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Google Trends can help understand and predict consumer behaviour post-pandemic. Director of SEO at Stella Rising, John Morabito takes a closer look at these and suggests how businesses can use it in their content strategy.

With the coronavirus pandemic now nearing its peak in many parts of the U.S., search trends are rapidly evolving in ways many search marketers have never seen before. Changes are happening almost daily, and traditional search volume as a monthly average metric has become practically useless. Google Trends, however, offers useful, daily analysis of what’s trending in search. At present, Google Trends can be an invaluable tool, as it helps to uncover opportunities for e-commerce brands, publishers, and local businesses.

In this post, we’ll cover ways that search marketers can use Google Trends and other tools to discover opportunities in today’s fast-moving landscape, and review how the team at Stella Rising has been using Google Trends to inform our strategy during the pandemic.

The obvious Google Trends

Medical suppliers will be aware that, amidst the overall demand for masks, behaviours have shifted from favouring N95 masks to surgical masks. The CDC recently revised their recommendation. In this case, we see that search demand for masks is already starting to decrease.

Surgical Masks (7 Day View) – Down 68% (April 5-11th vs Feb 16th-22)

COVID-19 Google Trends

Full Year View

 The less obvious: Search evolution in unexpected places

The real benefit to Google Trends is that it can help us understand and predict consumer behaviour post-pandemic. Additionally, we can see how categories are evolving. For example, at first glance, one might not think that the beauty segment would find success in a pandemic. However, social distancers are turning to self-care. “Peel masks” are seeing a huge increase in interest with a 58% increase in over the last few weeks. Google Trends - Peel masks search

Searches for skincare are skyrocketing, as are those for foot care. Consumers need help finding resources they often rely on salons for. Note the following trends from Spate:

Search trends - Foot care search graph by Spate

Hand moisturizer has similarly seen an even larger increase, jumping up 156% since February (April 5-11th vs Feb 16th-22).

COVID-19 search trends - Moisturizer Leveraging the trend

When it comes to the growth in demand for skincare products, skincare brands have a number of options at their disposal when it comes to their content efforts. Make sure your product pages are being listed in Google shopping’s new free listings, and ensure that you have robust on-page content for each of your skincare product or category pages. Lastly, in a time where making returns is not an easy task, and consumers want to minimize contact with the outside world, content that helps guide users to the right product selections can be extremely valuable.

For example, this article from Bucklers Remedy, a skincare brand ranks top three for “choosing the right hand lotion”. In another example, we see a Vaseline article about how to deal with dry cracked hands ranking for a total of 1,100 keywords.

Example - Vaseline hand moisturizer search trend

For apparel companies

Apparel companies should shift their messaging as consumers browse for clothing on their devices. Right now, leisurewear is king and we have seen an abnormal increase in demand for sweatpants over the last month.

COVID-19 Google Trends - leisurewear is the king

Consumers also want to know “how to look good on zoom”. That term has increased from 0 to 100 from March 14th onward.

"how to look good on zoom" search trend in COVID-19 times

Leveraging the trend

Everyone from publishers to apparel and beauty brands can get in on the need for Zoom/video conferencing related content. If you fall into one of those categories, consider producing looks and tutorials for your captive audience.

For instrument makers

For instrument makers like Fender and Les Paul, there has never been more interest than now in learning how to play the guitar.

instrument related search trends

Leveraging the trend

Fender and Les Paul both offer instructional content, but now is the perfect time for them to ramp-up efforts and even consider partnering with musicians who are out of work and can easily produce tutorial content on their behalf.

People are also interested in learning about all sorts of topics. As a “topic”, interest in tutorials has increased by 72%.

Leveraging the trend

If you’re a brand with a product that has any sort of instructions or bares any type of explanation in how to use it, I would recommend using this time to produce tutorial content for each of your products or for the things your products help people to do. For example, makeup brands can not only product tutorials on how to use a specific product which can help them to rank for both nonbrand and branded terms, but they can also target things like “zoom makeup looks” which can help them to rank for an even broader set of nonbrand terms.

Sometimes, search trends are influenced by necessity. We’ve seen more interest in “how to cut your hair” than ever before.

The not so fun part

While there are search trends dealing with keeping consumers busy, there are also new trends around more serious subjects. Some of our clients at Stella Rising are writing about these. One of our clients in the small business formation space is writing about how their customers can get loans and stay in good corporate standing. Small business loans are seeing more search demand than ever before, with an increase of 2111%.

Estate lawyers may want to consider online-only services as “get a will online” has seen a steep rise.

How to get started

Now that you’ve seen some of the ways that search trends are evolving—and how to check—start by inspecting your website’s most valuable target keywords and see how searches are moving for those items. You may be surprised by what you find. Finding interesting trends can be tough, so think carefully about how behaviour will evolve in the future, not simply how it has changed today.

Bonus tool tip

Explodingtopics.com is a tool that shows exploding topics using Google Trends data and provides two key metrics: gradient and exponent. Essentially, the exponent is a mathematical expression that defines how much like a “hockey-stick” a curve is. The tool breaks up Google Trend data by category and presents which topics are “exploding” versus which have peaked in interest. This analysis is useful when wishing to stay relevant with content writing.

John Morabito is Director of SEO at Stella Rising. John has over nine years of experience in SEO, PPC, and other digital marketing channels. 

Source: Search Engine Watch

Word Count: 1055

In the SEO world, terms like natural linksquality links, and good links are thrown around like crazy.

Whether you’re going into a client pitch, attending a search marketing conference, or your boss asks you why you aren’t getting quality links, it’s important to know (and be able to explain) all the different types of links.

This chapter will help you:

  • Understand each type of link by providing you with definitions.
  • Determine which types of links may be able to help boost your rankings.
  • Figure out which types of links you may want to add to a disavow sheet.

Although there is normally debate on specific types of links (.edu and relevant, manually-updated directories, for example), this will be a good baseline for you to use.

Types of Links

Natural Links

A natural link is one that occurs organically (not easily seen as being placed by your company).

Natural links don’t:

  • Have tracking parameters.
  • Exist within sponsored or paid content.
  • Redirect through JavaScript or monetization tools.

A natural link exists as a reference to a piece of content, website, or source.

Unnatural Links

Unnatural links are any links that are paid for.

These types of links can be placed and tracked by PR firms and media buyers, or monetized through affiliate programs, CPC campaigns, influencers, or monetization scripts.

If these links aren’t nofollowed, Google can potentially take manual action on your site or your site could be negatively impacted algorithmically (most likely by Penguin), because they are not earned/natural.

What are unnatural links? Links:

  • With tracking parameters (e.g., UTM source and medium).
  • Within sponsored content on a site (because search engines do not know who paid for the content to be placed).
  • From sites using monetization scripts because scripts say you get paid for linking to retailers.

You can find these in the site’s code, outbound redirects, and other mappable techniques.

Semi-natural Link

On occasion, you’ll discover a “mixed” link pattern. For example, you may find a natural link that uses tracking parameters.

Let’s say you click through from an influencer who has been paid to share a link. That link will lead to the landing page that may have the tracking parameters in place.

Bloggers, aggregators, and others who follow that link may copy and paste it directly into their site giving natural links that also have these parameters. This could result in an unnatural but organic link scheme.

To help resolve this, make sure that as a person reaches your site through a tracked link, you set a redirect to pass the parameters but also resolve to the natural page structure. (i.e., the utm_campaign redirects to a version without any UTM parameters).

Now you’ll have the standard and non-tracked URL as the one they use and be able to properly attribute sales, traffic, and leads back to the original site.

You can still measure the halo effect of additional links and exposure by pulling a link acquisition report and crawling/scraping the likes, shares, and retweets from the initial influencer.

What Are Quality Links?

Quality links are links that come from high-quality sites.

This definition will change depending on the quality of the SEO you’re talking to. Here is what I look at to determine the quality of a website:

How has the competitive landscape changed?
Find out if your competitors secured their market positions in recent months.

  • The site is niche, or at least has a regularly updated section about the topic.
  • There are no outbound links to adult, illegal, payday, or scam sites.
  • You won’t be able to see that they allow sponsored content (with the exception of clearly marked advertorials).
  • Media kits and publicly viewable advertising sections do not have a price for or mention of text links or backlinks.
  • Finding them in the Google news feed is a good sign that they are trustworthy or high quality in Google’s eyes.
  • Acquired links will be by staff writers and not contributors. Contributors can be bought more easily and many large publications have begun nofollowing their links. Do a Google search for Huffington Post and nofollow and you’ll see multiple discussions from when they flipped the switch.
  • The links come from body copy. That has to be earned – unlike blog comments, forum mentions, press releases, and other areas where anyone can easily build or buy links.

What Makes a Good Link?

A good link is different than a quality link. It can be any type of link that can have a positive impact with a bit less risk.

The factors of a good link vs. bad link can also change based on the type of SEO you’re doing local vs. national and country-specific vs. international – Russia and Yandex vs. the UK and Google).

A good link for Yandex should be ones that are approved by the Russian government and aren’t also linking to sites that have banned content, contraband, and things that are forbidden in Yandex.

Alcohol gifts, for example, could potentially be bad for Yandex traffic, but good links for other countries and search engines.

Local directories that are managed, maintained, and don’t have a submit your site option may be good for local SEO, but probably not national because of the content relevance and potential quality.

If they have a lot of age and continuously clean out old sites, dead sites and 4XX errors they may be beneficial instead of harmful.

If you notice I’m saying <strong>may</strong> or <strong>might,</strong> it’s because there is no solid yes or no. It depends on the specific situation and website.

You could have a blogger who has great niche content but no age or authority and may quit blogging in a year. Although it looks like a good link, it would fall under “maybe” or “OK” for me. That is 100% debatable.

Then there is an established blog without a huge following that sticks to its niche. They are not doing well in Google though with organic even though they have great content. This would fall under “OK” for me as well.

Another could be a new blog that is content relevant but doesn’t have a ton of SEO traffic, but does have a lot of engaged readers.

This would be a good link for me because they have a quality audience and if they continue down the niche path they could be a great source of traffic/sales and also pass authority from their links for SEO.

The trick with good backlinks is to determine and watch how they impact you currently and what they may do in the future.

Each site is unique and each link should be considered independently before disavowing it as bad or keeping it as good/quality.

How Can You Build Quality Links?

You’ll find a ton of posts on Search Engine Journal about building quality links, including a few I’ve written. (Use the search box and you’ll find them.)

What works best for me is always keeping a few things in mind when creating copy that I want to get links for.

  • Who have I empowered or made feel important or have an emotional reaction?
  • Why would that person want to share, link to or call out my content by tagging a friend in it?
  • Did I provide a solution to a common or unique problem?
  • What is unique, special, or different about how I’m presenting this content?
  • Which ways have I better explained, detailed, or given examples of something complex, funny, or useful?
  • How have I enabled people to easily share and link to this content?
  • Where have I advertised it so that I can keep it in front of people who can give me quality backlinks and references (sometimes this is an influencer who has a large following of bloggers and journalists)?

When someone mentions natural links, it’s all about quality. That means they can’t be easily acquired, they’re in a good SEO neighborhood, and that they are in topically related content sites that match your services, stores, site, or niche.

Focusing on quality over quantity is what can help to protect your site as Google updates.

More importantly, focusing on quality can help constantly bring in relevant readers through referring sites who may also become customers, engaged readers, and a new source of links and social media traffic.

Source: Serach Engine Journal

Word Count: 1377

Google’s John Mueller recently stated that a sitelinks search box is rarely shown for sites in search results.

Further, the appearance of a sitelinks search box is not at all influenced by implementation of structured data markup.

Mueller discussed this topic during a Google Webmaster Central hangout held on April 28.

A question was submitted by an SEO who mentioned their boss is upset with them.

After implementing all the correct structured data markup, Google is still not showing a sitelinks search box when the business is searched for.

Here’s what Mueller had to say in response to this issue.

Problem: Sitelinks Search Box Not Shown in Search Results

A sitelinks search box is a way for people to search within a specific site from the search results page.

Site owners do not have to do anything to get a sitelinks search box to appear.

However, there is structured data available for customizing how a sitelinks search box will appear when Google decides to show one.

Whether or not the structured data is used will not impact Google’s decision to show a sitelinks search box.

In fact, Mueller says this feature is “rarely” shown in search results.

That’s confirmed by a message in Google’s official developer document about sitelinks search box structured data.

Important: Google doesn’t guarantee that a sitelinks search box will be shown in search results. Additionally, using the sitelinks search box markup doesn’t make it more likely that a sitelinks search box will be shown.”

Keep Expectations Realistic

Mueller mentioned that he sees people struggling with this sitelinks search box issue from time to time.

But it sounds like the real problem stems from managing expectations.

In this case, the SEO may not have explained to their boss that the appearance of a sitelinks search box is not influenced by structured data markup.

That would help explain why the boss was upset when they didn’t see a sitelinks search box after searching for their business.

It’s important to keep expectations realistic when implementing any kind of structured data

There’s no guarantee Google will display a rich result just because the structured data exists on a site.

Structured data is a tool that can be used to communicate to Google how you want a rich result to be displayed.

Whether or not rich result is ultimately displayed is up to Google’s algorithm.

“With regards to sitelinks search box, this is kind of a tricky one and something I see people struggle with from time to time.

The hard part here is that adding the markup does not make it more likely that a sitelink search box will be shown. But rather, if we were to show one, we would use one that’s based on your markup.

So it’s very rare, or it feels very rare, that we would show a sitelink search box in general – for queries, for sites. And only for those cases where we would show it, if you have the markup we’ll try to use the markup, if you don’t have it we’ll just use the default setup.

So that’s something where, if you’re currently not seeing a sitelink searchbox at all, then adding the markup for that will have no effect.”

Source: Search Engine Journal

Word Count: 540
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