8 White Hat Strategies for Combating Search Engine Bias

8 White Hat Strategies for Combating Search Engine Bias

While you may view search engines as a neutral tool for querying, in actuality, search engines are created by company-affiliated individuals and operate much like any product. They’re designed to satisfy the consumer and financially benefit the producer.

Although this realistic view of search engine intent shouldn’t necessarily raise any red flags, what might concern you is how search engines serve up results.

Google, in particular, intervenes algorithmically to remove spam results that the search engine believes are useless to the consumer. While it is arguable that less spam is a good and welcome thing, what happens if Google deems your site spam?

In addition to the removal of spam, Google is a habitual booster of massive corporations such as Amazon and Facebook. The rationale for boosting larger sites is not particularly nuanced.

Big names can outperform small companies when it comes to SEO, and they typically offer a wider selection of items that can satisfy the consumer. With that said, this Google bias can underserve your site by burying it under offerings from big names.

In the world of Google bias, you need to understand how the deck is stacked against small businesses and actively work to ensure your site performs to the best of its ability.

How Are Search Engines Biased?

When you encounter the word “bias,” you might associate it with nefarious connotations.

Although there have been claims that Google bias slants search results against particular political leanings, when it comes to search engines, Google bias overall tends to trend more toward erring too heavily on the perceived wants of their audience.

Google search algorithms are based on a slew of information, including the phrasing of your query, the reliability of sources, the relevance of pages, and countless other factors. Even your location and settings can help Google discover the most relevant information for your search.

It stands to reason that the aggregation of this information lends itself toward suggesting sources that try to match and satisfy past behavior, as well as other defining indicators.

In addition to these algorithms, Google bias can be impacted by domain authority (DA), a ranking metric that indicates both your site’s success in ranking on search engines, as well as your site’s perceived expertise surrounding a specific topic.

DA is measured by various factors, including inbound links, which are vitally important to score calculation. With an increased amount of inbound links from other relevant domains comes an increased DA score, in most cases.

The Effect of Search Engine Bias on Businesses

Unfortunately, bias (whether helpful or not) can significantly impact small businesses that have few inbound links and sparse content. For big organizations with equally big wallets, constant content creation can earn inbound links and score a high DA score, helping them land top positions on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Collectively, the above factors can severely limit your site’s search result visibility. Not only are you competing against big brand names, but you’re also losing SERP traction if you’re not actively recruiting inbound links and establishing expertise.

There is also a chance your DA will decrease when a massively popular site (think Twitter) gains a large number of inbound links, deflating your search rank and lowering your overall DA score.

For sites as large as Twitter or Amazon, there’s not much a small business can do to compete with the sheer number of inbound links and resulting high DA. However, you can aim to earn a higher score than your competitors by employing white hat strategies to combat Google bias.

Ethical Strategies for Combating Search Engine Biases

While the above may seem daunting for small-to-medium business owners looking to grab some top-SERP terrain, you can use several strategies to help you compete for those rankings.

By incorporating the following four approaches into your digital strategy, you can compete in the battle for search visibility.

Focus on a Single Subject

While it’s clear that Google bias means delivering results from big-name sites, the algorithm is also partial to sites that focus on a single subject in depth.

This strategy not only helps you earn points in Google’s algorithm, but it also helps you establish yourself as an industry expert in your field.

Instead of creating a range of content, focus on a single topic that satisfies every component of the buyer’s journey and build out a content map from there.

This task might seem overwhelming due to the sheer amount of potential content, so here are three places to start:

  • Content that educates on early-journey topics
  • Content that highlights your point of view on your topic
  • Content that explains industry perspectives on the topic

Build Site Relevance

When we talk about search engines, the word “relevance” references how much a site’s content correlates to the active search term.

Much like DA, relevance is vitally important in determining where your site lands on the SERPs for a specific query.

To improve your site relevance score, you should determine intent around user search and create a content strategy to match those queries.

Also, make sure you are relevant to user queries by having the most up-to-date business information on your site and local search profiles.

Earn Inbound Links

Inbound links (or backlinks) are links coming to your site from an external source. This type of link does a great amount of work to improve your site’s perceived expertise. If another site is linking to your content as a point of clarification or for additional information, you’re clearly an expert in the field.

While this all sounds wonderful, how do you earn those inbound links? With many strategies available for the savvy marketer, below are our top five white hat steps for success that can help you grow your number of inbound links and reduce Google bias.

Score Inbound Links

When you write good content, good things may happen.

Editorial inbound links are the holy grail of link building: they’re free and they’re lasting.

Next time you’re crafting content, consider the true value of the piece and assess how your audience will use it.

If it’s helpful to your industry and includes a how-to, chances are it can earn you at least one inbound editorial link. It’s just because you wrote great content.

Craft Useful Infographics

Infographics are great tools. They allow rapid dissemination of information without a lot of reading.

When you create infographics on topics relevant to your industry, it can exponentially increase the likelihood that another content marketer sees your graphic and links to it in their next blog post.

Give What You Get

Although we’re talking about inbound linking, we can’t discount the power of outbound linking. By linking out to other members in your industry, you grow your community.

Not only that, but you also increase the likelihood that the goodwill outbound linking will return the favor in the form of inbound linking.

Create Unique Content

Notice missing content about your specific industry? Chances are, you’re not the first to notice content holes.

When you encounter missing content, you should prioritize taking advantage of the hole and filling in the gaps in information.

This strategy not only benefits your site by further establishing you as an expert in the field, but it also creates opportunities for others in your industry to link to your content, earning you even more inbound links.

Aid a Journalist in Need

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a service that connects journalists with potential sources. Three times a day, HARO sends emails that share topic areas and specific questions journalists are hoping to be answered, like the one in the image below:

When you share responses to these questions, journalists typically indicate your role as the source, linking back to your site and scoring you additional inbound links.

Create Long-Form Content

If you’re not writing long-form content, tomorrow is the day to start.

Long-form content can gain you more online visibility in the measure of likes and shares, an opportunity to engage more with your community, and serve as a clear indicator of industry expertise.

How does long-form content help you combat Google bias?

A serpIQ study found the best-performing content usually tallied over 2,000 words.

Research conducted by Brian Dean underlines the finding that long-form content is much more valuable to users than its shorter counterpart in many cases.

Now that we know long-form content performs better, how can it eliminate Google bias and help make your site more visible to future consumers?

Below are the top two reasons why long-form content can help your site emerge from the shadows of big brands.

Authority

We talked about the importance of establishing expertise in all content development, and this tenet is nowhere more true than in long-form content.

When you create extensive guides, blog posts, white papers, books, and other deep content dives, you not only establish yourself as an expert among your peers, but you also begin to establish yourself as an expert to search engines.

This can give your content and your site a much greater chance of being seen by an unindoctrinated searcher and overcoming existing Google bias.

SEO

When you create long-form content, you have nearly endless opportunities to use keywords to your advantage.

In shorter content, deploying multiple keywords may present a challenge, but with high word counts come more opportunities for you to make your keywords do as much work as possible.

When you start winning on some of your identified keywords, your site can begin to climb in SERP rankings, making you more visible to searchers, providing an edge over your competitors, and removing existing Google bias.

Conclusion

While it is inarguable that Google bias exists, it’s important to remember Google bias isn’t inherently bad, and it doesn’t mean small businesses are incapable of overcoming search barriers.

By incorporating these elements into your digital strategy, you can begin to surmount Google bias and start increasing your site’s rank on the SERPs.

As you implement these strategies, keep customer intent in mind and remember not to create content for content’s sake. Like most things, when it comes to content strategy, quality prevails over quantity.

Which white hat strategy have you found most effective to use against Google bias?

40 Advanced and Alternative Search Engines

40 Advanced and Alternative Search Engines

Have you ever been looking for something but didn’t know where to find it? If that something is online, then your search is over (or just about to begin). The following are 40 advanced and alternative search engines that you can use to find just about anything on the Internet.

Use them to follow discussions about your industry, monitor your online reputation, and much more!

General Search

To start off our search adventure, let’s look at some general search engines beyond the top three — Google, Bing, and Baidu.

DuckDuckGo

alternative search engines duck duck go

Concerned about online privacy? DuckDuckGo prides itself on being the search engine that does not track or personalize your searches and results. They even offer handy visual guides on Google tracking and filter bubbling.

If you’re an iOS user, you can set DuckDuckGo to be the default search engine in Safari. It’s also an option for Safari on macOS.

Ecosia

advanced and alternative search engines

Want trees planted while you search? That’s what Ecosia does! Simply run your normal searches and Ecosia will use its surplus income to conservationist organizations that plant trees.

And you don’t have to sacrifice low-quality results to do good – Ecosia uses Bing and their own search algorithms.

Dogpile

dogpile advanced and alternative search engines

If you want results from the top three search engines, but don’t want to go to them individually, try Dogpile. Its results are pulled from the top three search engines “without all the mess.”

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WolframAlpha

wolframalpha advanced and alternative search engines

Looking for a search engine based on computation and metrics? Try WolframAlpha. It will give you website data, historical information by date, unit conversions, stock data, sports statistics, and more. You can see examples by topic to learn more.

Gigablast

advanced and alternative search engines gigablast

Want an open-source search engine? Check out Gigablast. While it doesn’t always get things right, it does provide a retro look, results return quickly, and a feature similar to the now-defunct Google Instant.

Startpage

startpage  advanced and alternative search engines

If you are looking to search without being tracked, Startpage is another solid option. It allows you to search without being tracked with cookies or trackers. They even offer a Chrome plugin so you can keep using Google — and protect your privacy.

Qwant 

qwant alterantive search engines

Looking for an EU-based search engine? Qwant is a Paris-based search engine dedicated to protecting your privacy. They are the first search engine to protect user’s privacy and preserve the “digital ecosystem” by remaining neutral.

Social Network Specific Advanced Search

Need to find something specific on one of the top social networks? Here are some great advanced search pages.

Facebook Search

advanced and alternative search engines facebook advanced search

Want to see a particular search across different areas of Facebook? Use Facebook’s advanced search options. Type in your query, then hit enter. Facebook offers a variety of filters on the left sidebar to view search results for people, pages, places, groups, and more.

LinkedIn People Search

advanced and alternative search engines linkedin people search

If you want to find some new connections on LinkedIn, use the Advanced People Search. This will let you narrow down your results by the above plus relationship and language. Premium members will have access to additional search filters including LinkedIn groups, company size, years of experience, and more.

LinkedIn Job Search

advanced and alternative search engines linedIn job search

LinkedIn offers job seekers an Advanced Job Search to find jobs using the above information plus experience level and industry. Premium members can narrow their search down further by the salary offered.

LinkedIn Answers Search

advanced and alternative search engines linkedin answers search

LinkedIn Answers is a great way to gain exposure and build authority in your industry. Use the Answers Advanced Search to find the perfect questions to answer.

Twitter Search

advanced and alternative search engines twitter search

Twitter’s Advanced Search is a great way to find better results on Twitter. It is especially great for businesses looking for a local audience by allowing them to filter their results using the Near this place field.

Social Search

The following search engines will allow you to search one or more social networks in one place and gain additional data about the results.

Keyhole

advanced and alternative search engines  keyhole

Keyhole allows you to search for hashtags, keywords, @mentions, and URLs. Want to see how your latest blog post was shared across social networks? Just select URL on Keyhole and put in the URL and you’ll see who has shared it.

Social Mention

advanced and alternative search engines social mention

Social Mention allows you to search across multiple types of networks including blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, comments, events, images, news, and more.

Buzzsumo

advanced and alternative search engines buzzsumo

Use Buzzsumo if you have a topic in mind and want to see which articles on the web were most shared for that particular search. There is a paid version that can give you access to more tools for each topic.

Forums

Want to participate on forums in your industry? Use this search engine to find results specifically on forums.

Boardreader

advanced and alternative search engines  boardreader

BoardReader allows you to search forums and narrow results down by date (last day through last year) and language.

Blogs

Find industry-related blogs and posts using the following search engines.

Blog Search Engine

blog search engine advanced and alternative search engines

Blog Search Engine aptly describes this search engine. Search blogs and blog posts using keywords. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than a general search.

Documents, eBooks, and Presentations

If you’re looking for documents, eBooks, presentations, or other similar file types, try the following searches.

Google Advanced Search

advanced and alternative search engines google advanced search

Google Advanced Search allows you to search for specific types of documents. Looking specifically for PDFs? Set that as your criteria. Want to search for Word docs or Powerpoint presentations? Then tell Google to find those file types.

Scribd

advanced and alternative search engines scribd

Scribd is the largest social reading and publishing network that allows you to discover original written content across the web. Sort results by category, language, length, file types, upload date, and cost (free or for sale).

SlideShare

advanced and alternative search engines  slideshare

SlideShare is the largest community for sharing presentations. If you missed a conference or webinar, there’s a good chance the slides from your favorite speakers are here.

Image Search

Looking for beautiful images? Try these image search engines – note that you must gain permission to use any images you find unless they are specifically marked as Creative Commons licensed.

Flickr

advanced and alternative search engines flickr

Flickr offers an advanced search screen that allows you to find photos, screenshots, illustrations, and videos on their network. You can also search within Creative Commons licensed content.

Pinterest

advanced and alternative search engines pinterest

The ultimate image platform, Pinterest allows you to search for anything visual – clothing, cars, floors, airplanes, etc, and pin it to your favorites. Just be sure you don’t steal copyright work. You will need to have an account before you can begin searching.

Bing

advanced and alternative search engines bing

Bing offers an image search that starts out with the top trending images, then leads to images which can be filtered by size, layout, and other criteria. They also display tabs above the results with related search queries.

Google Advanced Image Search

advanced and alternative search engines google image search

Google Advanced Image Search allows you to get even more specific about the images you are looking for, including specifying whether they are faces, photos, clip arts, or line drawings. You can also search within images labeled for reuse commercially and with modifications.

TinEye

advanced and alternative search engines  tineye

Have you seen an image around the web and want to know where it came from? That’s what TinEye is for. Just put your image in the search box and TinEye will find where that image has been seen from around the web.

Creative Commons Media

Need to find media created by others to use on your website? Try these Creative Commons searches.

Creative Commons

advanced and alternative search engines creative commons

Looking for only images that you can repurpose, use for commercial purposes, or modify? Try the Creative Commons Search which will allow you to look through multiple sources including Flickr, Google Images, Wikimedia, and YouTube.

Wikimedia

advanced and alternative search engines wikimedia

Wikimedia Commons has over 12 million files in their database of freely usable images, sound bites, and videos. Use the search box or browse by categories for different types of media.

Video Search

Looking for video to embed on your website or simply entertain you? Try these video search engines that look across multiple sources to find what you need.

Yahoo

advanced and alternative search engines yahoo video search

Yahoo Video Search allows you to search through video content from their own network, YouTube, Dailymotion, Metacafe, Myspace, Hulu, and other online video providers for videos on any topic.

sidereel 

side reel alternative search engine

sidereel allows you to go beyond YouTube to find shows on dozens of streaming platforms like HBO and Hulu. If you’re looking for streaming videos, you’ll likely find it here.

AOL Video Search

advanced and alternative search engines aol video search

AOL Video aggregates the day’s best clips from around the web, but you can also use it as a search engine.

Google Video

advanced and alternative search engines google video search

With Google Video Search you’ll be able to search for videos on any topic and filter your results by duration, date when uploaded, video source, and much more.

Website Data & Statistics

Looking for information about your favorite brands and websites? Try out these search engines for data and statistics.

CrunchBase

advanced and alternative search engines crunchbase

CrunchBase offers insight into your favorite online brands and companies. Listings will tell you people who are associated with a company, contact information, related videos, screenshots, and more.

SimilarWeb

advanced and alternative search engines similar web

SimilarWeb allows you to search for website or app profiles based on specific domains or app names. Domains with a high volume of traffic will have data including total regional visitors per month, pageviews online vs. mobile, demographics, sites similar audiences like, and more.

BuiltWith

advanced and alternative search engines builtwith

Curious to see what technology your favorite sites use and usage trends of that technology? BuiltWith allows you to search for domains and see the technology they use, including analytics, content management systems, coding, and widgets. You can also click on any of the products to see usage trends, industries using the technology, and more.

Advanced Google

Can’t get away from Google, but want to get more out of it than a simple Google.com search? Try these advanced Google search features.

Google Advanced Search

advanced and alternative search engines google advanced

Looking for something specific? Try Google Advanced Search or use Advanced Operators in your search queries.

Google Scholar

advanced and alternative search engines google scholar

If you are looking for articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions, or other information provided by academic publishers, professional societies, and universities, try Google Scholar Advanced Search. You can also use Advanced Operators to refine your search results even more.

Google Books

advanced and alternative search engines google books

Google Advanced Book Search will help you find search queries in books. You can also find entire books published online that might be available to download via PDF (when in the public domain).

Google Search Help

google search help advanced and alternative search engines

Need to help to make the most out of Google? The Google Search Help page allows you to search for privacy settings, manage podcasts, control your privacy, and more.

Conclusion

It seems like everyone is on a mission to dominate Google. But, there is a wide range of other search engines and advanced Google features you might be ignoring.

Whether you are looking for interesting content your audience will want to re-share or want to protect your privacy, these advanced and alternative search engines will help you find just what you are looking for.

What are your favorite advanced and alternative search engines? Please share them and how you use them in the comments, and happy searching!

User Engagement Is the New SEO: How to Boost Search Rank by Engaging Users

User Engagement Is the New SEO: How to Boost Search Rank by Engaging Users

Many businesses aim for their websites to rank highly in search engines, but it’s a moving target.

Google, for instance, updated its algorithm 3,234 times in 2018 to meet user needs (emphasizing the “optimization” part of SEO).

You might remember when Google’s featured snippet addition disrupted the numbered ranking system of search pages. Because the snippet’s goal is to provide a simple answer from a strong piece of content, it might pull from the second or fourth website listed on the search engine result page instead of the first.

As a result, 34% of desktop users don’t even click on a webpage, since their questions are answered by a featured snippet on the search results page. This may seem like a cheap tactic to hoard traffic, but it’s not. By prioritizing the searcher’s experience over the hierarchy of web pages, Google ensures satisfied users.

Optimizing for search engines shouldn’t be your main focus anymore. The ongoing shift in Google’s algorithm over the past decade indicates a new market focus on meeting user expectations. In this post, I’ll do my best to pull back the curtain and show you how improving the user experience on your site will also improve your rankings and increase traffic.

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Search Engine Engagement Metrics

Before we delve deeper into the metrics that will likely correlate with an increase in rankings in the age of user experience, it’s worth noting that no search engine is an open book. Google notifies the public when it updates its core algorithm, but it’s notoriously secretive about this proprietary information.

With this in mind, here are a few user engagement metrics that Google and other engines seem to value as priorities.

Mobile Optimization

In 2015, Google announced that mobile optimization would become a contributing factor to SEO rankings. Half of all searches originate on mobile devices, after all.

Google recommends a responsive web design that adapts to desktop computers, phones, and tablets, and it rewards mobile-optimized sites with higher rankings on SERPs.

This opens up into another potential benefit: placement in Google’s coveted “local pack.” The local pack is the set of three businesses featured on Google’s search results. Previously, Google featured seven businesses there, but the number has since been reduced to maintain a mobile-friendly layout.

local searchSemantic Search

We’ve already mentioned that Google’s algorithm has drastically changed, especially since the old days of keyword stuffing. The first change allowed Google to judge not only the use of keywords, but also the ways in which they are used. During this phase, keywords and phrases needed to appear naturally. If they detracted from the readability of a page, Google would penalize that page’s ranking.

After the 2013 Hummingbird update, the search engine’s algorithm considers overall meaning — it realizes a page is more than the sum of its keywords. For instance, if you searched for “What’s the fastest animal?” prior to Hummingbird, a page would have to use the keywords “fastest animal” in several places to communicate the topic to Google’s crawlers. Now, with semantic search, Google can compare search intent with a page’s content to provide a better search experience.

Most recently, Google has helped searchers by rolling out BERT. This technology was designed for users who increasingly search by posing questions. It considers search intent by analyzing how a word relates contextually to the words that precede and follow it. Most searches made via voice recognition are questions, so this advancement will probably benefit Google in the future (Comscore predicts that half of all search engine inquiries will be voice searches by 2020).

Dwell Time

The dwell time metric is determined by the amount of time a user spends on a page before navigating back to a search engine. Search engines use this metric to judge the relevance of a page to a user’s query. If a user stays on a page for a long time before bouncing back to the SERP, then that page is likely more valuable than others.

Browsers such as Google Chrome, which is used by 81% of W3School’s 50 million monthly visitors as of August 2020, know how long a visitor remains on a page. Dwell time is a significant indicator of relevancy and quality, so webpage designers should aim for visitors to remain on a website for as long as possible.

Unfortunately, dwell time is one of many metrics that only search engines have access to. However, you can still use other data to measure the user engagement on your own site. Tracking metrics like time on page, bounce rate, and conversions from your landing pages can provide crucial insights into the value your users get from their experiences with your website.

4 Ways to Boost User Engagement on Your Website

Realistically, it’s easy to understand how a great user interface has the potential to boost search rankings, but making it happen is another story. Let’s take a look at several UX SEO best practices.

1. Augmented Reality

In 2017, personal care and beauty store Sephora released the Visual Artist update on its app. Users can virtually try on lipsticks, eyeshadows, and other cosmetic products from the comfort of their homes. This small user experience-focused change resulted in a reported organic revenue growth of 14% parent company LVMH.

Augmented reality is increasingly accessible to smaller businesses. It is quite common to find eyeglass retail websites, for instance, boosting user engagement with AR features that allow shoppers to virtually try on glasses.

You can also use this technology to include customers in the experience of launching a product. Jordan Brand did just that with the release of its Air Jordan III Tinker sneakers. Sneaker fans could scan a Snapchat code, purchase through Shopify, and have the shoes delivered by local fulfillment centers within the day.

2. Interactive Tools

Increasing user engagement is as simple as finding ways to capture the attention of a website visitor. Interactive tools and activities that occupy a user’s time (and provide value) are essential when creating a top-notch search experience.

This could be something simple such as a mortgage cost calculator on a home lending website, a responsive chatbot, or live user survey feature on your landing page. Warby Parker, for example, has enhanced the online prescription glasses retail web experience by offering an online quiz for picking out the right frames. The simple quiz provides personalized fashion advice and leads visitors along their sales journeys.

warby parker quizIn fact, if you use a tool like SEMrush to identify the most trafficked pages of a popular website, you will often find that they are interactive. These tools keep users engaged. By installing event tracking within the tools, Google Analytics can report just how engaging they are.

3. Video Content

Many marketers fear that video content will slow down their pages and cause the bounce rate to skyrocket. This is a valid concern, but it also may be worth the risk. Video is easier for people to process, and it can encourage someone to stay 2.6 times longer on a webpage. Well-placed video enhances dwell time and boosts rankings.

For example, Toyota used video in its interactive “Choose Your Wild” campaign for its 4Runner vehicle. The video engages potential customers by letting them go virtually “off-road” in the vehicle and, at the same time, allows the company to collect customer preference information in a fun, unobtrusive way.

4. Lead Magnets

Surprisingly, some of the most effective ways to ensure you’re providing an exceptional user experience aren’t particularly innovative at all. Lead magnets with gated content aren’t a new tool in the digital marketing space, but you’ll find that you’ll command your audience well by understanding their needs and producing applicable content.

After all, the subtext of Google’s movement toward user-friendly webpages is really just ensuring that high-ranking pages are valuable content resources. You will be improving the user experience and prioritizing conversion optimization at the same time.

Bidsketch uses this approach: It offers a free sample proposal in exchange for a voluntarily disclosed customer email address. Content-heavy websites like The Oatmeal and BuzzFeed similarly capture email addresses by offering quizzes (which also enhance user engagement and dwell time). Try offering various free “goodies” as lead magnets such as spreadsheets, tutorials, generators, or calculators.

By keeping users engaged with valuable, meaningful content, you will not only create happier visitors (and maybe brand advocates), but you will also rank highly on Google.

Whether that engagement stems from augmented reality, interactivity, videos, lead magnets, or some other approach, it can make all the difference in the success of a company’s user experience and SEO efforts.

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