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PostHeaderIcon New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes



Posted by MiriamEllis

Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

Wait, what is the “like” button?

Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

  1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
  2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

And that leads us to…

Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

“No, it’s not considered spam.”

“Not even then?”

“No,” she said.

2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

My guidelines for use of the review likes function

Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
  2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
  3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
  4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

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PostHeaderIcon How to Monitor Hreflang Performance With Dynamic Tags in STAT



Posted by TheMozTeam

This post was originally published on the STAT blog.


If you’re familiar with hreflang, you’ll know just how essential this teensy bit of code is to a successful international campaign. You’ll also know that it comes with a boatload of moving parts — multiple pages, sections, and subdomains per country.

That’s a lot of data to track. And if you aren’t hyper-organized, it’s easy to miss out on some big time insights.

Lucky for you, there’s a handy way to track your hreflang campaigns: all you need are a few dynamic tags in STAT. And even luckier for you, Dan Nutter, Technical SEO Specialist at twentysix, agreed to share his wisdom on this very subject.

Below, you’ll learn how to set up your own dynamic tags in STAT, monitor all your pages, and even visualize all that data to impress your team, boss, and clients.

The origins of hreflang 

The hreflang attribute, for those unfamiliar, tells Google which language you are using on a specific page. Introduced back in 2011, it essentially allows us to speak to our target audience in different countries in their languages.

Developing it, though, has been described by Google’s John Mueller as one of the most difficult sides to SEO:

While certainly complex, hreflang has been immensely helpful for companies looking to increase their site (or, in our case, our client’s sites) visibility and grow their audience. This is because: when searchers see the right language of content, it helps decrease bounce rate and increase conversions.

Since hreflang requires such a significant amount of time and effort from both SEO and development teams, clients (rightly) want to see tangible benefits post-deployment.

Monitoring hreflang (the standard way) 

To show the benefits of such a massive change to the technical architecture of a site, SEOs can do one of two things — either highlight the increase in the number of hreflang tags or point out the reduction in the number of errors being detected in Google Search Console.

The problem is that telling a valuable story about complex code, one that will resonate with clients, is no easy feat, particularly when the information is being communicated to the C-suite.

This is why dynamic tags in STAT are an incredible tool for SEOs and are invaluable to our team.

Monitoring hreflang with dynamic tags (the easier way) 

For those of you running international SEO campaigns, I highly recommend using STAT’s dynamic tags to monitor changes of ranking URLs after new hreflang deployments.

Not only do dynamic tags allow for a fast diagnosis of potential issues with the hreflang mark-up, they also provide a tangible way to tell a compelling, positive story for our team or a client of twentysix.

In STAT, dynamic tags are automatically populated by a pre-determined criterion — you select them with the filtering options in the Keywords tab at the site level. For instance, you could filter the SERP Features column to see all keywords that generate “People also ask” boxes.

All your tags are then at the ready in the Tags tab, so you can get quick snapshots of how your data is performing.

Creating your hreflang tags in STAT 

To track your new hreflang mark-up with dynamic tags in STAT, your international content must be delivered via either sub-folders or sub-domains on a site using a gTLD (E.g. www.sitename.com/fr-fr/ or fr.sitename.com).

If your international content is served on ccTLDs (i.e. www.sitename.fr), dynamic tags won’t be able to track any incorrectly ranking URLs, as they will be attributed to a different domain.

First, you’ll need to separate the sites in your project for all relevant country and language combinations. To enable this, you simply filter ranking URLs for a specific text string. This will generate tags that can track all the ranking keywords for a particular sub-folder — or even a specific URL — and monitor their performance.

Under the URL column, apply the Wildcard Search and/or Exclusion Search functions. This will allow you to detect any changes in your ranking URLs.

Applying Wildcard Search and Exclusion Search helps to surface any changes in your URLs.

The Wildcard Search filter can locate URLs that include the text string for the correct region, thereby tracking the improvement in the number of correctly ranking URLs.

Sites using sub-folders will require filtering for all URLs, which includes the country and language combination you want to track, such as “/fr-fr/” when tracking URLs for the country France and the language of French.

For sites using sub-domains, you’ll need to filter for the sub-domain and root domain combined, such as “fr.sitename.com.” To track sub-domains, you’ll need to select Ignore “www.” prefix when matching in the site settings.

To track subdomains, you need to select Ignore ‘www.’ prefix when matching in the site settings.

Once you have filtered the URL column for your chosen country, select Tag All Filtered Keywords and create a dynamic tag called “Correct URL.”

If you opt to track the decrease in the number of incorrectly ranking URLs, you’ll need to create a dynamic tag using the exact same steps as above, only this time with the Exclusion Search functionality.

Telling a positive story

When you track the performance of your ranking URLs, it’s easier to demonstrate the value of the changes being implemented to the technical architecture of the site.

In addition, when that value is visually represented — like in a graph — it provides clients with a clear idea of just how effective a technical change is, and that can be communicated clearly throughout all levels of their business.This shows the increase in any correctly ranking URLs.

After your tags have been created, you can monitor the increase in correctly ranking URLs using the Dashboard tab.

The bonus round 

An unexpected benefit of tracking the success of a hreflang deployment? It highlights any changes made to the technical setup of a site, which can prevent the hreflang from functioning correctly.

For instance, during a recent campaign, our team noticed an increase in the number of incorrectly ranking URLs, indicating that a site-level change had negatively impacted the hreflang markup.

At the time, Google Search Console was experiencing a number of time-lag errors, which meant that if we weren’t keeping a close eye on things, we would have missed the issue entirely. With our dynamic tags set up in STAT, we were able to pick up on these changes before Google Search Console.

Using STAT’s dynamic tags, Dan was able to catch the error before Google Search Console.

By leveraging STAT’s dynamic tags, we were able to catch the increase and our team rectified the issue before any long-term damage was done.

Liked what you read?

Want to know your best and worst-performing tags? Keen to compare all their metrics side-by-side?

If you answered yes to both and you’re a STAT client, then check out our Tags tab to see what kinds of insights you can uncover for your international (and national) campaigns.

Not a STAT client (yet)? Book a demo to get a customized walkthrough. You can also chat with our team at MozCon to see it up close and personal! 

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PostHeaderIcon How to Automate Keyword Ranking with STAT and Google Data Studio



Posted by TheMozTeam

This blog post was originally published on the STAT blog.


We asked SEO Analyst, Emily Christon of Ovative Group, to share how her team makes keyword rank reporting easy and digestible for all stakeholders. Read on to see how she combines the power of STAT with Google Data Studio for streamlined reporting that never fails to impress her clients.

Why Google Data Studio

Creating reports for your clients is a vital part of SEO. It’s also one of the most daunting and time-consuming tasks. Your reports need to contain all the necessary data, while also having clear visuals, providing quick wins, and being easy to understand.

At Ovative Group, we’re big advocates for reporting tools that save time and make data easier to understand. This is why we love Google Data Studio.

This reporting tool was created with the user in mind and allows for easy collaboration and sharing with teams. It’s also free, and its reporting dashboard is designed to take the complexity and stress out of visualizing data.

Don’t get us wrong. We still love our spreadsheets, but tools like Excel aren’t ideal for building interactive dashboards. They also don’t allow for easy data pulls — you have to manually add your data, which can eat up a lot of time and cause a lot of feelings.

Data Studio, however, pulls all your data into one place from multiple sources, like spreadsheets, Google Analytics accounts, and Adwords. You can then customize how all that data is viewed so you can surface quick insights.

How does this relate to keyword reporting?

Creating an actionable keyword report that is beneficial for both SEO and your stakeholders can be a challenge. Data Studio makes things a bit easier for us at Ovative in a variety of ways:

Automated data integration

Our team uses the STAT API — which can be connected to Data Studio through a little technical magic and Google Big Query — to pull in all our raw data. You can select what data points you want to be collected from the API, including rank, base rank, competitors, search volume, local information, and more.

Once your data is collected and living in Big Query, you can access it through the Data Studio interface. If you want to learn more about STAT’s API, go here.

Customization

Do you care about current rank? Rank over time? Major movers – those that changed +20 positions week over week? Or are you just after how many keywords you have ranking number one?

All of this is doable — and easy — once you’re comfortable in Data Studio. You can easily customize your reports to match your goals.

“Our team uses the STAT API — which can be connected to Data Studio through a little technical magic and Google Big Query — to pull in all our raw data.” — Emily Christon, SEO Analyst at Ovative Group

Custom dashboards make reporting and insights efficient and client-facing, transforming all that raw data into easy-to-understand metrics, which tell a more compelling story.

How to build your custom Google Data Studio 

There are a myriad of ways to leverage Google Data Studio for major insights. Here are just a few features we use to help visualize our data.

Keyword rank

This report gives you a snapshot of how many keywords you have in each ranking group and how things are trending. You can also scroll through your list of keywords to see what the traffic-driving queries are.

One cool feature of Data Studio when it comes to rank is period over period comparisons. For example, if you set the date range to the previous week, it will automatically pull week over week rank change. If you set the date range to the previous month, it pulls a month over month rank change.

At Ovative, we do weekly, monthly, and yearly keyword rank change reporting.

Keyword look-up tool

If you notice that traffic has declined in a specific keyword set, pop down to the keyword look-up tool to track rank trends over time. This view is extremely helpful — it shows the progress or decline of rank to help explain traffic variability.

Campaign or priority tracker

To support newly launched pages or priority keywords, create a separate section just for these keywords. This will make it easy for you to quickly check the performance and trends of chosen keyword sets.

What’s next? 

Google Data Studio is only as powerful as you make it.

The STAT API integration in Google Data Studio represents one page of our typical client’s reporting studio; we make sure to add in a page for top-level KPI trends, a page for Search Console keyword performance, and other relevant sources for ease of use for ourselves and the client.

Want more? 

Want to dive deeper into STAT? Got questions about our API? You can book a demo with us and get a personalized walk through. 

You can also chat with our rad team at MozCon this July 15–17 to see how you can go seriously deep with your data. Ask about our specialty API — two additional services to give you everything a 100-result SERP has to offer, and perfect if you’ve built your own connector.

Grab my MozCon ticket now!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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Article Source: The Only Yard For The Internet Junkie
If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

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