Q4 must-knows for CMOs: Crucial developments across channels

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RankBrain rules — and it’s changing the SEO game. We’ve been saying for months, since the introduction of RankBrain last Q4, that search engines will get smarter. The conflation of search terms has been slow and steady, but now it’s not only becoming far more prevalent, but it will also change the way we optimize and keyword map.

Take, for example, this SERP:


The carousel at the top of the SERP is, of course, nothing new. Search engines now know that when a user is searching “things to do,” they are actually looking for points of interest. That semantic connection was made a while ago, and the change to the SERP has been somewhat commonplace.

Now look below the fold for that same query:


The change to actual listings is dramatic. Take a look at all of the descriptions. In the top two listings, the bold terms are not the query we searched for; instead, they are the actual points of interest that we saw noted above. Despite having optimized descriptions for “things to do,” in this SERP, Google’s elected to show, instead, in bold the points of interest people are commonly looking for.

While this seems to be a small semantic (and logical) jump, it has profound implications for how we can expect to be served listings in the future. If our mappings need to not just accommodate permutations and adjectives of queries, but also related queries and end-goal queries, our jobs as SEOs just got a whole lot harder.

Google recently announced that AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) would have a slight rankings edge over websites with deep links to their apps. This will likely force brands to make a decision regarding their mobile experience vs. their app.

In an app-driven marketplace, many brands would likely opt to continue to optimize their primary product (their app) rather than trying to get their mobile web experience on AMP. This announcement will draw the line between brands that will focus on their mobile web vs. those that will focus just on their app; the brands that do both may be wasting their energies, if, at the end of the day, only one experience will win.

Both Panda and Penguin are part of the core algorithm, but only Penguin is going to be pushed real time. This is huge for brands that have been (or could be) hit with a penalty. This means that, at any time, if your brand has been engaging in questionable link acquisition practices, you could be hit with a penalty.

Instead of fearing the looming updates, brands will have a real-time issue to deal with. Checking and rechecking your rankings, especially if you have an aggressive link-building campaign, will become commonplace. On the bright side, this also means that brands can recover from a penalty a lot more quickly than they have been able to previously.


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