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Hotel Brands Need an SEO Concierge To Drive Preference

By Insights & News, SEO No Comments

The concierge is one of the most important roles in a service-oriented hotel or resort. Guests rely on the concierge to provide local recommendations for restaurants, activities, nightlife, etc. Meanwhile, a hotel brand is designed to create a guest culture that attracts a certain type of guest. The concierge needs to have a deep understanding of this culture to connect with a guest personally and provide an experience that will enhance their stay.

Hotel Brands understand the importance of the concierge and how they can connect with guests, but they often fail to take that learning and apply it to the digital experience, especially on their own websites.

Most hotel websites are predominantly focused on driving bookings and rightfully so; they need to fill their beds and ensure all their marketing dollars are driving revenue. This design strategy also assumes the Traveler is ready to book, an assumption that is predominantly true for Brand queries but not necessarily valuable Generic phrases.

The pages that are designed to drive bookings are also not what search engines want to showcase for generic phrases. This predicament requires hotel Brands to design website content that meets the intent of the Traveler and satisfies the Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) that Google requires to showcase a website.

This leads to an SEO Content Strategy for Travel Brands that is reminiscent of the valued concierge, the SEO Brand Concierge if you will. Before a Traveler gets to a hotel website, there are many considerations derived from the experience they want to have, to the destination that appeals to them as well as the type of hotel they might want to stay at.

These Travelers will spend time researching all aspects of their vacation, sometimes even months in advance. 91% of travelers turn to search engines when looking for a place to stay with the majority (81%) preferring to use Google as their most common source of travel inspiration. Hotel Brands can’t rely on Travel Websites, Social Media and OTAs to be their Brand Concierge as they wouldn’t rely on just anyone to be the concierge in their hotel.

The role of the SEO Brand Concierge strategy is to connect with Travelers throughout the many touchpoints prior to them booking a room. The content strategy requires a deep understanding of the guest profile and there usually isn’t just one, there are generational guest segments such as Millennials and Boomers as well as interest-based segments such as Adventure and Foodie Travelers. Each of these segments requires content that speaks to these Travelers and this content needs to be placed above the specific hotel destination as well as within. Hotel Brand websites need to connect with these important guest segments through content that Google deems worthy of featuring to Travelers.

For a Hotel Brand website to rank well for “Foodie Destinations” or “Dining Experiences Around the World” there needs to be content that curates the types of experiences that exemplifies the purpose of a concierge. These experiences can’t just be about what the Hotel Brand offers, how would you rate your experience with a concierge if they just recommended the restaurant in the lobby? This requires a re-thinking of Hotel Brand websites and the role that they play in connecting with Travelers.

An SEO Brand Concierge carefully designs content that will ultimately lead to a Traveler placing a booking at one of the many destinations a Hotel Brand offers. The strategy is reminiscent of a chess match, with carefully chosen content that leads down a path to connecting with the right Travelers while helping them understand that this is the Brand for them. Identifying the Personas or Traveler segments that a Hotel Brand is seeking is the first step, the strategy needs to be carefully designed to connect with the particular segment at each stage of the journey requiring a mapping of that journey and the types of queries and content that need to be developed. This type of strategy requires an understanding of search, the connections between topics and the intent stages of the queries that are made throughout the Traveler journey, sounds like a job for an SEO Brand Concierge.

If you’d like assistance creating an SEO Concierge for your hospitality brand, please contact us today.

POV by By Brian Ratzker, Executive Director, SEO, Acronym

How-To Plan for SEO, Paid Media, & Social Media Success on #NationalPlanner Day

By Paid Media, Paid Search, SEO, Social Media, Uncategorized No Comments

Benjamin Franklin once said, “by failing to plan, you are planning to fail.”

We believe that to be a self-evident truth. After all, effective planning is the foundation of success. So, in honor of #NationalPlannerDay, some of Acronym’s group leaders are sharing their top three tips for effective planning across your SEO, paid media and social media programs.

3 STEPS FOR SEO SUCCESS – Winston Burton, SVP, SEO

1. Structured Data  

Marking up your content and having structured data is the best way for Google to find that content fast. Structured data gives your content to Search Engines in a way they can understand it in real time, as opposed to waiting and hoping that the bots find your content. 

This saves both bandwidth and time.  It is also important to understand Search Engines are playing a ‘long game’ with structured data as it enables a far more efficient way to effectively answer a search query with a personalized and factual set of results. This is called ‘data retrieval’ versus the traditional and time-consuming exercise of ‘information retrieval’.

2. Voice Search and Task Completions

Search will transcend mediums yet again in the very near future. Like the meteoric trajectory we saw with the mobile device type revolution, where the preference swapped from desktop to mobile driven search, text-based search will soon be surpassed by Voice Driven Search with more results sets being of the audible variety.

Being prepared for this future of Voice means creating resourceful dynamic experiences that not only solve for the micro-moment but also personify your brand to the customer, creating lasting affinities into the next frontier of Digital.

Critical steps to take now include creating Actions for the Google Assistant and Skills for Amazon’s Alexa. Voice assistants represent a powerful application of Voice search and represent one of the leading behavioral influencing sources for quickly moving consumers off text search and into Voice. Soon Voice assistants will be able to complete tasks and you should be ready for that moment.

3. Creating Content for 5G  

Be prepared for 5G. 5G will speed up and change the content experience allowing new and innovative ways to connect with customers.

Hyper-personalized content delivery, high-bandwidth digital experiences, faster websites will ensure the CX is exceptional. It’s also predicted that the usage of ad blockers will go down, allowing advertisers to serve ads effectively.

Digital will evolve from 2D to 3D, and interactive and live content will become the norm.

3 STEPS FOR PAID MEDIA – Gregg Manias, SVP, Performance Media

1. Establish Parameters for the Plan

Begin by defining the overall objective you want to achieve and the specific conversion goals to demonstrate success. You also want to determine the timing of the campaign and consider the opportunities and challenges inherent in that timing. Also, plan for the frequency of the message within that timing.

Next, you need to understand who the target audience is and examine their online behaviors and media preferences.

Finally, determine your overall budget and KPIs as this will drive the spend allocation and metrics for success.

2. Analysis Historical Performance & Research Landscape

After defining the parameters, you should review past media performance at every possible level to understand how it has traditionally performed. When you’re running ads online, you have to know what you’re spending your money on, and which ads are delivering the results you need.

This will help determine what needs to be changed to achieve the new goals based on where you’ve seen success in the past.

From there, you want to research the category landscape, target audiences, and all data and insights available to you.

3. Identify Proper Media Mix Tied to Parameters

After taking the learnings from historical plans and research, you want to create an integrated media plan that ties back to all the parameters.

It’s important not to throw money at every shiny new channel. Remember that each media channel you use might obtain a single objective from the parameter.

For example, YouTube might be used to capture a younger audience in the awareness stage, while Bing might be used to capture demand from an older demographic who use a desktop device.

So, be sure you know what each channel offers in terms of the target audience and types of engagements within each media opportunity.

3 STEPS FOR SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS – Mary Sutter, Director, Social Media

1. Use Social Listening to Stay Relevant With Social Trends

By listening to your target audience online and paying attention to the topics that most interest them, you can deliver organic content that meets their needs.

It can be very easy to believe you already know what your target audience wants from your brand(s). But, social media audiences, conversations and opportunities change constantly. So, listening to your target audience and even to your competitors can give you an edge in your content planning.

There are a number of terrific tools that enable you to follow the topics, issues, concerns and trends that matter to your target audience. We recommend Sprout Social as a terrific Social Listening and planning tool.

2. Utilize a Social Media Calendar to Stay Organized, But Be Flexible for Timely Posts

We all know content calendars are a useful way ensure you consistently deliver compelling content that addresses all key messages and product positions.

But, it’s also important to allow for spontaneous content that leverages memorable moments in time and/or allows you to include your brand in trending conversations.

There is something amazing about ‘spontaneity’, especially on social media.

People love it because it’s authentic. It’s not produced. It’s real. It just comes out of the moment. Of course, you want to ensure your in-the-moment content remains “on-brand.” Spontaneity in social media works when it’s still relevant to your audience. Don’t just jump on any bandwagon. Be selective as you mix spontaneity with planned content.

3. Track & Analyze Your Content To Determine What Works & What Doesn’t.

Too often, brands take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to social media. But, this could result in putting time and resources behind content that doesn’t deliver engagement or click-through.

It’s imperative you review the social media analytics (tied to your specific KPIs) so you focus on the content types that truly connect with your customers.

If you would like assistance with your planning process in Search, Paid Media, Paid and Organic Social Media or Business Analytics, please contact us today. In the meantime, Happy #NationalPlannerDay!

7 Reasons Why & How B2B Enterprise Brands Should Invest in SEO

By Insights & News, SEO, Uncategorized No Comments

Many executives have now heard that SEO is one of the most important digital marketing strategies. After all, according to a Google study, over 90% of business leads start in search engines.

However, executives’ knowledge of the discipline of SEO is usually very antiquated and negative. Which ultimately leads to the application of the usual “digital tactics”, which are closely related to time-honored classic marketing measures, such as paid ad campaigns in search engines or in social media. Compared to SEO, however, the hoped-for successes are usually of a manageable nature.

In doing so, executives miss the fact that SEO is a sustainable, data-driven technique that can drive up to 60% traffic to websites in many cases, as well as being a lead generation engine.

From the experts’ perspective, it therefore seems more than necessary that executives take the time to learn about SEO and recognize what this discipline is today and what it can do for their company.

After all, the benefits of continuous SEO work are clear. SEO is the basis of all online marketing activities and offers seven advantages that should be known:

1. SEO improves the ranking and visibility of websites.

Google has already received 390 billion searches this year (and counting). If you want your site to be found by your target customers, a strategic search engine optimization strategy is the first and most necessary step to take.

2. SEO provides lasting and sustainable free traffic to websites.

Prioritizing SEO gives you the power to do what you can to make sure your business appears first during those searches. And, because the right SEO strategy keeps your website’s traffic active, it’s imperative to have the right partners who can help you keep up with Google Algorithm changes so you’ll stay agile and can make key adjustments when they’re needed.

3. SEO generates leads and sells products and services.

Consider that of the billions of searches that happen on any given day, 15% of daily searches are new to Google. In fact, consumers now conduct  70% of their purchasing research online before they ever get into a sales conversation. Ranking well in search engines enables your buyers to easily research on their own while spending time learning about your on your terms

4. SEO works on a data-based and measurable basis.

There are hundreds of SEO metrics you can track. In fact, Google uses over 200 ranking factors in its algorithm. By establishing which metrics are most critical for your business, you can track those KPIs in real-time and adjust your strategy accordingly.

5. SEO changes the perspective and reveals the intentions of potential customers.

The right SEO strategy, analytics and reporting can help you better understand why someone conducts a search that brings them to your page. It could be to find an answer to a specific question they have or advice on how to achieve a desired goal, otherwise known as informational intent. Maybe the person wants to find a place to go, known as navigational intent or they are driven by transactional intent – the desire to buy a product they want. Either way, intent matters. Understanding the “why” behind your customers’ search behaviors helps you to deliver the best search experience.

6. SEO can create synergies and minimize budget waste.

Because SEO delivers real-time analytics, you can easily and quickly adjust budgets to ensure you leverage the most successful strategies to avoid wasteful spending. Similarly, by measuring your customers’ search behaviors, you can align all of your online marketing and content to deliver even stronger multi-channel results.

7. SEO brings clarity about the competition and faces competitors proactively.

Running regular competitive analyses in SEO can help you examine ranking signals on the macro and micro levels that can help you uncover and capture the competitive niches that improve your ranking and ensure your content appears on all the right channels. The best way to beat the competition is to understand them.   

POV by Ulrich Franke, Managing Director EMEA

Understanding The Google Page Experience Metrics

By Analytics, SEO No Comments

Google’s mission is to provide its users with information that best satisfies their information needs. Thus, one of the most important signals for Google is whether or not the end user has a positive experience in their search journey. If your site’s content satisfies the information need and provides a good page experience for the user, your website will be rewarded with better rankings.

In recent months, Google announced the Page Experience’s full role in search rankings will roll out by the end of August 2021 with an update to their search ranking algorithm. This update impacts how Google evaluates the ‘page experience’ of websites, including visual indicators in search results to highlight sites that have a great page experience. This means Search marketers have a window of about one month to perform key optimizations to their websites and ensure we’re providing the best user experience to searchers.

What is Page Experience?

Google uses a set of signals to detect whether users are likely to have a positive site and content browsing experience. These signals consist of how quickly a page loads (page speed) to give users what they want in the moment; whether or not the page renders properly on mobile devices; and if the site has secure encryption and does not pose a security threat; and if the site has any disruptive pop-ups or interstitials. All of these fall under what Google calls Page Experience signals. Within these signals, Google is introducing a new set of metrics related to page speed that are called Core Web Vitals. These metrics look at load times for the main content elements on a page, load times before a page is ready for user interaction (i.e., clicks, scrolling), and the extent to which content elements shift positionally on a page as it loads and renders. You may reference the diagram below that illustrates the Page Experience signals.

What Does This Mean?

Although page speed has always been a key factor for SEO marketers, the new Core Web Vitals provides additional and clear metrics for how we should optimize page load times.

Additionally, the introduction of a visual indicator in search results will notify users that certain pages have been determined by Google to offer a positive page experience.

Google is no stranger to providing users with such icons, with previous examples including AMP icons, PageRank, mobile-friendly labels, and more. Nothing has been detailed yet on what this visual indicator will look like, but there is some testing going on and we expect to see the label to be rolled out with the updates. The new label is likely to be interpreted by users as a “seal of approval” by Google and therefore its presence or absence can have a substantive impact on clickthrough rates on search results.

Brands can prepare for the upcoming updates by prioritizing efforts to improve page speed for their web presence. This includes identifying pages with longer load times (optimizing the file weights of images and animation and removing unnecessary code from pages. The Core Web Vitals report in Google Search Console is also an excellent place to start understanding how your site is performing in these areas.

If you’d like an audit of your website in preparation for these new metrics, please contact us. We’re happy to help.

POV from Winston Burton, SVP, SEO, Acronym.

holding ipad with google

Google Delays Chrome’s Cookie-Blocking for 2 Years

By Analytics, Insights & News, Privacy, SEO No Comments

Google announced the company is delaying its plans to block third-party cookies until late 2023 as it reconciles the challenge of protecting user privacy while still enabling advertisers to deliver personalized ads.

Chrome’s Engineering Director Vinay Goel said in a blog post:

We need to move at a responsible pace, allowing sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services. This is important to avoid jeopardizing the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content.”

One part of Google’s rationale for pushing back its plan is centered around concerns that blocking cookies now might encourage tracking companies to use more controversial tactics like fingerprinting to gather browser configuration details.

Meanwhile, the company has faced backlash around both its use of cookies across the web and its plans to block them. In fact, earlier this week, the European Union said it is investigating Google’s plan to remove cookies as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations that Google has abused its prominent role in advertising technology.

And, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has separately pledged to give the U.K.’s competition watchdog at least 60 days’ notice before removing cookies to review and potentially impose changes to its plan, as part of an offer to settle a similar investigation. That probe stemmed from complaints that Chrome’s removal of cookies would give an advantage to ads on Google’s own products, like YouTube or Search, where Google will still be able to do individual-level targeting.

In the U.S., Google’s cookie-replacement plan was raised in a December antitrust lawsuit against the company brought by Texas and nine other U.S. states.

Google has been testing several new tools to replace various functions of third-party cookies, as part of what it calls a privacy sandbox. The first such replacement technology, dubbed federated learning of cohorts, or Floc, is intended to allow advertisers to target cohorts of users with similar interests, rather than individuals, in order to protect their privacy.

Acronym’s SVP of Performance Media, Gregg Manias reacted to the news:

“I’m not really shocked by this, we have seen over time that privacy search engines like Duck Duck Go blocked it, then we saw large publishers like New York times block it, then we saw competitor browsers like Firefox block it, I think the death of this plan by Google was last week when Amazon blocked FlOC right before prime day.”

Google, of course, plays a central role in the online advertising ecosystem as the company owns the dominant tools used to broker the sale of ads across the web. Cookies, small bits of code stored in web browsers to track users across the web, are widely used in the industry, including in Google’s Chrome browser, which has 65% of the market globally.

Acronym’s EVP of Analytics, Stephanie Hart added:

“Google needs a way to provide advertisers with the ability to target users and it doesn’t seem that the current version of FLOC is it. Google is having a difficult time balancing the demand from regulators and users for privacy against the need for revenue. The market will continue to evolve as Google develops solutions to this dilemma.”

Meanwhile, as the Search giant seeks to find a resolution, Acronym’s SVP of SEO, Winston Burton recently shared some of the other ways marketers can capture customer information through permission-based tactics, including content which, when done right, captures users’ interest at every stage of the funnel.

Google said it expects to complete testing of all of its new cookie-replacement technologies, and integrate them into Chrome before late 2022. Then the advertising industry will have a nine-month period to migrate their services, during which time Google will monitor adoption and feedback. The final phaseout of cookies will happen over three months in late 2023, the company said, adding that it will publish a more detailed timeline.

In the meantime, if you need assistance planning for these changes, please contact us. Our experts can help you navigate these ever-changing waters so you deliver the personalized experiences your customers expect in a way that still respects their right to privacy.

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The 15 Best Gary Illyes Quotes from SMX East

By Insights & News, SEO No Comments

At the recent SMX East event in New York, editors from Third Door Media sat down with Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes for an “Ask Me Anything”-style presentation.

In the 75-minute interview, they covered a lot of territory – the mobile-first index, schema, voice search, ranking factors, disavowing links and unicorns, to name a few. Here’s a compendium of Illyes’ 15 most insightful responses from the event:

On where SEOs should focus in 2018:

If you still have sites that are not mobile-friendly, do really focus on that. Not that the mobile-first index will [cause your site to] disappear from the Internet/search results…we live in a mobile-first world [and] even if…your business is not getting right now traffic from mobile, it might just mean you’re not getting it because you don’t have a mobile-friendly site. Perhaps fix that.

If you are already mobile-friendly and the content on desktop and mobile is comparable…and [you] already rank with your desktop site, make sure the mobile [site ranks] also. Structured data is still important [as is] metadata…also on the mobile site. Different types of media – make sure they are on the mobile site and perhaps that’s it.

On the mobile-first index:

We’re working hard to move sites that are ready into the mobile-first index. It’s a slow process, [so I] don’t want to give a fixed timeline. It will probably takes years until [there’s a] full mobile-first index and even then it’s not 100% complete.

“Mobile-first index” is a new thing as a phrase, [but we’ve been] telling publishers small and big to go mobile for perhaps seven years at least. If you did that, then you’re largely good to go — especially if you have responsive design. If you have a mobile site, the resources that would have to be put in to ensure you would do well in the mobile-first index is not that much. Look at content. If you have a small- or medium-sized business, I don’t think you have to invest too much.

On what impact the mobile-first index will have:

The mobile-first index sounds like a bigger splash than I think it will be. I think it will be similar to the Mobileggedon you guys created where the fear of it will be much, much greater than it should be.

I doubt that many sites will even realize they are in the mobile-first index at all.

On what schema does:

Right now, schema is used for learning connections between entities…When you’re reading a book, you don’t need extra context or data to understand you’re reading about quantum mechanics. If you’re reading War and Peace, you don’t have to learn the whole of Russian history to understand what’s happening. Similarly, the algorithms won’t need extra data eventually and should understand simple text and videos publishers put up and make connections.

On why schema is important:

For now, I will say schema is important. We do look a lot at what’s in the structured data and I do think that if we recommend it, you probably want to make use of it.

Schema in general is helpful for us to understand the content on the page and by using that in our search features, we’re helping users find what they’re looking for.

[There was] a survey on the whole “how search should work”-thing and I think that ultimately we should have at one point an algorithm that can figure out the same thing that schemas can provide us – [Google co-founder] Larry [Page] doesn’t believe in manual elections because we should be able to see something is spammy and just [not] include it in our index. Similarly, schemas are helpful for [that], but as algorithms become more advanced, it might not need it.

On how mentions impact rankings:

Mentions not necessarily help rank you better, but rank a little bit better indirectly. They give a better idea of what your site is about or what keywords a site should show up for.

Imagine the algorithm is like a human. If a human sees a lot of brand mentions on the Internet, it will…store [this] in its memory and associate that brand with something. Say you’re selling unicorns and your brand is mentioned with unicorns, so we might learn that your brand is a good place to buy unicorns.

On the relevance of search ads:

I click a lot on search ads… [and I] often find the ads we show in search results are more relevant to me as a user than the ten blue links. That is bad for web search, of course, and we should fix that, but to me as a user, [it’s not].

Bids correlate to relevance, the quality of the site and so on. The same or almost the same thing applies to ads as well – [if the] ads [are] on top, it invariably means they are more relevant for the user in some way than the ten blue links.

On voice search:

I don’t have numbers, but it’s growing…it’s growing really fast and becoming a very important part of search, as well as products like Home. We want to ensure people can search however they want since voice is becoming [more prevalent] and [we want to] ensure recognition quality is very precise.

On whether direct traffic helps rankings:

Search traffic in general is not something we would directly use in ranking…so we’re using other kinds of traffic and [when it comes to] direct traffic…we would see that through Analytics…and I can swear in front of a court we are not using that data for search rankings.

On Panda and on pruning content:

Ultimately, you just want to have a really great site people love. I know it sounds like a cliché, but almost [all of] what we are looking for is surely what users are looking for. A site with content that users love – let’s say they interact with content in some way – that will help you in ranking in general, not with Panda. Pruning is not a good idea because with Panda, I don’t think it will ever help mainly because you are very likely to get Panda penalized – Pandalized – because of low-quality content…content that’s actually ranking shouldn’t perhaps rank that well. Let’s say you figure out if you put 10,000 times the word “pony” on your page, you rank better for all queries. What Panda does is disregard the advantage you figure out, so you fall back where you started.

I don’t think you are removing content from the site with potential to rank – you have the potential to go further down if you remove that content. I would spend resources on improving content, or, if you don’t have the means to save that content, just leave it there. Ultimately people want good sites. They don’t want empty pages and crappy content. Ultimately that’s your goal – it’s created for your users.

On the featured snippet algorithm:

RankBrain is a general ranking algorithm, not focused on features – it is trying to predict what results would work better based on historical search data. Featured snippets have their own algorithms to determine what is a good result and makes a good featured snippet for a certain query.

The theme is we’re working around the clock to improve relevance to ensure we’re not showing something stupid as a featured snippet and we’re changing the underlying code extremely often. It’s a volatile code base that is constantly changing. The featured snippets we show can also change based on external signals like number of links…quality of links [can have] a dramatic effect on what we show on the results page.

On disavowing links:

I have a site with [about] 100,000 visits every two weeks and I haven’t looked at the links for two years, but I know I have some porn links because someone pointed it out and I’m fine with that – I don’t use disavow. If it makes you feel better, then use it, just make sure you’re not overusing it. It is a big gun and can destroy your rankings in a matter of hours if you are misusing it.

Don’t be afraid of sites that you don’t know. There are hundreds of millions – billions probably — of sites on the Internet. There’s no way you’ll know each of them. If they have content and are not spammy, why would you disavow? It’s extremely likely it won’t hurt you.

On black hat techniques:

Imagine you go to the spam report form [and you] file against your competitors. I know a few cases where [they] reported competitors and it resulted in a very deep review for both sites and we found [the site they reported] clean and the reporter was found doing stuff they shouldn’t. You have to be careful about what you report and make sure you’re clean.

On what he wishes websites would do more often:

As a user, I would like fewer ads…as a trends analyst for Google, I understand why, [but I] wish [they] would figure out some way to at least put ads on the site that are not blocking the user interface and are actually fast. Some sites load in the background four tracking scripts and ads and it slows down the site a lot and it’s an awful user experience. You wouldn’t do that for Google, why would you do that for users? Unless it’s a critical part of their lives and they can’t abandon you, they will if your site sucks.

Decrypting Google’s HTTPS Security Carrot

By SEO No Comments

By Winston Burton; VP, SEO

Originally published at MediaPost

Maybe the folks at the National Security Administration know the long-term motives behind Google declaring that websites’ use of HTTPS will now be an organic search ranking factor, although an extremely small one. After all, if any entity could scan Google’s internal emails — the way the company itself does with Gmail — it would be the NSA.

In the meantime, SEOs are left to ponder the consequences of Google’s adding HTTPS encryption to its approximately 200 search ranking signals. It’s eerily reminiscent of the company’s move a while back to add the speed at which web pages load to its algorithmic bag of tricks. After all, how do security and speed relate to content authority and relevance.

The bottom line for now is that SSL/HTTPs is a lightweight signal that will have little impact on increasing search engine rankings. How lightweight? Google says that using SSL/HTTPs has affected “less than 1% of global queries.”

Sites that have high quality content, good domain authority, fresh content, quality links, social endorsements and provide a good user experience will continue to rank highly in Search Engine Results. For sites that already secure the entire domain and protect personal information (banks, financial institutions etc.) this modification may provide a small boost in search engine rankings. In practice, this signal could most likely be used in a tie-break ranking situation more than a general indication of quality or popularity. It’s not likely that a “tier 1” indexed result will have a “tier 2” result leapfrog over it due to a slight difference in protocol.

Having said this, there is no reason to rush to heed Google’s latest policy edict, which is actually more of a request at this point. The reality is, when it comes to providing its users with exactly what they are looking for, consumers don’t perceive Google as underrepresenting major brands and the most popular sites on the web. But Google does not own the World Wide Web, nor does it have access to all of its content. So it can request, suggest or even tease with a “ranking carrot,” but the democratic element of the Web is free to lose/use the protocol of choice.

SEOs would be advised to conduct keyword research on the most popular 100 queries at Google and the top 100 websites for those queries, and see how many quickly make the change to SSL. Sites that already have SSL/HTTPs on a portion of their web pages will probably not experience a lift in search engine rankings. Since Google’s mission is to make the entire web secure, all of a site’s web pages (entire domain) must be secure and not just the shopping cart page and checkout pages. Once the entire domain is secure, this may help increase visibility to a small degree.

One fear is that websites may experience a decrease in rankings in the switch from HTTP to HTTPs once redirects have been set up. Such sites may experience a small decline in traffic depending upon when Google crawls them and indexes the new URLs. For a big site with thousands of pages, it could take time for Google to crawl and index the new pages that are secure. In this case, it’s a good idea to create a new XML sitemap to inform Google about the new URLs so the engine can find and index them.

For sites that are already in the process of a total redesign/redirect exercise, it may be worthwhile to consider securing the entire site to go to HTTPS. Incorporating HTTPs/SSL into the redesign or redirect project could yield an increase in search engine visibility, and the risk of loss of existing rankings, traffic, links has already been considered into the equation.

Otherwise, just sit tight and adhere to the adage “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”