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Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish |
SEO in a Two Algorithm World
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We Had One Job
Perfectly Optimized Pages
The Search Quality
Teams Determined
What to Include in
the Ranking System
They decided
links > content
By 2007, Link Spam Was Ubiquitous
This paper/presentation from
Yahoo’s spam team in 2007
predicted a lot of what Google
Even in 2012, It Felt Like Google Was Making Liars Out
of the White Hat SEO World
Via Wil Reynolds
Google’s Last 3 Years of
Advancements Erased a
Decade of Old School
SEO Practices
They Finally Launched EffectiveAlgorithms to Fight
Manipulative Links & Content
Via Google
And They Leveraged Fear + Uncertainty of
Penalization to Keep Sites Inline
Via Moz Q+A
Google Figured Out Intent
Rand probably doesn’t
just want webpages
filled with the word
They Looked at Language, not Just Keywords
Oh… I totally
know this one!
They Predicted When We Want Diverse Results
He probably
doesn’t just want a
bunch of lists.
They Figured Out When We Wanted Freshness
Old pages on this
topic probably
aren’t relevant
Their Segmentation of Navigational from Informational
Queries Closed Many Loopholes
Google Learned to ID Entities of Knowledge
And to Connect Entities to Topics & Keywords
Via Moz
Brands Became a Form of Entities
TheseAdvancements Brought Google (mostly) Back
in Line w/ Its Public Statements
Via Google
During These Advances,
Google’s Search Quality
Team Underwent a
Early On, Google Rejected Machine Learning in the
Organic RankingAlgo
Via Datawocky,
Amit Singhal Shared Norvig’s ConcernsAbout ML
Via Quora
In 2012, Google Published a PaperAbout How
they Use ML to Predict Ad CTRs:
Via Google
“Our SmartASS system is a
machine learning system. It
learns whether our users are
interested in that ad, and
By 2013, It Was
Something Google’s
Search Folks Talked
About Publicly
Via SELand
As MLTakes Over More of Google’sAlgo, the
Underpinnings of the Rankings Change
Via Colossal
Google is PublicAbout How They Use MLin Image
Recognition & Classification
Potential ID Factors
Google is PublicAbout How They Use MLin Image
Recognition & Classification
Machine Learning in Search Could Work Like This:
Potential Ranking
Training Data
This is a good SERP – searchers
rarely bounce, rarely short-click,
and rarely need t...
Training Data
This is a bad SERP – searchers
bounce often, click other results,
rarely long-click,...
The Machines Learn to Emulate the Good Results & Try to Fix
orTweak the Bad Results
Potential Ranking
Deep Learning is Even MoreAdvanced:
Dean says by using deep learning,
they don’t have to tell the system
what a cat is, th...
We’re TalkingAbout
Algorithms that Build
(without human intervention)
Googlers Don’t Feed in Ranking Factors… The Machines
Determine Those Themselves.
Potential Ranking
No wonder these guys are stressed about Google
unleashing the Terminators 
Via CNET & Washington Post
What Does Deep Learning
Mean for SEO?
Googlers Won’t Know Why Something Ranks or
Whether a Variable’s in theAlgo
He means other Googlers.
I’m Jeff Dean. I’ll kn...
The Query Success Metrics Will BeAll That
Matters to the Machines
Long to Short Click Ratio Relative CTR vs. Other Results...
The Query Success Metrics Will BeAll That
Matters to the Machines
Long to Short Click Ratio Relative CTR vs. Other Results...
We’ll Be Optimizing Less
for Ranking Inputs
Unique Linking Domains
Keywords in Title
Anchor Text
Content Uniqueness
Page L...
And Optimizing More for Searcher Outputs
High CTR for this position?
Good engagement?
High amplification rate?
Low bounce ...
OK… Maybe in the future.
But, do those kinds of
metrics really affect SEO
Remember Our Queries & Clicks Test from 2014?
Via Rand’s Blog
Since then, it’s been much harder to move the
needle with raw queries and clicks…
Case closed! Google says they don’t use clicks in the rankings.
Via Linkarati’s Coverage of SMX Advanced
But, what if we tried long
clicks vs.
short clicks?
Note SeriousEats,
ranking #4 here
11:39am on June 21st,
I sent this tweet:
40 Minutes & ~400
Interactions Later
Moved up 2 positions after 2+ weeks
of the top 5 staying static.
70 Minutes & ~500
Interactions Total
Moved up to #1.
Stayed ~12 hours, when it
fell to #13+ for ~8 hours, then
back to #4.
Google? You
messing with us?
Via Google Trends, we can see the relative impact
of the test on query volume
~5-10X normal volume over
3-4 hours
BTW –This is hard to replicate.600+
real searchersusinga varietyof
willnot lookthe sam...
The Future:
Optimizing for Two
The Best SEOs HaveAlways
Optimized to Where Google’s Going
Today, I Think We Know,
Better Than Ever, Where That Is
We Must Choose How to Balance Our Work…
Hammering on the Fading Signals of Old…
Or Embracing Those We
Can See On the Rise
Classic On-Site SEO
New On-Site SEO
(searcher outputs)
Keyword Targeting Relative CTR
Short vs. Long-Click...
5 New(ish) Elements of
Modern SEO
Punching Above Your
Ranking’s Average CTR#1
Optimizing the Title, Meta Description, & URL
a Little for KWs, but a Lot for Clicks
If you rank #3, but have a higher-tha...
Every Element Counts
Does the title match what
searchers want?
Does the URLseem
Do searchers recognize
& want ...
Given Google Often Tests New Results Briefly on Page One…
Shoot! ...
Driving Up CTR Through Branding Or Branded
Searches May GiveAn Extra Boost
#1Ad Spender
#2Ad Spender
#4Ad Spender
#3Ad Spender
#5Ad Spender
new, moreaccurate,
ranges, youcan
effectsofevents and
Beating Out Your Fellow SERP
Residents on Engagement#2
Together, Pogo-Sticking & Long Clicks Might
Determine a Lot of Where You Rank (and for how
Via Bill Slawski on Moz
What Influences Them?
Speed, Speed, and More Speed
Delivers the Best UX on Every Browser
Compels Visitors to Go Deeper Into Your Site
Avoids Fea...
Via NY Times
e.g. this interactive graph
that asks visitors to draw
their best guess likely gets
remarkable engagement
e.g. Poor Norbert does
a terrible job at SEO,
but the simplicity
compels visitors to go
deeper and to return
time and agai...
e.g. Nomadlist’s superb,
filterable database of
cities and community for
remote workers.
Via Nomadlist
Filling Gaps in Your
Visitors’ Knowledge#3
Google’s looking for
content signals that a
page will fulfill ALL of a
searcher’s needs.
I think I know a few
ways to figu...
ML models may note that
the presence of certain
words, phrases, & topics
predict more successful
e.g. a page about New York that doesn’t
mention Brooklyn or Long Island may not be
very comprehensive
If Your Content Doesn’t Fill the Gaps in Searcher’s Needs…
e.g. for this query, Google might
seek content that includes to...
Moz’s Data Science Team
is Working on Something to
Help With This
The (alpha) tool extracts likely
focal topics from a giv...
In the meantime, check
Or MonkeyLearn
Earning More Shares,
Links, & Loyalty per Visit#4
Pages that get lots of
social activity &
engagement, but few
links, seem to
Google says they
don’t use social
signals directly, but
examples like these
make SEOs
Even for insanely competitive
keywords, we see this type of
behavior when a URLgets
authentically “hot” in the
social worl...
Data from Buzzsumo & Moz
show that very few articles
earn sharesAND that links &
shares have almost no
Via Bu...
I suspect Google doesn’t
use raw social shares as
a ranking input, because
we share a lot of content
with which we don’t
Google Could Be Using a Lot of Other Metrics/Sources to Get
Data That Mimics Social Shares:
Clickstream (from Chrome/Andro...
But I Don’t Care if It’s Correlation or Causation;
I Want to Rank Like These Guys!
BTW – GoogleAlmost Certainly Classifies SERPs
Differently & Optimizes to Different Goals
These URLs have loads of shares &...
Raw Shares & LinksAre Fine Metrics…
Via Buzzsumo
But If the Competition Naturally Earns
Them Faster, You’re Outta Luck
4 new shares/day
2 new shares/day
3 new shares/day
And Google Probably Wants to See Shares that
Result in Loyalty & Returning Visits
New KPI #1: Shares & Links Per 1,000 Visits
Unique Visits
Shares + Links
Via Moz’s 1Metric
New KPI #2: Return Visitor Ratio Over Time
Total Visitor Sessions
# of Returning Visitors
Knowing What Makes OurAudience (and their
influencers) Share is Essential
From an analysis of the
10,000 pieces of content...
Knowing What Makes them Return (or prevents
them from doing so) Is, Too.
We Don’t Need “Better” Content… We Need “10X” Content.
Via Whiteboard Friday
Wrong Question:
“How do we make something as
10X Content is the Future, Because It’s the Only Way to Stand
Out from the Increasingly-Noisy Crowd
Old School On-Site Old School Off-Site
Keyword Targeting Link Diversity
Anchor Text
Brand Mentions
3rd Party Reviews
Fulfilling the Searcher’s
Task (not just their query)#5
Broad search Narrower search
Even narrower search
Website visit
Website visit Brand search
Social validation Highly-specif...
Broad search
All the sites (or answers) you probably would
have visited/sought along that path
Completion of Task
This is ...
If Google sees
that many people
who perform these
types of queries:
Eventually end
their queries on
the topic after
visiting Ramen
The Ramen Rater
They might use the
clickstream data to help
rank that site higher, even
if it doesn’t have
traditional ranking signals
They’re definitely getting and storing it.
APage ThatAnswers the Searcher’s Initial Query
May Not Be Enough
Searchers performing this query
are likely to have the go...
Google Wants to Send Searchers
to Websites that Resolve their
This is the only site where
you can reliably find th...
Welcome to the
Two-Algorithm World of
Algo 1: Google
Algo 2: Subset of Humanity that
Interacts With Your Content
“Make Pages for People, Not
Terrible Advice.
Keyword Targeting Relative CTR
Short vs. Long-Click
Content Gap Fulfillment
Amplify & Return Rates
Task Completion Success...
Optimize for Both:
Algo Input & Human Output
Bonus Time!
#1) I’ve Been Curating a List of “10X” Content Over the
Last 6 months… It’sAll Yours:
FYI that’s a capit...
#2) Not all content earns links… Buzzsumo & Moz
collaborated to find out what does:
No capitals in th...
Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish |
The Search Quality Teams Determined
The Search Quality Teams Determined
The Search Quality Teams Determined
The Search Quality Teams Determined
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The Search Quality Teams Determined SEO in a Two Algorithm World

The Search Quality
Teams Determined
What to Include in
the Ranking System