

White Hat SEO Techniques: It’s Not About Gaming Google

SEO isn’t about gaming Google. It’s simply about creating content that people want and that satisfies their search intent.

Looking at SEO from this perspective can make it easier to understand and easier to execute white hat SEO techniques. By putting aside the spammy tactics of yesteryear, you can produce and publish customer-focused content without that scammy vibe.

Now let’s talk about how to know what content topics people want.

White Hat SEO Technique #1: Use Keyword Research to Discover Content Demand
A little keyword research can go a long way in helping you understand what your audience wants.

Not only will you find topics that are frequently searched, you’re also likely to stumble on search language they are using that you might not have anticipated. One reason for this–your knowledge and expertise in your industry is deeper than theirs. The language you use is probably industry jargon that your audience doesn’t use. This is a great opportunity for you to find long tail keywords that your audience can understand, and create content that speaks to them.

Creating content using language your customers use is as white hat as it comes. Forget stuffing your content with a single keyword over and over again. This is about meeting customers on their turf, speaking to them naturally and in terms they understand.

White hat do’s:

Do — choose to target keywords that are fairly popular. The ease of ranking for those keywords will depend on the competitive strength of your site. Be realistic in how high of a competition level you can take on and still get results.

Check out: Find the Best Keyword for your Website
Try: Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool
Do — include the target keywords in all the right places–URL, title tag, alt images, body content, etc.

Check out: The 25-Point SEO Checklist You Need to Drive More Traffic
Do — use other keywords that are related to your target keyword within the body of your content.

Example: If you’re writing a post about doing a competitive analysis, you should also include related terms like competitive analysis report or competitive analysis example.

Do — use the target keyword in the anchor text of internal links to the new content.

Black hat don’ts:

Don’t — aim for quantity over quality. With all the searches Google receives every day, you can be certain its algorithms understand synonymous phrases. Instead of repeating the same keyword phrase as often as possible, use like-keywords to reinforce what your content is about.

Now that you know what your audience is searching for, let’s talk about what they want to find.

White Hat SEO Technique #2: Create SEO Content That Answers The Search Intent
You don’t need to be a technical genius to do SEO right. Like most marketing disciplines, a little bit of empathy for the user searching can go a long way to getting results in SEO.

Think from the perspective of the searcher.

What are they looking for?
What are the problems they are seeking advice or solutions to?
Are they looking for advice, or are they looking to buy something?
Search intent tends to fall into one of these categories:

Learn something
Find solution to a problem
Purchase something
When evaluating your list of keyword opportunities, think about whether a person searching that phrase is hoping to learn something, find a solution to a problem, or make a purchase.

The phrase they’ve entered reveals a lot about their intention.

When you create your SEO content be sure to give users what they are looking for. If they are looking for an educational “how to” article, don’t create content that pushes a sale.

White hat do’s

Do — think of your content as a Q & A. The keyword query is the question. Your content is the answer.

Do — be a useful resource by giving the searcher what they want.

Do — be clear in your title tag and meta description about what your content promises.

Black hat don’ts

Don’t — bait and switch the searcher with misleading click-bait titles. Your title should always tie directly to your content. If it doesn’t, the visitor is more likely to bounce, sending Google a signal that your content didn’t serve their search interest. As a result, Google will drop your position in the SERPs like a hot potato.

White Hat SEO Technique #3: Help Google Know What Your Content is About by Getting Votes of Confidence
Google needs to know what your content is about in order to place it in the right SERPs for the right search terms.

One way it does this is through on-page signals–things like the inclusion of keywords in the URL, title, body content, etc.

Another way is through on-site signals–internal links from related pages on your site using anchor text that is descriptive of the content (i.e. it includes the target keyword).

And then there are off-site signals–inbound links from 3rd party trust-worthy sites that have related content linking to your content. A 3rd party citation of your content tells Google that a real, live person who created it thinks your content truly is about “xyz” (aka your keyword).

This is the origin of SEO’s spammy reputation. Bad-actors manipulated off-site signals by fabricating inbound links with things like link farms–clearly not living, breathing humans giving a vote of confidence that the content is indeed about what you claim it to be.

As a result, Google has put great effort into knowing when an inbound link is from a quality, trust-worthy site, versus a fabricated link purely for manipulative gain. The former helps you. The latter hurts you.

So when you hear the term “link building,” forget those old school black hat tactics. The game has changed. When done right, link building can be an extremely powerful way to boost search rankings. As a bonus, it could drive referral traffic too.

The key here is in building relationships and reaching out to bloggers and journalists to let them know about your awesome content. We’ll need to write a whole other post on white hat link building.

But the point is–

If you followed #1, you’ll have content that’s in demand–and the bloggers you reach out to will know their audience enough to know that.

If you followed #2, bloggers will appreciate the resourcefulness of your content and be more likely to cite it when it is relevant and complimentary to the content they are creating.

White hat do’s:

Do — reach out to influencers to let them know about your content, pointing out why it might add value to their content.

Do – personalize your outreach in a genuine, one-on-one way that shows you know the blogger.

Do — be patient. Building mutually beneficial relationships takes time.

Black hat don’ts:

Don’t — send mass emails to influencers with no personalization. It won’t be effective. It won’t get you to the top of Google. And you’ll burn bridges in the process.

Summary of a White Hat SEO Strategy
In sum, you can practice good SEO without feeling like a spammer if you follow white hat SEO strategies. In fact, the more you focus on serving the searcher’s needs, the more you’ll benefit. It’s a win-win for everybody involved.

The searcher gets what they want–an answer to their search
Google gets what they want–satisfied searchers (aka happy customers)
You get what you want–top rankings on Google and “free” organic traffic