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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.

Why RebelMouse Is the Best Content Marketing Platform

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What Differentiates Our Approach

There are many popular tools that allow you to perform experiments and A/B tests on your users — primarily Google Chrome Experiments and Optimizely. But all of these solutions are JavaScript additions to your web page that sidestep the problem of old, outdated, and clumsy CMSs. These solutions work by calling on a third-party JavaScript library that rewrites a page after it's rendered. This approach adds extra page weight and creates strange user experiences due to having to wait for everything to load and be rewritten on the fly.

At RebelMouse, we've solved this in a very elegant way. At the core level of our platform, we can natively render different layouts and track the exact differences in performance when comparing a test to your other layouts.

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Create Modular + Reusable Design Patterns on RebelMouse

Content saturation is an industry-wide problem, and the e-commerce space is no exception given that it's filled with big brands, small Etsy stores, and everyone in between all fighting for similar audiences. The best way to fight this symptom is to understand your audience and provide them with what they want.

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Read our deck here...

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Dynamic Voting: Grow Traffic and Engagement Organically

Help your audience find its voice.

Creating quality content is no longer on marketers alone. We live in a universe of creators who are willing to not only consume content that resonates, but play a role in the creation, promotion, and conversations surrounding it.

Since the start of RebelMouse, we've been on a journey to create dynamic media that is easier for content creators to curate and amplify on social. It's why we've built an online engagement platform centered around the power of communities that thrive naturally in the digital ecosystem.

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Since search took over Facebook as the top referral of web traffic a few years ago, the growth of Google hasn't let up. It's estimated organic and paid search accounts for 68% of all trackable website traffic, and, perhaps even more noteworthy, 53% of that traffic is fueled by organic search.

The revival of search has brought with it a maturation of what makes for a solid search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. The algorithm is now savvy about robotically written articles designed to win a specific set of keywords. As Google's search engine has gotten smarter, its web crawler software, casually called the "Googlebot," has also evolved in terms of how it indexes data.

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Facebook Offering Small Business Grants Program During COVID-19 Crisis

Program to provide $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for small businesses

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We've developed a live-blog experience that's designed to maximize your potential on search. Keep your audiences up to date by the second as they turn to you for the latest news, updates, and guidance.

In an effort to help ease the strain on publishers, Facebook has announced a Small Business Grants program for publishers. The social network is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits during the crisis. The offer is available for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses across 30 countries.

More information on how to apply for the program is forthcoming. Click here to learn more and sign up for updates. Check out Facebook's COVID-19 Business Resource Hub here.

Live-Blog Feature: Publish Real-Time Updates + Maximize Search Performance

Make sure your audience never misses an update

Many organizations are facing communication challenges after the recent outbreak of COVID-19. With so much information available everywhere, it is harder than ever to control the message of your own audience.

At RebelMouse, we're constantly iterating on our platform to help you make your content as relevant as possible. In the current news environment, staying on top of breaking stories using live blogs is incredibly important.

We've implemented our own version of the live-blog experience that's designed to maximize your potential on search. We power this new functionality using WebSockets, which allows for near-instant updates.

The advantage of creating a live blog using RebelMouse is that we index each live-blog update for search so that you receive SEO credit for every single update. This means if one of your live-blog updates hits on a key search phrase, it can drive a lot of traffic from search. This is superior to the traditional way of doing live updates where it was simply embedded JavaScript loading posts.

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The RebelMouse Creative Agency

  • Built for Times of Uncertainty
    • RebelMouse has had a distributed, remote workforce for years:
      • Our team collaborates easily across time zones.
      • Leaders in the company excelled within an ethos of remote work.
      • Our growth-centric team has worked closely together for years.
      • RebelMouse is made up of 60 people in 28 countries, exempt from any risk of a centralized shutdown.
      • Iterative culture that allows us to adapt rapidly to change
      • Diversified portfolio - we have clients across every vertical and every business type. Our solution works for brands and media companies of varying sizes and any content vertical
    • We're the best in breaking news and crisis communications:
      • Our digital services agency built the version of Axios that fueled their rapid growth, making them a new media giant over the past three years.
      • United Airlines uses RebelMouse's agency and tech services to power their content hub and communicate with customers.
      • We're the agency behind La Verità, a subscription-based news site in Milan, Italy that has been at the center of the COVID-19 crisis.
    • We build products designed for a mobile, office-less world:
      • Editors, writers, reporters, and creators can keep up with breaking news and vital edits, and can create content all on their mobile device.
      • In times of crisis, being fast to respond is critical. Solutions that require a desktop environment to create and edit content are no longer appropriate.
    • We don't require any new capital:
      • Our business can elegantly move up and down like an accordion to fit in the current publishing climate.
      • RebelMouse has not required capital for over three years, and is in a strong cash position to survive hard economic times.
    • "No business travel" has been our company policy for many years:
      • It's our policy to avoid business travel if possible. We haven't required a single in-person meeting to close a new deal or launch a new property in years.
      • We know how to work with clients through technology to understand each other and deliver what's needed for success.
      • Our unique work culture makes us very resilient in times where business travel is shut down.
  • Lower-Cost Products With Bigger Returns
    • We build best-in-class digital experiences:
      • The RebelMouse CMS will outperform any platform on page speed, stability, and breadth of features.
      • We power massively popular websites and scale without breaking a sweat.
      • Our CEO is a technical, product-focused person who built HuffPost. The team she's built at RebelMouse since 2012 is passionate about products that outperform.
  • Digital Growth Specialists
    • RebelMouse + Media companies:
      • We grow RPMs.
      • We improve ad visibility.
      • We create new opportunities for digital revenue.
        • Paywalls
        • E-commerce
        • Native advertising
        • Programmatic advertising
    • RebelMouse + Brands:
      • Our digital agency helps brands reach potential customers at scale by winning in search and social.
      • We put in better conversion units and the data systems to track iterations on the metrics that matter.
      • RebelMouse technology builds smarter, faster pages that convert better for paid campaigns.

Learn more about the team at RebelMouse.

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