Big Changes For Google Search Algorithm

The latest algorithm update aims to bring users results that are more relevant by understanding the context behind search queries with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal of this update is to enhance the user experience by making the process of a Google search feel natural.


In October, Google announced the biggest change to the core search algorithm in the past five years. Google is using an artificial language processing tool called Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT, to bring context to received search queries. In the old algorithm, Google focused on individual keywords in a search query, and used these individual keywords to return results. Users received results based on the words in the search query that the algorithm found most important. The problem with this method is that the algorithm lacked conversational context.

Google shared the following example of how the old algorithm worked: a user searching for “2019 brazil traveler to usa need a visa.” The word “to” and how it impacted the other words in the search query weren’t perceived to be important in the old algorithm, which returned results for U.S. citizens that are looking for information about traveling to Brazil.

Source:  Google

The BERT model takes the word “to” into consideration and understands the context of the search query. This change returned search results for Brazilian citizens that are traveling to the U.S. and need information about obtaining a visa.

Impact on Content Strategy

Google says that the BERT update could change search results for one out of 10 queries. It is important for content creators to remember that not all search queries will be impacted by this update, and time will tell how this algorithm will influence conversions. This update targets the longer and more conversational phrases and keywords that people use while talking to each other. For users, the BERT update could be a great asset when searching on Google and could result in spending less time scrolling through pages of information that doesn’t meet the initial query, especially for those using a mobile device.

Does this mean that businesses should start optimizing for BERT? Experts in the SEO community are saying, no. BERT’s goal is to return better results based on the unique phrases used in search queries. The best approach continues to be creating great content using natural language, written to be understood by human beings instead of a search algorithm.

Testing, Testing…1, 2, 3

As always, Google continues to test new search features. The most recent and noteworthy include:

  • Showing competitor ads on local business profiles
  • Highlighting content on-site based on the search result clicked
  • Bulk Google My Business review management

Competitor Ads on Local Business Profiles

One not-so-popular test Google is currently conducting is placing competitor ads on business profiles in the knowledge card. This was first noticed in mid-August by Google My Business expert, Ben Fisher. His screenshot (below) shows a Google listing for Browning Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram with a competitor ad for Valley Hi Toyota appearing under the call-to-action buttons.

Image Source:  Ben Fisher

There is speculation that Google may be trying to further monetize search. In April, Google released a survey asking some business owners and agencies about potential features for Google My Business. The survey had one section about “Most Popular Paid-for Features” including “removing competitor ads from listings.” However, Greg Sterling, previously of Local Search Association, confirmed with Google that businesses will not be asked to, nor can they pay to, have the ad removed.

This test is not being taken very well by the Local SEO community that believes Google should not be putting direct competitor ads on business profiles, while others argue it may be confusing for users looking for specific business information. Others think of this as a type of extortion, something similar to what Yelp has been accused of with removing competitor ads from paid profiles. The general consensus among the Local SEO community is, “hopefully this is just a test that will not materialize.”

Highlighting Content On-Site

Google confirmed it is testing a feature that will take a user from the search results page to a third-party site, then anchor them to that exact location on the site, highlighting the content that is relative to the search query. Google originally did this on mobile with AMP cache, but is now testing on desktop and Chrome browsers.

How it works. Users can click on a featured snippet on desktop search. The user will then be taken to the site and Google will shift the view down to the highlighted location of the relevant content.

Search Engine Land columnist Glenn Gabe was the first to notice this test, and has several examples on Twitter. David Bokan, a Google Chromium engineer, confirmed that Google is testing this feature on approximately 5 percent of Google searchers (I am not lucky enough to be part of the 5 percent and cannot reproduce the results).

While users probably find this very convenient, digital marketers should take caution. SEO professionals may want to track if your business’s site is doing this in Google search. Since this new feature will take a user down past ads and/or call-to-actions directly to relevant content, marketers may want to take measures to move ads/CTAs to a more appropriate location.

Bulk Google My Business Review Management

Last month, Google released an efficient way for people managing multiple locations to see reviews for multiple listings at once. Those managing reviews will no longer need to click into each individual listing to see its reviews, which should help save time and help spot or report on important reviews quickly.

Bulk reviews give the ability to view, reply to and flag reviews for multiple listings from one place. This feature is available in location groups with 500 or fewer locations, but is not currently available for organization accounts. Steps to find and utilize this new feature within Google My Business can be found on the Reviews Support page.

One thing for sure is that Google never disappoints with testing new features, whether good or bad in the eyes of the Local SEO community. Although there is speculation about Google trying to increasingly monetize search results, ultimately Google is attempting to make search more robust and more efficient for its users.

Worried about your visibility on Google? Contact Mindstream Media Group, a Google Premier Partner, to find out how our location listing and paid search solutions can amplify your brand’s presence. 

Breaking Down the Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-location Brands

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Dmitri Mendeleev’s original Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. To celebrate, Search Engine Land updated its popular take on Mendeleev’s work – the Periodic Table of SEO Factors. While Search Engine Land designed its version to apply to any type of business, we wanted to look at how it impacts SEO for multi-location brands.

The Periodic Table of SEO

But first, here’s a little background on the table itself. Search Engine Land originally published its Periodic Table of SEO Factors in 2011. Since then, it’s been a premier resource for search professionals looking to gain a better understanding of what it takes to build a winning SEO strategy. The original version has been downloaded almost 100,000 times by marketers in more than 70 countries and referenced by thousands of blogs and websites.

With this year’s version, the foundation has remained the same but the table’s creators added categories for toxic ranking factors and emerging verticals on top of the groups of successful SEO factors. Below, we’ll provide an in-depth look at how your multi-location brand can use the learnings from each group of success factors to guide your SEO strategy.

Navigating the Periodic Table of SEO for multi-location brands

Now that we know what the table is, let’s dive in with our list of actionable tips for each group of elements as they pertain to multi-location brands.


Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Content Group

The Content Group of the Periodic Table of SEO explores the facets of creating high-quality, in-depth content for your website and other digital properties. Here’s how your multi-location brand can optimize your site for this group.


Create high-quality content to help searchers learn everything they need to know about your products, services and locations. When it comes to SEO for multi-location brands, creating in-depth, high-quality and keyword-optimized pages for each of your locations is essential.

Research and Keywords

Start by researching and identifying the terms your target audiences are likely to use in searches for your products, services and locations. Include geo-specific keyword research to identify which terms your audiences are searching for across your specific markets.


Complement your product, service and location pages by continuously creating and optimizing thought-leadership pieces like blog posts and long-form content (e.g., e-books, case studies, infographics, etc.).


Develop high-quality multimedia content (images, video, audio content, etc.) to support and complement your other content pieces.


Create content that addresses popular questions your audiences ask in search results (use keyword research to determine these questions). For multi-location brands, FAQ pages can be a huge boost to search engine rankings and help you earn featured snippets.

Related – How Featured Snippets Help You Conquer Google’s Search Results


Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Architecture Group

For the Architecture Group, the overall learnings apply to SEO for multi-location brands the same as most other businesses. Here’s a look at a few of the most important elements in this group.


Make sure your site is easy for search engines to crawl so they can find all your product, service and location pages.


Make sure your site is optimized for smartphones and tablets. If you’re not sure if your site is optimized for mobile, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to find out.


Multi-location brands often have issues with duplicate versions of location pages. Make sure there is only one version of each of your webpages by using canonical URLs and 301 redirects.


Your webpages should load quickly on any device. If you’re not sure if your site’s speed is up to par, you can run it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.


Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – HTML Group

This element group deals with the HTML tags your brand should include on its website. For multi-location brands, it’s important to make sure these tags include geo-modifiers to optimize the pages in local search results.

Title tags

Include the city and state in the title tag in every location-specific webpage.


Add Schema Markup and other localized structured data to help search engines understand local information like phone numbers and business addresses.


Use geo-modifiers and market-specific keywords to optimize header tags (H1 – H6 tags) for each location page.


Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Trust Group

Last year, Google introduced an update to its algorithm that SEO pros dubbed the “E-A-T update.” E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. This group of elements speaks directly to those measures for both SEO for multi-location brands and other businesses.

Related – What Multi-Location Brands Need to Know About Google’s March 2019 Core Update


Create content that will drive incoming links, shares and other authority signals to boost search rankings.


Create high-quality content to drive activity and engagement on your website.


Work on building trust over time. Sites that operate the same way for years carry weight in search engine rankings.


Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – Link Group

This group of elements has been a mainstay on the Periodic Table of SEO since the beginning and is as important as ever. According to Search Engine Land:

When Google burst onto the scene with its then-revolutionary PageRank algorithm in 2000, the company made clear that links were a factor in how well a website would perform in search. The higher quality and more relevant the sites that link to your own are, the better it is for your SEO.

In terms of SEO for multi-location brands, here’s how you can improve your incoming link portfolio.


Seek links from trusted, high-quality websites in your business vertical or from locally-focused websites and online directories.


Make sure your incoming links are from relevant pages and use your target keywords as the anchor text.


Work to build a robust stable of high-quality links naturally over time.


Periodic Table of SEO for Multi-Location Brands – User Group

The way users interact with your site is crucial to search rankings. Search engines don’t like it when users click on a result and quickly bounce back to the results when they can’t find what they need. To make sure searchers don’t abandon your site, here are a few things you can do to optimize for the elements in the User Group.


Target specific cities or neighborhoods by including your addresses on location pages and specifying the markets you serve.

User Experience (UX)

Make it easy for potential customers to find specific location pages with an easy-to-use store locator tool and a section on your website dedicated to finding nearby locations.


Create localized content that provides specific information your target audiences are searching for (i.e., content based on search intent).

Need help implementing these efforts?

Contact Mindstream Media Group and we’ll show you how our SEO and Content Marketing services can amplify your multi-location brand’s presence in search results.

[Case Study]: Mindstream Media Group Drives 14% Lift in Organic Traffic for The UPS Store

No matter how groundbreaking and spectacular a website is when it’s first launched, it’s inevitable that the site’s design, SEO and copy will eventually become outdated. When this happens, it usually means the roller coaster thrill ride of a redesign is in your future.

If you’ve been through a massive site redesign, you understand the highs of seeing your beautiful new design come to fruition, as well as the lows of watching your website traffic stumble as search engines re-index your site.

The UPS Store site redesign

This is the situation that The UPS Store franchise development team recently found themselves in. After launching a redesign of its website in 2017, the brand saw the site’s ranking in relevant Google search results fluctuate. Thanks to their well-established brand, the site didn’t experience substantial traffic losses, but organic search visits did drop from the previous year.

SEO Sessions – 2016 vs. 2017

For high-volume websites, even a small decline in visits could represent a drop in thousands of leads. To reverse the trend and make sure prospective franchise owners could still find the site, we implemented a combination of SEO and Content Marketing efforts to:

  • Increase earned and owned media sessions by 5 percent in 2018.
  • Increase the site’s ranking in relevant search results to make it easier for prospective franchise owners to find the information they need.
  • Produce engaging content to explain the value of franchising in general, as well as the value of franchising with The UPS Store.

How we amplified their SEO and Content Marketing strategy

Our holistic SEO strategy

Ranking well on Google demands an SEO strategy that optimizes all aspects of the website. For The UPS Store, we implemented a holistic SEO strategy focused on three main components.

  1. Technical SEO
  2. On-page SEO
  3. Off-site SEO

Mindstream Media’s Holistic SEO Approach

Throughout 2018, we completed several major projects to improve these elements, including:

Link acquisition

Since Mindstream Media Group started a backlink campaign for The UPS Store, the link profile has steadily improved thanks to guest posting, manual outreach and other white-hat link building efforts.

Backlink history – referring domains

Backlink history - total links
On-page technical improvements

We updated the site’s internal linking structure, improved site speed, implemented title tags and meta descriptions backed by keyword research, added Schema Markup, updated much of the content and improved keyword rankings for several relevant high search volume keywords.

Accounting for algorithm updates

Google continuously updates its search algorithm to deliver the most relevant results. We monitored all the major updates for opportunities to optimize the site based on the latest SEO best practices. Here’s a look at some of the most significant Google updates in 2018.

2018 Google Algorithm Updates

Our Content Marketing strategy

Mindstream Media Group’s Content Marketing efforts included three main initiatives:

  • Updating and expanding webpage copy to help visitors find the information they need to become franchise owners and improve the site’s ranking in search results.
  • Creating blog posts to help prospects learn more about becoming a The UPS Store franchise owner.
  • Publishing blog posts on the website and Outbrain’s content network to reach a wider audience of potential franchise owners.

Our Content Marketing efforts went hand-in-hand with our SEO work. We used the keyword strategy and technical SEO tactics outlined in our SEO program to guide both webpage and blog content. This approach allowed us to create content that:

  • Was easy for search engine bots to read and index which helped improve the site’s rankings in search results.
  • Was informative and entertaining for prospects to read, which helped nurture leads and encourage them to become franchise owners.

Related: How to Avoid 5 Devastating B2B Content Marketing Mistakes

The fruits of our labor

As we continued to implement our SEO and Content Marketing efforts throughout 2018, traffic to the website started to pick up.
2018 SEO sessions by quarter

Not only did the site’s traffic rebound from the redesign, but there were even more visitors than before.

SEO Sessions – 2016 through 2018

In the fourth quarter of 2018, traffic to the site’s blog took off. We saw improvements in page views, time on site, entrances and bounce rate.

Blog metrics - Q4 vs. Q3 2018

Thanks to our combined SEO and Content Marketing efforts, we exceeded our 2018 goal for SEO sessions by 8 percent.

SEO sessions – 2018 goal vs. actual

Need help driving more traffic and leads to your website? Contact Mindstream Media Group to find out how our SEO and Content Marketing solutions can amplify your brand’s website.

[MAY 2019] The Latest and Greatest in Google Marketing – What Local Marketers Need to Know

Google came out swinging this month. In the first two weeks of May alone, there was a flurry of Google marketing events and news. First, there was Google I/O – the annual developer conference – from May 7-9. Then, the search company (which doesn’t seem like nearly a broad enough descriptor) kicked off Google Marketing Live on May 14.

If you work in the digital marketing space, you can be forgiven for missing some of the biggest news from Google’s fortnight of activity. In the Google Marketing Live keynote alone, the company announced more than 10 new digital marketing products. (And, seriously, why did Google have to do all this while we were all wrapped up in Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones?)

To help you catch up on all that activity, here’s a look at three of the most important Google marketing updates for multi-location brands and local businesses.

Reach nearby consumers with updated Local campaigns

Google specifically designed Local campaigns to help marketers drive foot traffic to stores, restaurants, auto dealerships and other local businesses. Local campaigns allow marketers to use automation to place ads that drive offline conversions. You provide Google a list of locations, a campaign budget and ad assets. Then, Google uses machine learning to optimize your bids, ad placements and asset combinations.

At Google Marketing Live, Google announced a few significant changes to help marketers do even more with Local campaigns, including:

Driving additional conversions

You can now inspire consumers to take additional valuable actions like calling your business or getting directions to your location(s). Early tests of this feature have shown promising results.

Driving additional conversions with Google Local campaigns

Showcasing products

You can now showcase product-specific information and offers.

Showcase product-specific information with Google Local CampaignsImage source: Google

Serving ads in more places

New ad inventory allows you to promote your business to users planning their route and while they browse Google Maps search suggestions.

Promote your business to users planning their route (image source: Google)

Promote your business in Google Maps search suggestions (image source: Google)

How to take advantage of this update

These updates make Local campaigns an even more potent tool for local marketers. If you haven’t implemented this tool already, here’s a quick look at how Local campaigns work:

  • Define the locations you want to promote by linking your Google My Business account or selecting affiliate locations.
  • Your ads are then eligible to appear across Google’s properties. This includes the Google Search Network, Google Display Network, Google Maps and YouTube.

Engage consumers with high-quality ad creative

According to a recent Google/Ipsos study, 76 percent of consumers enjoy making unexpected discoveries when shopping. Inspired by this trend, Google introduced Discovery ads at Google Marketing Live as a new way to reach people in the moments when they’re open to discovering your products and services.

Discovery ads will appear across feeds on Google’s properties including Discover, YouTube and Gmail.

Google Discovery AdsGoogle also announced they’d be launching another highly-visual ad format for Search. With Gallery ads, brands will be able to serve consumers interactive visuals based on their search intent.

How to take advantage of this update

This update is perfect for multi-location brands and local businesses that sell a variety of products. The key is developing high-quality creative and serving ads across Google’s properties to hit a variety of consumer touchpoints. If your brand is already advertising on Google channels, look into adding Discover and Gallery ads to your existing campaigns.

Optimize your search presence with structured data

During Google I/O, Google announced a couple of new ways for brands to appear in organic search results. You can now add structured data on FAQ and how-to webpages to get that content to appear as Featured Snippets. These results are especially valuable as they typically appear at the very top of Google’s search engine result pages (SERPs).

Here’s how properly structured how-to content appears in search results:

How-to Structured Data in Google Search Results

Related: How Featured Snippets Help You Conquer Google’s Search Results

How to take advantage of this update

Before you can use structured data to optimize this content, you need to create it. Here are Google’s guidelines on each:

  • How-to content – walks users through a set of steps to successfully complete a task, and can feature video, images and text. For example, “How to tie a tie” or “How to tile a kitchen backsplash.”
  • FAQ page – contains a list of questions and answers pertaining to a particular topic. Properly marked up FAQ pages may be eligible to have a rich result on Search and Markup Action for the Google Assistant, which can help your site reach the right users.

After you create the content, you’ll need to add structured data to the page to explicitly tell Google that your content falls in the how-to or FAQ category. If you need help creating this content or optimizing it correctly, contact Mindstream Media Group and our Content Marketing and SEO experts will be happy to assist.

Quick hits – more takeaways from Google Marketing Live

As a Google Premier Partner, Mindstream Media Group is committed to keeping our finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest Google marketing news. Mindstream’s Bailey Bosson and Adrian Huth attended Google Marketing Live last week to make sure nothing slipped through the cracks. Here’s a recap of a few of their most important takeaways from the event.

Google ups the ante on automation

It seemed like every major product announcement included (or relied on) a way to use machine learning and AI to improve ad performance. In the future, expect Google to continue integrating more automation features into its marketing and advertising solutions.

Google wades into programmatic TV

Google introduced a batch of new tools for Digital & Video 360 – the company’s programmatic buying platform. The step looks to be Google’s first step toward bringing programmatic ad buys to traditional TV advertising. (Read more on Marketing Land.)

Google adds more flexibility for advertisers

Keeping with Google’s theme de jour, Google introduced new automated bidding strategies to help advertisers customize their campaigns. This includes campaign-level conversion goals, seasonality adjustments and the ability to optimize based on conversion value. (Read more on Search Engine Journal.)

Want to keep up with the latest in Google marketing news? Subscribe to our blog to get the latest media and marketing updates delivered straight to your inbox.

5 Voice Search Optimization Strategies You Need to Know

Voice-enabled speakers like Google Home and Amazon Echo have become a significant part of consumers’ everyday lives. According to research from eMarketer, almost 75 million people in the United States will use smart speakers in 2019. And, nearly three-fourths of those users will use their smart speakers to conduct general searches. This rising usage makes voice search optimization an increasingly important effort for marketers.

Smart speaker penetration and activity in the United States

Smart speaker penetration and activity in the United States

Related content: [Infographic] – Smart Speakers: The Rise of the Machines

By optimizing content for voice searches, brands can position themselves to show up in “position zero” (i.e., the only result in smart speaker searches). But smart speakers and voice search haven’t been around for long and brand marketers are still trying to figure out the best way to optimize their content.

Last year, Backlinko conducted a study to find the most important ranking factors for searches on the Google Home smart speaker. Here are five of the most critical findings from the study to help your brand amplify your voice search optimization efforts.

No. 1: Google Home favors pages with fast load times

This factor shouldn’t be too shocking since voice searchers are naturally going to value quick, accurate answers. According to Backlinko, the average voice search page loads in 4.6 seconds (roughly half the time as average webpages).

Page load time: voice search results vs. average webpage

Page load time for voice search results vs. average webpage

Remember, while mobile and desktop search results might list multiple results, smart speakers only provide one. This reality makes voice search optimization on smart speakers a zero-sum game.

Make sure to give your content a chance of reaching “position zero” by speeding up your webpages. Check out this post to learn how to identify page speed and other common SEO issues: How to Conduct a High-level SEO Audit.

No. 2: Google Home opts for more authoritative domains when delivering search results

Pages with higher domain scores (a metric for determining a webpage’s quality and authority) tend to perform much better in smart speaker searches. According to the study, the mean Ahrefs domain rating of a Google Home result is almost 77 percent.

The average domain authority of voice search result pages vs. average webpages

Average domain authority of voice search result pages vs average webpages

A comprehensive SEO program is the best way to increase your domain authority and amplify your voice search optimization efforts. To learn how to improve your SEO strategy, check out this blog post – SEO Fundamentals: What is SEO and How Does It Work? 

No. 3: More than 70 percent of Google Home results were from HTTPS (secure) webpages

If you follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, this voice search optimization finding should make a lot of sense. In July 2018, Google announced it would start marking all non-HTTPS sites on their Chrome browser as “not secure.” This change is almost guaranteed to affect search rankings.

HTTPS adoption: voice search vs. desktop search result pages

HTTPS adoption of voice search result pages


No. 4: Content that’s frequently mentioned or shared on social media tends to appear more in Google Home results

According to the study, an average voice search result has around 1,200 Facebook shares or 44 tweets. Backlinko was careful to note that Google does not include social signals in its ranking algorithm. Therefore, social media popularity is likely a case of correlation, not causation.

Average social shares of voice search result pages

Average social shares of a voice search result

Check out this blog to learn how you can get more social media exposure out of your content: How to Fuel Your Social Media Pipeline.

No. 5: Content that appears higher in desktop search results is more likely to appear in voice searches

A staggering 75 percent of voice search results from Google Home also rank in the top 3 positions in desktop searches. The most likely reason for this is that Google uses similar ranking factors to determine both voice search and desktop results.

Where voice search results tend to rank in Google desktop search results

Where voice search results tend to rank in Google desktop search results

To get a better idea of what you need to do to improve your overall search rankings, check out our recent post: 10 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs a More Competitive SEO Strategy.

These are just some of the most important voice search optimization factors. As virtual assistants and voice search increase in popularity, there will likely be more updates to the ranking factors in the future. For now, this list is a great starting point for your voice search optimization efforts. If you need additional guidance to reach consumers searching on smart speakers, contact Mindstream Media Group today, and our content and SEO experts will be happy to help.

This post was originally published in March 2018. We’ve updated the stats and information to make sure you have the latest voice search optimization tips.