This Week In SEO 80
RankBrain, Trust, and Three Case Studies


Insane in the RankBrain


This article is about RankBrain, and the author’s speculation as to how it works. Unlike the first other two big ranking signals (links and content), things are a little vague about how this top-3 ranking signal) according to Google) affects SEO.

Here are the basics, from the post:

1. There’s a lot of speculation (esp when it first came out) about what exactly RankBrain is. Here’s a nice… high-level definition:

RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that came onto the scene in 2015.

2. How RankBrain works:

Essentially, RankBrain can take sets of “training” data created by humans to help establish a baseline, and then can apply machine learning to determine the best search results based on a variety of factors over time.

Feel free to form your own opinions about RankBrain and ranking in Google after reading this post. Bruce Clay is a smart and respected dude, but I don’t quite agree with one of the conclusions he draws in this post:

So in the era of RankBrain, even though the basics of SEO that we know and love are still important, you’ll want to think of creative ways to grab that SERP real estate.

That means if you’re not in the upper echelon of brands online in your space, consider supplementing your search marketing strategy with pay-per-click ads.

Helping run a link building agency, I have access to a lot of data, and see a lot of sites that are not “upper echelon” brands killing it on some very valuable keywords.

Remember kids, follow the money. Bruce Clay’s agency will 1) do PPC advertising for you if you’re NOT a huge brand, and 2) will do SEO for you if you ARE a huge brand, so it’s $$$cashmoney$$$ either way.

It’s always good to remember that kind of thing when considering who is telling you what.

PS. Buy a link building subscription from us! ? ? ?


Trust in the Time of Google

I talked above how links and content are two of the most important ranking factors. Well, trust and authority are two ways that the combination of links and content can be expressed.

Trustworthy sites and authoritative sites rank well in Google.

There wasn’t much of an… introduction on this post, but from what I can tell the author surveyed a bunch of people about what they think constitute a trustworthy site. You can take this info and apply it to your own site to make sure it comes off as trustworth as well (beyond just “write good content and get good links”).

Around 21% of surveyed users check the URL to establish whether they’re on the intended domain name and 19% look for encryption symbols in their browser’s address bar. The two factors already account for 40% of all answers in the latest web trust survey. Brand awareness signal appears to be strongly linked with URL as well. Users tend to check both URL and brand instances on the page such as logos, images and text. URL and brand alone (12%) add up to more than half of the answers in the survey.

Here’s a handy bar graph from the post to help you remember all those valuable trust signals:

trust signals


Case Study #1: PBNs Work

Got three case studies for you to read this week.

First up is this one by Matt Diggity and Josh Kelly from Hammerhead Domains.

How did they raise the roof an Amazon affiliate site’s traffic by 425%?

traffic graph

Optimized the site, and got some sweet PBN links.

Yeah, there’s a bit more to it, and they go into in the post, but they basically did, you know… regular SEO things like optimize title tags, fix broken pages, build links…

Still. It’s always helpful to go through someone’s case study and see step by step what they did to get some big wins. Def. check this one out.

Also, if you’re looking to DIY some on-page SEO, Travis and I wrote this awesome guide for you.


Case Study #2: Content Cleanup

Does your site have a ton of low-engagement, thin pages that don’t get a lot of love from Google or site visitors?

Did Fred kick your site’s ass back in February?

This case study could be a ton of help, then.

The author calls these posts “cruft” posts (which is a real word–I Googled it) and went about doing a case study of the clean-up efforts.

Tl;DR — the results:


It is really hard to quantify results here because there were so many moving parts over several months. I was really, really happy with the end results of our content cleanup efforts. Overall, we saw a massive increase in organic traffic, which was really great. There were several other factors involved as well. For instance there were a few confirmed and unconfirmed updates during these months (interstitial, Fred, etc) so the boost we saw could definitely be due in part to those updates.

? Good stuff! Definitely follow the example here if a) you know what you are doing, and b) your site can relate to the examnple site.


Case Study #3: An SEO Audit for Beginners

In the final case study we’re featuring, Marieke goes through a “mommy blogger” site and explains the what and the why of her recommendations.

If you’re a jaded-ass SEO veteran, best to skip this one. If you’re a bit newer to SEO, you’ll get a lot out of this. Each SEO audit item is explained as if you’re a beginner, and it’ll be easy to apply a lot of this to your own site.

The page speed score of the homepage of One Beautiful Home is very low (17/100 on desktop in Google Page Speed Insights). A low page speed is bad news for your SEO! The images on the homepage are quite heavy and should be optimized. Overall, you could reduce their size by 3.5 MB (76% reduction), which would, most likely, substantially boost your site speed.


Rapid-Fire SEO Insights

Trying to rank a restaurant? (Good luck…)

Here are the most recent Schema updates to include menus.

  • A new menu type. Menus officially become entities in with their own properties and subtypes.
  • The new Menu type includes a hasMenuItem property. This property would be used to point to the (also new) MenuItem schema type, which is what would be used to mark up individual menu items.
  • Since most restaurants feature a few menus such as one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner, there is a new hasMenuSection property and a MenuSection type that can be used to mark up the various menus. And you can also use it to mark up the different sections of each particular menu such as the appetizers, salads, main courses, and desserts on a dinner menu.
  • For each MenuItem, we’re able to mark up the name, description, price, and nutritional information. And while it’s not new to schema, you can also use the suitableForDiet property to denote if the menu item is low calorie, low fat, low salt, vegan, gluten-free, or suitable for various other restricted diets.
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Sean Markey

Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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