Why Search Matters More Than Ever

Don't call it a comeback, but the importance of search is slowly making its way back up the marketing ranks in 2018. It started when Facebook announced its sweeping algorithm update earlier this year, which is aimed to de-prioritize publishers in favor of updates from family and friends.


At RebelMouse we've been tracking the Facebook algorithm extensively. It's already having an impact on your strategy, your website, and your bottom line. But a lot of media experts in the industry also predict that the latest algorithm shift will result in a revitalization of traditional search. In 2017, The Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of Americans use Facebook, with more than half reporting that they receive their news from the site as well. Those users are still going to find a way to consume the news they care about if they can't easily get it in the News Feed, and Google has already stepped up to the plate to reclaim referral traffic they lost last year to the social giant.

Given the recent resurgence of search, it's vital that you're up to date on what's new in Google's world. Google has made some significant updates to its algorithm, starting in December 2017 and continuing into the new year. The traffic junkies here at RebelMouse have been keeping track of these changes, and updating our product and content strategies for our clients accordingly. Here are some of the biggest changes we've noticed, and what we're doing in response to win the game of search.

Major Google Updates

Dec. 1, 2017: Meta Descriptions Get Longer

At the end of 2017, users started noticing longer meta descriptions appearing in their Google results. Not long after, the company confirmed that they extended the length of search result snippets. Previously 150–160 characters in length, now marketers have over 300 characters to work with. This has begged the question: Should we go back and rewrite all of our meta descriptions?

The short answer is: If you want to, but it's not 100% necessary.

To fill up the void the new character limit left to improve user experience, Google began automatically generating their own snippets for many websites. If Google finds that the content directly on a page is better and more relevant than the meta description that was written before the new character limit, it overrides it with pieces of the page's content instead.

Some larger sites like Wikipedia don't use meta descriptions at all, but you'll notice that there's still relevant text showing up under those search result entries. We don't have to tout the history of success Wikipedia has had in Google's search results, so it's a prime example of how little meta descriptions now mean to your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

That being said, meta descriptions do still offer you a valuable outlet for creativity and control. For critical pages on your site, having a solid meta description with incentivizing copy and a clear call to action is key to getting users to actually click through. Meta description best practices have now become about click-through rate (CTR) in place of being an SEO must.

RebelMouse offers a number of SEO optimization tools inside our CMS's Entry Editor, including a character counter for the SEO headline and description of every article.

Since there's no guarantee that Google will use your meta description copy, we'll still encourage any effort that results in quality, well-thought-out content. If you have the time to rewrite your meta descriptions, we suggest doing so. We're always updating our technology to reflect the latest in digital media, so we recently added support for up to 350 characters in meta descriptions to match Google's increase.

To read more about meta descriptions and Google's Featured Snippets in 2018, check out this article from Moz.

Dec. 5, 2017: Enhanced Featured Snippets

Google announced a new form of Featured Snippets. The function now features more details, images, and related search queries, all powered by an algorithm. You see them all the time when searching using Google, and they're another reason to make sure your meta descriptions are detailed and well written.

An example of the new Featured Snippets from Google.

Dec. 12, 2017: Core Algorithm Changes

Google confirmed that several minor changes to the core algorithm — informally dubbed the Maccabees Update — took place in mid December. The update was aimed, per usual, at improving relevance in search results. While SEO analysts couldn't nail down what kind of sites were impacted specifically, it was an adjustment to how Google ranks sites — which usually means changing how a page's content, and links to that content, is scored for quality in the eyes of Google.

Jan. 17, 2018: Mobile's Need for Speed

The changes haven't stopped with the turn of the year. In mid January, Google announced that a page speed update designed to downgrade slow mobile pages will go into effect by July 2018. However, Google said that page speed would not be a factor in all mobile searches. This is all the more reason to adopt Google AMP now so you're ready before the update is pushed live.

What This All Means

While these are just some of the important changes we've decided to chronicle, there have also been more than five updates that focus on top listings on the first results page, spam links, and unnatural backlinks. It's estimated that about 15% of the internet was impacted in some way by these changes. That's a huge number of sites that most likely use SEO as a key source of revenue.

With each update comes more prioritization of fast sites, non-intrusive ads, and a mobile experience that's easy to consume — hopefully building a foundation for repeat visits. This focus on a more user-friendly internet emulates the same spirit found in the latest Facebook algorithm change that we mentioned at the beginning.

Strategy and Our Strategy Package

It's hard for developers and marketers to formulate a clear path to success when some of these updates aren't even — and probably never will be — confirmed by Google. But one thing remains true: User experience is more important than ever. So at the very least, you need to fine tune your strategy around it if you're not already doing so. This means each and every page on your site that is indexed by Google must be:

Super fast. Facebook and Google care a ton about page speed, and your traffic depends on it. A mediocre server response time results in poor visibility. To rank well in both the social feeds and search engine results, make sure your site loads lightning fast.

Mobile friendly. You must make sure your site is configured for mobile experience formats like Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and Apple News.

Rife with stellar content. You can't sit idly creating sub-par content and expect to survive the algorithm fluctuations. Your audience craves the type of content that generates deep and meaningful connections. Content that sparks organic conversation and engagement is what will be rewarded by the major platforms.

Strategies that used to be relevant can now hurt you rather than help you in today's digital world. Born in the age of social, we've quickly acclimated to every change in the media landscape, and we continuously update our tech to adapt to what's next. Our SEO strategies just work.

We use our own SEO tools and methods to win phrases organically. Our proven strategies coupled with our quality content has helped us to reach the top of Google's result pages on a number of occasions. A recent example highlighted above — "best CMS 2018" — is currently ranked number one on Google.

RebelMouse offers customized services separate from our CMS platform and website redesign services. We understand what goes into publishers' success, and SEO is a key component. If you're interested in our technical SEO services package, please contact us today to see how we can help you succeed.

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Take a peek into how our proprietary technology helps sites surge on search

The RebelMouse platform features a rich search engine optimization (SEO) toolset that guides writers and editors to think about the right search phrase behind every story, as well as how to focus on small but meaningful modifications designed to improve organic search performance.

Our SEO technology centers around best practices for search, including detailed metadata that will help Google's site crawler identify, index, and rank your content quickly. It often leads our clients to experiences traffic surges that look like the following after launching on our platform:

how to increase search traffic

Here's a look inside our proprietary technology that helps our clients experience quick search boosts that turn into long-term SEO wins.

The Search Tab

how to find the right search phrase

Every new article presents a new opportunity to win on search. RebelMouse's Entry Editor features an SEO tab that's designed to help you optimize every post to give it the best shot at winning a targeted search phrase. Here's a glimpse into how it guides editors through a perfected search strategy before the "Publish" button is even clicked.

Define Your Search Phrase

search volume data

It can be tricky to nail down which search phrase you want to win. Within the SEO tab, you can brainstorm your ideas in real time. Through the creative usage of APIs, we ensure writes and editors are armed with the right information when optimizing content for SEO. In the example above, the drop-down list is suggesting search phrases that are already performing well on Google. The number next to each recommended phrase is its monthly search volume.

This helps you determine which phrases are easy to win, or perhaps too competitive to strategize for, on an article-by-article basis. Click here to read more about this feature.

Optimize Your Slug to Match Your Search Phrase

submit url to search engines

The SEO tab in our Entry Editor is designed to repeat your desired search phrase throughout your content so that Google's crawler has every chance to index it correctly for search. With this methodology in mind, it's a best practice to have your article's URL slug match your desired search phrase. From the SEO tab, you can click the Optimize Slug button to automatically match your URL slug to the search phrase you want to win. Click here to read more about this feature.

Pick Smart Recirculation Links

seo outlinks

After you've defined your search phrase and optimized your URL slug accordingly, you can select highly relevant links to add as related content to the end of your article. We call these Around the Web (ATW) links. The SEO tab allows you to pick the best links from your own site, as well as from around the web, which leads to truly amazing traffic boosts. This is a proven SEO practice that's rewarded by Google. Since your article will link to pages already winning your search phrase, it can increase your own post's relevance score in the eyes of Google's crawler.

We automate the surfacing of both ATW and internal links for you, so it's as easy as ticking a handful of checkboxes to add them to your post. We've also done the math, and the data is clear: Adding ATW and internal links to the end of your articles can increase traffic coming to your posts from Google by over 300%! Click here to read more about this feature.

Craft Metadata Before Publish

what is seo metadata

When it comes to Google's site crawler, providing clever metadata is one of the best ways to contextualize your content for search. From there, Google's search algorithm will rank your site for search queries that it determines are relevant to your content. Our SEO tab allows you to write your metadata right from within our Entry Editor. Plus, our character counter will help you make sure that your SEO headline and description match Google's best practices for metadata text length.

It's important to make sure your metadata is clearly written in a succinct way so that Google can quickly understand the nature of your content. Click here to read more.

The RebelMouse Particle Assembler

how to optimize an article for seo

RebelMouse's Particle Assembler is a content creation tool within our Entry Editor that makes it easy to transform your posts into media-rich micro pieces of content, which we call particles, that can both be shared individually and crawled separately on search. Our Assembler functionality gives your content more legs, which means more chances to generate more traffic.

The following steps demonstrate how you can use our Assembler to optimize an article to win a search phrase.

Use Particle Headlines to Reinforce Your Search Phrase

how to write headlines for seo

Assembler is accessible via one simple click in the formatting toolbar of our Entry Editor. From there, an organizational layout will be inserted into your article that will help guide you through building out the particles that will shape your Assembler. The best way to think of Assembler is by treating it as an enhanced list format. If your article is about vegan cooking trends, each particle can feature a new trend. But Assembler does not need to be a simple list. It can also cover the main points of your article and feature user-generated content or even related stories.

Assembler is a helpful SEO tool because it can generate a unique URL slug for each particle, maximizing your article's ability to get indexed by Google for more than one key search phrase. Click here to read more about this feature.

Make the Most of Google's "People Also Ask" Module

how to optimize for people also ask

Particle headlines are also a great way to make use of Google's "People Also Ask" module. This will help you identify search patterns of users who are interested in your search phrase. By tailoring your particles to those patterns, it's likely that your post will move up in Google's search rankings. Click here to read more about this strategy.

Add Media to Every Particle

alt text for seo

Each particle is another opportunity to add relevant media to your post, and Assembler makes it easy to add alt text to every image you upload. Alt text is very important for accessibility and can also have benefits for SEO. Briefly, alt text is text that is added to an image to describe it to search engines, and also to allow people using screen readers to be able to know what the image is without actually being able to see it. You can easily add alt text to any image in RebelMouse from our Entry Editor. Adding your search phase into every alt text field will only bring you one step closer to the top of Google Search's first page.

Make the Most of Our SEO Toolset

RebelMouse's proprietary technology works for any kind of site, whether you're a brand, a new media company, or a legacy publisher. SEO doesn't have to be something that only developers and analysts can understand and augment. Our product is designed to put the power of search in the hands of content creators, editors, and social curators, too.

Start winning on search with every publish. Request a proposal today and let's start working together.

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