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Touch your SEO: Introducing Physical SEO

Touch your SEO: Introducing Physical SEO

Executive summary

In the previous post of the Product Knowledge Graphs series we introduced you to the possibilities a Product Knowledge Graph opens for e-commerce data. In this post, we want to show you something equally exciting: Physical SEO. That is the intersection of physical and digital UX environments and the instrumental role of linked data and SEO for your products’ visibility and sales. 

Intro

As the boundaries between physical and cyber spaces are blurring, e-commerce and the digital marketing behind it have to catch up with ever-changing consumer needs and behaviours. Take for example an in-store experience. More often than not people would scan a product to find its ingredients, or search for product reviews, feedback, discounts.  

All in one, we act digital in the physical world. In such a scenario, the question for digital marketing and e-commerce is: “How to connect a physical product to the ecosystem of data on the Web?

And the answer is structured data – the common thread running through three things we want to connect the dots for here: 

  • Physical SEO 
  • Barcodes as entry points to digital experiences (GS1 Digital Link technology)
  • Product Knowledge Graph.

1. Physical SEO, yes you heard that right.
2. Making Barcodes Speak Linked Data (GS1 Digital Link)
3. The Product Knowledge Graph: Seeing Connected Data As a Marketing Tool
4. A Bag of Chips Instead of an Epilogue

Physical SEO, yes you heard that right.

 “In the next step, the Semantic Web will break out of the virtual realm and extend into our physical world. URIs can point to anything, including physical entities, which means we can use the RDF language to describe devices such as cell phones and TVs.”

Citation: Scientific American article by TBL (Solid), Ora Lassila (now Amazon), Hedler (Working Ontologist 2020), available here.

The term “physical SEO” is vague but exciting. We use it to define the activities related to search engine optimization that triggers digital experiences in physical environments and vice versa

Think of it. For example, if you are a manufacturer, you have to not only put your product on the shelf in the store, but also on the shelf for anyone browsing the Web for information. If you want to save time and money, you need a unique identifier for this product that will allow all your stakeholders fast and easy access to the data about it (price, description, availability, to mention just a few).

In other words, as search is inevitably permeating physical environments, so should SEO activities.

Fortunately, together with the increasingly complex digital user behavior come the increasingly connected and mature technologies to live up to the empowered users’ expectations.

Enter GS1 Digital Link.

Making Barcodes Speak Linked Data (GS1 Digital Link)

GS1 Digital link is developed by GS1, a not-for-profit global supply chain standards organization working to improve the efficiency, safety and visibility of supply chains. GS1 is best known for the barcode – the single standard for product identification. As GS1 standards aim to provide a framework that allows products, services, and information about them to move efficiently and securely across physical and digital channels, the organization started developing a standard that would “extend the power and flexibility of GS1 identifiers by making them part of the web.”    

Today, the standard is ready to facilitate the exchange and comparison of structured data and bridge the gap between usually incomplete data behind a scanned barcode. GS1 Digital Link promises to enhance the shopping experience for consumers by simplifying B2B data sharing and providing a standards-based unified way of describing products..

Why would a user want to access a Product Knowledge Graph from a barcode
He might want to:

  • Learn more about the product
  • Compare the product to other products
  • Search for offers
  • Browse reviews
  • Check compatibility
  • Find technical specifications

Very simply put, the GS1 Digital Link works based on providing a simple, standards-based structure for the data about a product. With GS1 Digital Link, information such as expiration dates, nutritional and medical product data, warranty registration, troubleshooting instructions, even social media links are becoming available with a single scan.

Image source: GS1 Digital Link Flyer

The GS1 Digital Link work is a treasure trove for anyone interested in publishing clean, structured and meaningful data on the Web. And this is where a Product Knowledge Graph can immensely enrich the exchange by providing an ecosystem of related information about any product in the blink of a scan. 

The Product Knowledge Graph: Seeing Connected Data As a Marketing Tool

As the underlying ecology of e-commerce is changing, the ways you publish product data to serve your customers and other stakeholders best require new approaches.

As the amazing Aaron Bradley wrote about that 5 (yes!, five) years ago in his blog SEO with Data :

“if data about you is going to appear in the search results – and it is – make sure it’s accurate by providing it yourself.”

And this is exactly what WordLift aims to do, enabling a scenario where all interested parties (merchants, retailers, customers) have access to interconnected detailed information about anything across both physical and digital channels. In other words, all kinds of data derived from (and accessed from) one comprehensive Product Knowledge Graph.

To understand the value of a Product Knowledge Graph for e-commerce, let’s have a look at a model. In 2018 researchers Turban, Outland et al. created the following model (in their book Electronic Commerce 2018 A Managerial and Social Networks Perspective):

Source: Slides for Chapter 2 

Now, let’s take it from this model and enhance it with the understanding and practice of Linked Data and e-commerce. The model will be pretty much the same, however the data that will feed a portal is data that you have control over.

  1. Person- > 2. Portal – > 3. Product Knowledge Graph 

A Bag of Chips Instead of an Epilogue

Sir Tim-Berners Lee constantly leaves us notes to the future. This is what he did in 2010. With a bag of chips. 

In this talk, the Web’s inventor talks about the barcode as a universal way for retailers to “talk” about products and the various other languages packages use to convey information.

A decade later all these components can be integrated and put in a Product Knowledge Graph, benefiting both consumers and producers. As we saw GS1 Digital Link opens the possibilities for such integration. WordLift pushes the idea one step forward by helping producers, retailers and e-commerce businesses publish their data to allow any search engine or platform to consume it in a meaningful way for the user.

Do you want your customers to find you on the digital shelf? Let us help you with that!

8 SEO Tools for Content Writing

8 SEO Tools for Content Writing

Some principles never change – even in the ever-changing digital marketing world – like the evergreen “content is king.” In 2021, one of the most effective marketing strategies is still the creation of digital content for our audience, even though our ability and the technology to do so have significantly evolved. In this context, content automation is now king.

Companies and individual marketers alike are using more and more digital platforms and SEO tools for content writing. AI is now able to support us in better ways to produce content (also publishing and distributing it), and the market is offering more and better ways to satisfy our needs. Most likely, you have already been using these very tools.

We believe that SEO automation will be huge in 2021. Content creation will increasingly be a task performed by humans and AI working in tandem.

This is happening due to technological advances, of course, but also to a highly competitive market. The Internet is now a boundless ocean of competing content. To get the attention of our target, we must compete in quality, uniqueness and authority with a fierce crowd of competitors.

This article will define content automation, discuss how AI can help in generating content in a timely fashion, argue the reasons why we should use it, and provide a list of SEO tools and platforms for content writing.

This blog post is also available as Web Story 👉  “ 8 SEO Tools for Content Writing Web Story

1.  What is content automation?
2.  The ways in which AI generates effective content in a time-efficient manner
3.  Why we should automate SEO content writing
4.  SEO tools for content writing
4.1.  MarketMuse
4.2.  Topic
4.3.  WordLift
4.4.  QuillBot
4.5.  Frase
4.6.  Semantika
4.7.  Clearscope
4.8.  NeuralText

What is content automation?

Content Automation is the use of technologies, systems, and strategies that eliminate or significantly reduce human intervention at every step of the content creation process.

Its main goal is to be of assistance to professionals and companies by delegating the most repetitive and tedious work to AI. It revolves around the same principles and needs of industrial automation, although applied to digital marketing and, more specifically, to the sub-sector of content marketing.

The ways in which AI generates effective content in a time-efficient manner.

AI helps us at every step of the way in content creation, especially in the most time consuming and repetitive tasks.

Thanks to machine learning, a few platforms are able to analyze the structure of articles better suited to our needs through specific keyword usage and then generate detailed reports on them in a few seconds.

Moreover, advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Natural Language Generation (NLG) allow algorithms to better understand our inputs and then select content with pertinent information and with language closest to natural human expression.

With these improvements, we can summarize even very long excerpts. Just think how convenient this could be in creating meta-descriptions of our articles or texts accompanying social media dissemination.

Some of the methods used in NLP to process content. This image was suggested by WordLift AI.

We can ask AI to look for the most suitаble images to accompany our text.

We can even ask AI to create a whole text following our input, like in this famous example from The Guardian or to answer specific questions, like the ones Andrea Volpini, our CEO, asked to the davinci model on GPT-3 in an article on SEO trends in 2021.

Just imagine how much faster these tools can generate your content.

Why we should automate SEO content writing

The first reason is extremely simple: it’s time-saving and, consequently, cost-effective.

Just imagine you’re writing an important piece for your target. How long would it take to identify the best topic, find your keywords, research your sources, and analyze your competitors? How long would it take to manually apply the markup of structured data on your article in order for Google to fully understand your content and disseminate it as widely as possible?

Have you completed your estimate? Excellent. Can I give you some good news?

There are already a number of solutions in place that can do all this in a few clicks.

You can even estimate the time you’ll save by automating one or more of these tasks and multiply it by the number of contents you generate in a year. You will then have a realistic estimate of how much AI can contribute in cutting marketing costs.

Another reason to automate content is cutting down on human error. Just think of the time spent in looking for typos. An algorithm is never tired at 5pm on a Friday – but we are. When properly programmed, your tool will always find typos. As trained as our eyes can be, we will always make mistakes because of exhaustion, distraction, or simply … being human J. AI will always be more efficient than we could ever be in tasks like these and it would be wise to delegate them to AI.

Lastly, because it can process an enormous amount of data, AI can improve the quality of your content.

And just to calm those nagging fears, let me say one last thing about this: AI will never “steal” your job (maybe just a few monotonous tasks). Rather, it will allow you to do better work and to devote yourself to the tasks where you can really make a difference.

We’ve been suspicious of AI for more than two centuries, but machines do not take away our jobs. Jobs change and evolve because of technological advances. Whether we like it or not, this is also the future of content marketing.

SEO tools for content writing

Now that we know what content automation is, and how it can help us in digital marketing, let’s have a look at a few of the solutions available. This is a list of 8 tools that can help you in automating the writing of your SEO content.

MarketMuse

MarketMuse is a content marketing platform that, thanks to AI, transforms the way we research, plan and create our content.

Thanks to machine learning, MarketMuse’s algorithms can analyze a vast amount of data from published content on a specific topic, and it can create detailed briefings containing information on important related subjects. Plus, this platform can generate a detailed first draft based on KPI found in the briefing.

MarketMuse can also perform a comparative analysis of our competitors’ content using the same keywords, showing us how well we covered the subject compared to others.

This Boston-based firm offers various pricing plans to marketers and SEO professionals.

Plans start at $79/mo., paid annually. There is also a free trial option.

Topic

Topic is a platform that helps agencies and editors create briefings based on their content in half the time usually needed.

By inputting a keyword, Topic will analyze the first 30 results, highlighting not only the headings and keywords to include in your content, but also the questions to answer. You can also use this platform to create a rich outline.

Topic is therefore a tool to create content more swiftly, employing the model of GPT-3 language and machine learning.

This is a platform aimed primarily at agencies and editors.

Its plans start at $50/mo. There is no free trial option, but a demo is available upon request.

WordLift

WordLift logo

WordLift is the AI-powered SEO tool that does the heavy lifting for you. In order to optimize your website’s content for search engines, it’s crucial to pay attention to the data that allow algorithms to better understand who you are, what you do, and what your pages are about. WordLift can automate this process and improve your position on SERPs, thereby increasing the volume and quality of your organic traffic.

WordLift uses natural language processing and linked data to automate semantic markup. It analyzes your content and identifies the corresponding entities organizing them into four categories: who, what, when and where. You can select the suggested entities and create your own in order to give your users useful context information.

Thanks to this glossary, all the search engines will be able to index your pages correctly, leading more traffic your way. It will also be easier to have SERP Knowledge Graphs associated to your business and your product.

WordLift offers various widgets and tools to guide you in content creation by suggesting free stock images to display, and by summarizing content you will be able to use for your meta-descriptions or social media posts.

WordLift is a useful tool for all marketers, editors and companies that want to automate a fundamental part of their SEO. It’s perfectly integrated with WordPress, can be used on other CMS, and is now available with a brand new add-on for WooCommerce. Plus, many more AI-based solutions are being developed exclusively for VIP clients.

The base plan starts at €47/mo., paid annually. WordLift has a 14-day free trial period.

Do you want to start now with your free trial?

QuillBot

QuillBot allows for content creation in half the time thanks to its algorithms. This tool supports British, American and Australian English.

QuillBot has two major features. “Paraphrasers” allows you to paraphrase texts following certain parameters, like length of output text. You can customize it to obtain output texts with different characteristics: you can have a “standard” text, one with as many possible variations from your input text as possible, or one as close as possible to natural language and correct grammar.

Its second feature is the “Summarizer,” summarizing a text in a few clicks. You can choose between key sentences and paragraph. The former will highlight the most important sentences of your input text, the latter will create a paragraph based on key information in your input text. The final result will combine both the paraphrase and the summarizing features. And remember that you can always choose the length of your output text.

QuillBot helps in writing emails, posts, articles, and much more, all in English.

Most of its features are free, but if you want to get the most out of it, you can choose the premium package, with more features, no character limit, and more processing speed.

The premium package starts at $6,67/mo., paid annually.

Frase

Frase believes that the future of SEO is in answers, not in links. In conversations, not just keywords. Its mission is to help you develop an SEO that “will still work in 2030.”

Frase offers two primary solutions on subscription: Content and Answer. Frase Content significantly reduces content production time, automating many steps of the process and offering an editor tool where team members can collaborate.

Once you insert a keyword, this platform will display a list of topics, FAQs, statistics, news and related facts. You can also check how your final text does compared to competing software, thanks to Frase Topic Score.

Frase Answer trains and implements chatbots in a few steps by analyzing the content on your website. You don’t need any starting knowledge to train its AI, just some content, such as, a product page or blog post. It just needs to have a url. At this point, you will be able to train multiple bot personas that can specialize in different tasks (support, commercial, etc.), or, if you prefer, you can create one single super-intelligent bot.

Frase is best for teams working on content marketing or on SEO, and for agencies. This tool supports Italian as well, although only for Frase Content.

Starting price for subscriptions is $45/mo.

Semantika

Semantika is an Italian tool developed to put NLG at the service of content marketing.

This tool uses your data to generate content through AI in a few steps and following your parameters. During this process, you have the assistance of a project manager.

For example, an e-Commerce project could upload its catalog and leave the automatic creation of product details to the platform. Alternatively, you could create financial reports for your firm, or publish the team scores on a sport news website in real time.

Semantika’s target is firms, e-Commerce and editors.

On their website you can find all the relevant information on pricing, although you can also contact them for a demo.

Clearscope

Clearscope is a tool created to optimize content through AI.

Its algorithms analyze the 30 best content results based on a chosen keyword and display related keywords, search volumes and other data crucial to create an optimized text. This tool also offers an evaluation of your content, providing suggestions on parameters such as readability or relevant terms density. Its interface is easy to use and this platform integrates with Google Docs and WordPress.

The Essentials Plan starts at $170/mo. without a trial period.

NeuralText

NeuralText is a platform using NLP to help marketers write rich content optimized for SEO.

Like the other tools in our list, Neural Text also analyzes SERP following your parameters and keywords. This tool generates reports with useful information, like questions and related topics, volumes, but also most cited entities and sources within the articles.

NeuralText offers an additional tool to evaluate your own content, a keyword tool plus a tool to analyze search intents behind every query.

We should give special mention to their Smart Writer, the text editor on their platform that, thanks to AI, gives suggestions on how to speed up content creation.

Their subscriptions start at $50/mo. and there is a 7-day trial period.

Interested in knowing more about how AI can help you automate your SEO and content?

E-A-T

E-A-T

E-A-T is an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. It became famous in 2015 after Google published its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, where E-A-T made its first appearance. These guidelines were a milestone in the SEO industry as they were fundamental for a deeper understanding of how Google evaluates web pages.

What is E-A-T, and why is it such a big deal?

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness can be defined as a number of signals that contribute to determining Page Quality. While Expertise is a characteristic that belongs to the page content’s author, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness also belong to the page content and the website. 

In other words, E-A-T determines the reliability of a source by taking into account:

  1. the Expertise of the author in the field
  2. the socially recognized Authoritativeness of the content itself, of the author, and of the source
  3. and also Trustworthiness considered as the ability to provide honest, true, and accurate information.

Google wants to give its users the best possible experience. Before anything else, this means giving them a set of results that can offer real value and can be trusted

Here is why E-A-T is important. It measures the capability of a specific author, source, or page to provide authentic value to the search engine’s users. 

Especially when it comes to sensitive topics such as shopping, financial, medical, legal, and news, Google is cautious about the E-A-T factor, as web information can have a real impact on a user’s life. Google collects those topics under the acronym YMYL that stands for Your Money, Your Life and that clearly states how a simple search can have a huge and serious impact on one’s safety.

What can you do in terms of SEO to show your E-A-T?

Working on E-A-T means taking care of a wide number of aspects that go from editorial choices in terms of transparency and method to media relations and the capacity of setting your brand as an authority. We will not cover all the parts of this meticulous job, but we would like to focus on a single and yet powerful aspect: Structured Data

As Lily Ray — who has devoted a lot of work and study to this topic — suggests, including structured data in your E-A-T strategy is a sure way to support and give strength to your overall effort. Using structured data, you will talk in the same language as Google, and all search engines will understand what you mean. 

Among the schema types that are essential to E-A-T, these apply to most situations:

  • Person: which is needed to identify the author of the content. It can be further enriched by using schema properties such as affiliation, jobTitle, sameAs, and much more.
  • Organization: which can be used to identify the publisher of the website. It can be further enriched by using schema properties such as address, founder, legalname, and more.
  • WebPage, BlogPosting, Article and NewsArticle: which can be used to identify a piece of content on your website. It is essential to connect these entities to its authors with the schema property “Author” which will help you build a strong connection between content and authoritative persons. 

Schema types strictly depend on your content model and on the kind of business that your website represents. 

To learn more about E-A-T and structured data, I recommend watching this webinar that analyses it from different perspectives. 

The Ultimate Checklist to Rank in the Google Top Stories Carousel

The Ultimate Checklist to Rank in the Google Top Stories Carousel

Google Top Stories is a powerful way to boost mobile SEO and CTR of news content. This article describes a real-world implementation, what it takes to be picked up by Google, and how to measure the traffic impact.    

When Google first introduced the top stories carousel, it had an immediate impact on the news and media industry that started to embrace the support for AMP pages. Top Stories are a modern, ultra-performing card-style design to present searchers with featured news stories in Google SERP.

Top Stories Carousel

Top Stories Carousel in Google Search

Getting featured is far from being a straightforward process as several requirements need to be fulfilled, and these requirements belong to different aspects of modern SEO: from AMP support to Google News support (not required, while highly recommended), from structured data to content editing, image preparation and page speed optimization.

We take on a small handful of clients projects each year to help them boost their qualified traffic via our SEO Management Service

Do you want to be part of it?

Yes, send me a quote!

Let’s dive in and look at very basic by analyzing what we have done to bring this ultra-performing search feature to one of our SEO managed service clients. Before doing that, as usual, I like to show you the results of this work.

The effect of the top stories as seen from the Google Search Console.

The top stories news carousel is an ultra-performing SERP feature that strictly depends on your organic rankings.

How are articles selected to be featured in the Google Top Stories Carousel?

The Top News Carousel features useful and timely stories that cover specific news. Even the websites that are not registered as news sites with Google have a (small) chance to appear in the carousel. In other words, blogs and other sources can be included.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that it is easy for blogs to get a spot. It is possible, but being registered as a news site helps a lot as you will learn by reading further. 

As stated in this blog post, Google also features notable quotes and opinion pieces. It aims to offer its users detailed and diverse angles to get a deeper understanding of the news. 

We’ve continued to bring new improvements to Search to help people better orient themselves around a topic and easily explore related ideas, so they can more quickly go from having a question in mind to developing deeper understanding.
Smarter organization of top stories in Search, Duncan Osborn, Product Manager, Google Search

Google is now using machine learning to select, gather, and order the news by importance. Therefore, Mountain View’s search engine uses the tried-and-tested scores method. To learn more about how stories are selected as top news using scores, read this in-depth blog post by Bill Slawsky, the world-expert about patents and white papers from the search engines.

What are the best practices to optimize an article for Google Top Stories Carousel?

Here is the checklist you need to follow to grab this mobile SEO opportunity.

1. Enable AMP

A top stories carousel is presented in the Google Developers Guide as a Search Feature that requires AMP implementation. So you need to support AMP on your website either as a native or paired mode. Unless you are starting to develop a new project from scratch you are going to use AMP in paired mode. This basically means that you are reusing the active theme’s templates to display AMP responses. With this configuration, AMP uses a separate URL, whether the canonical URLs for your site will not have AMP. You can use the AMP Test Tool to ensure that your pages comply with Google Search requirements for AMP.

Update: Google has announced that in 2021 it is going to launch the Page Experience Update. As it will go live, AMP will no longer be a requirement for the top stories section. In 2020, Google has already experimented with not-AMP news on the news carousel, primarily related to COVID-19 updates. 

Anyway, unless your website is hugely performant in terms of speed, AMP is still an excellent choice to serve mobile users with a better experience.

1a. Comply with AMP logo guidelines

You need to make sure that the logo used to represent the publisher used in the structured data from AMP fits in a 60x600px rectangle, and either be exactly 60px high (preferred), or exactly 600px wide. A logo 450x45px would not be acceptable, even though it fits within the 600x60px rectangle.

Remember also when you have a logo with a solid background to include 6px minimum padding around it. Wanna see an example? Here is WordLift Publisher’s logo.

2. Use structured data to markup your articles

Google describes the news carousel as “a container that includes articles, live blogs, and videos” and what helps Google understand the content on the page is the required structured data. So the second step is to make sure that you are supporting one of the following schema types:

Article

You may also want to use one of these structured data testing tool to validate your markup.

2a. When in paired mode, make sure to have the same structured data on both canonical and AMP pages

Depending on how you are generating your AMP, you might end up, as it happened to several of our clients, with a different structured data markup on your canonical and AMP pages. This shall be prevented; it is inconsistent and can stop Google from showing your articles in the top stories carousel (we learned the lesson the hard way). The indication about using the same markup is provided in the Google AMP guide.

WordLift is fully compatible with the AMP Plugin (developed by Google, Automattic, and XWP), and AMP pages can inherit the schema.org markup of the canonical page and share the same JSON-LD. Read all about how to add structured data markup to AMP here.

3. Use multiple large images in your markup

Google in the article schema guide for AMP articles requires to provide, in the structured data markup, images that are at least 1.200 pixels wide and that have 800.000 pixels in total. This is not all – the guides also specify, that for best results, publishers shall provide multiple high-resolution images with the following aspect ratios: 16×9, 4×3, and 1×1.

image requirements for AMP

Aaron Bradley spotted it first, and it is indeed essential

3a. Keep the main content always at the center of your images

You can use a ‘universal image format‘ that will work across multiple devices and in all social circumstances with automatic cropping (square, 16:9 4:3 or 16:10). To do so, it’s essential to always keep the core of your image at the very center of it. See it here how Jason Barnard does it for his podcast. 👇

Universal Image Format

How to design your images to work with automatic cropping.

3b. Be specific when describing your images

Alt-text is essential and should be as specific as possible to describe images to visitors who cannot see them.

It is an essential aspect of accessible web design, and it is also strategic for image SEO. Google strives to index and to serve high-quality and accessible content to its users, and we shall do our best to support this process.

In the US, we heard of a case where a website did not appear on Top Stories until they improved the alt text on the featured images (the main image of the article). They were (as many publishers do) re-using the title of the page as alt text.

While this might work, in some rare cases, it is not considered an accessible practice and should be avoided.

4. Remember that being part of Google News is not required, but… it helps a lot!

Google can feature any article matching the above criteria in the top stories carousel based on its organic algorithmic selection, but… the reality is slightly different. Let’s see why:

  1. The Top Stories Carousel is indeed a SERP feature that evolved from the Google News box, and it now serves the same goal,
  2. The main difference is that the top stories carousel’s content should NOT be restricted to outlets Google News approved. The truth is that, as a result of the “fake news” scandal that exploded in November 2016, Google has removed less-than-reliable sources (and smaller sites that are not in Google News) from the top stories carousel. NewsDashboard published data showing that more than 99% of desktop news box results and 97% of mobile news box results are from Google News sites.

So unless you have the authority of Reddit, Yoast, and similar websites, there are many more chances for you to land in the news box if you are Google News approved. If you want to dig deeper into Top Stories and Google News’ relationship, go follow this thread on the Google News Help Forum.

4a. Follow the editorial guidelines of Google News

Google provides news publishers with a set of content policies to ensure a positive experience for the readers. It is not only about being newsworthy and keep on writing fresh new content; it also about limiting advertising, preventing sponsored content, malicious links, or anything that can be considered hateful, offensive, or dangerous.

Here you can find all the editorial criteria to follow and the recommendations that Danny Sullivan from Google provided in this post titled “Ways to Succeed in Google News”

4b. Avoid article content errors

In order to be featured in Google News, there are few technical aspects to be considered:

  1. Prevent article fragmentation. If you have isolated sentences that are not grouped into paragraphs, you might get an error, and your article will be rejected from Google News.
  2. Write articles that are not too short and not too long. It means to write more than 80 words and prevent your pages from being too long to read. We usually see that articles between 600-800 words are a good match for Google News.
  3. Make sure to write headlines of a maximum of 110 characters.

Review all the article content errors that you need to avoid to be eligible for Google News.

4c. Focus on original reporting 

Google has updated its news algorithm to focus more on originality as reported on September 13th, 2019 by the New York Times: Google Says a Change in Its Algorithm Will Highlight ‘Original Reporting’It has also been also confirmed several times on the Google News Publisher Help Community.

“I would recommend doing more work, or more obvious work, on original reporting – fresh, new, original facts and information that isn’t published elsewhere.” Chris Andrews (Platinum Product Expert) answering a question related to Top Stories.  

5. Speed, Speed, and again Speed

News readers want to be able to find fresh updates as fast as possible — and, especially on mobile, people care a lot about the speed of a page. A top story is a mobile SERP feature that is purely organic-driven. If you get to the top 5 results of Google, you can get it, and it will be an extra boost for your traffic. If you are not top ranking, you will not get your spot in the news carousel (in most cases).  Starting in July 2018, page speed has become a ranking factor for all mobile searches, and this means that your website needs to be blazing fast.

6. Show your E-A-T 

Google wants to give its users the best possible experience. Before anything else, this means giving them a set of results that can offer real value and can be trusted

Here is why E-A-T (acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is important. It measures the capability of a specific author, source, or page to provide authentic value to the search engine’s users. 

Working on E-A-T means taking care of a wide number of aspects that go from editorial choices in terms of transparency and method to media relations and the capacity of setting your brand as an authority. We will not cover all the parts of this meticulous job, but we would like to focus on a single and yet powerful aspect: Structured Data

As Lily Ray — who has devoted a lot of work and study to this topic — suggests, including structured data in your E-A-T strategy is a sure way to support and give strength to your overall effort. Using structured data, you will talk in the same language as Google, and all search engines will understand what you mean. 

To get featured in the Top Stories Carousel it is essential, in terms of E-A-T, to connect your content with its author. How should you do that?

  1. Markup your content with these entity types: Article, BlogPost, or NewsArticle 
  2. Make sure you use the property Author to connect the piece of content to the person who wrote it. 
  3. Create a Person entity for all your authors and make sure that the author property of each article recalls the corresponding Person entity. 
  4. Enrich the entities of your authors with properties such as affiliation, jobTitle, and connect them to other trustable sources using the sameAs property.   

To learn more about E-A-T and structured data, I recommend watching this webinar that analyses it from different perspectives. 

How to track when you have been featured in the Top Stories

Tracking traffic generated from the Top Stories is not immediate. You can only do that by looking at specific queries from the Google Search Console, using third-party tools like Semrush, or RankRanger or look for specific patterns in Google Analytics.

The simplest way I found is to start from the Google Search Console by filtering results for Rich Results and AMP Articles.

Google Search Console configuration

Google Search Console configuration

When you see a spike, you can look from a mobile device for the related keyword and hopefully find the matching article. Remember also that a given result might only occur in a specific country. For example, this article was only visible from Google in the US, so we could only detect it by changing the territory in the Google Search preferences and using the incognito mode.

From Google Analytics, we can also spot a top story by looking for a peak like the one below. As you can see, that spike, in most cases, is only there for a 48-72 hours maximum.  

Google Analytics for the article that entered the carousel.

Given the relationship between Google News and Top Stories, you might want to analyze these patterns by filtering top articles in Google News. You can do it easily in Google Analytics by knowing that  Incoming readers with referrers of ‘news.google.com’ or ‘news.url.google.com’ are from Google News.

Here is a quick overview of how to set the filters in the Organic Research tab of Semrush to check if you are featured or not. This is one of our happy clients (a large news organization in Italy) that followed our guidelines and entered the carousel in one month.

How to set the filters in the Organic Research tab of Semrush to check if you are featured in the Top Stories Carousel or not

It is also worth noticing that in a few days (less than one month), achieving this goal has generated an amount of traffic worth 8.300$.

Once again there are plenty of SERP feature optimization chances that we can leverage on when combining structured data with more traditional SEO factors and, they do create an enormous difference for your audience reach.

This article was originally published on December 11th, 2018. Last update on January 11th, 2021.

SEO Automation in 2021

SEO Automation in 2021

SEO automation is the process of using software to optimize a website’s performance programmatically. This article focuses on what you can do with the help of artificial intelligence to improve the SEO of your website. 
Let’s first remove the elephant in the room: SEO is not a solved problem (yet), and while we, as toolmakers, struggle to alleviate the work of web editors on one side while facilitating the job of search engines on the other, SEO automation is still a continually evolving field, and yes, a consistent amount of tasks can be fully automated, but no, the entire SEO workflow is still way too complicated to be entirely automated. There is more to this: Google is a giant AI, and adding AI to our workflow can help us interact at a deeper level with Google’s giant brain. We see this a lot with structured data; the more we publish structured information about our content, the more Google can improve its results and connect with our audience. 

This blog post is also available as Web Story 👉  “SEO Automation in 2021 Web Story

An introduction to automatic SEO
Will Artificial Intelligence Solve SEO?
Automating Structured Data Markup
Finding new untapped content ideas with the help of AI
Automating Content Creation
Creating SEO-Driven Article Outlines
Crafting good page titles for SEO
Generating meta descriptions that work
Creating FAQ content on scale
How Does SEO Automation Work?

An introduction to automatic SEO 

When it comes to search engine optimization, we are typically overwhelmed by the amount of manual work that we need to do to ensure that our website ranks well in search engines. So, let’s have a closer look at the workflow to see where SEO automation can be a good fit..

  1. Technical SEO: Analysis of the website’s technical factors that impact its rankings, focusing on website speed, UX (Web Vitals), mobile response, and structured data.
    • Automation: Here, automation kicks in well already with the various SEO suites like MOZ, SEMRUSH, and WooRank, website crawling software like ScreamingFrog, Sitebulb, etc., and a growing community of SEO professionals (myself included) using Python and JavaScript that are continually sharing their insights and code. If you are on the geeky side and use Python, my favorite library is advertools by @eliasdabbas 🙌 .
  2. On-Page SEO: Title Tag, Meta Descriptions, and Headings.
    • Automation: Here is where AI/deep learning brings value. We can train language models specifically designed for any content optimization task (i.e., creating meta descriptions or, as shown here by @hamletBatista, title tag optimization). We can also use natural language processing (like we do with WordLift) to improve our pages’ structured data markup 🤩. 
  3. Off-page SEO: Here, the typical task would be creating and improving backlinks. 
    • Automation: Ahrefs backlink checker is probably among the top solutions available for this task. Alternatively, you can write your Python or Javascript script to help you claim old links using the Wayback machine (here is the Python Package that you want to use).
  4. SEO strategy: Traffic pattern analysis, A/B testing, and future predictions.
    • Automation: here also we can use machine learning for time series forecasting. A good starting point is this blog post by @JR Oaks. We can use machine learning models to predict future trends and highlight the topics for which a website is most likely to succeed. Here we would typically see a good fit with Facebook’s library Prophet or Google’s Causal Impact analysis.

Will Artificial Intelligence Solve SEO?

AI effectively can help us across the entire SEO optimization workflow. Some areas are, though, based on my personal experience, more rewarding than others. Still, again – there is no one size fix all and, depending on the characteristics of your website, the success recipe might be different. Here is what I see most rewarding across various verticals.   

Automating Structured Data Markup

Structured data is one of these areas in SEO where automation realistically delivers a scalable and measurable impact on your website’s traffic. Google is also focusing more and more on structured data to drive new features on its result pages. Thanks to this, it is getting simpler to drive additional organic traffic and calculate the investment return.

ROI of structured data
Here is how we can calculate the ROI of structured data
Here is a concrete example of a website where, by improving the quality of structured data markup (on scale, meaning by updating thousands of blog posts), we could trigger Google’s Top stories, to create a new flow of traffic for a news publisher. 

Finding new untapped content ideas with the help of AI 

There are 3.5 billion searches done every day on Google, and finding the right opportunity is a daunting task that can be alleviated with natural language processing and automation. You can read Hamlet Batista’s blog post on how to classify search intents using Deep Learning or try out Streamsuggest by @DataChaz to get an idea. 

Here at WordLift, we have developed our tool for intent discovery that helps our clients gather ideas using Google’s suggestions. The tool ranks queries by combining search volume, keyword competitiveness and if you are already using WordLift, your knowledge graph. This comes in handy as it helps you understand if you are already covering that specific topic with your existing content or not. Having existing content on a given topic might help you create a more engaging experience for your readers.  

Here is a preview of our new ideas generator – write me to learn more

We give early access to our upcoming tools and features to a selected number of clients. Do you want to join our VIP Program?

Automating Content Creation 

Here is where I expect to see the broadest adoption of AI by marketers and content writers worldwide. With a rapidly growing community of enthusiasts, it is evident that AI will be a vital part of content generation. New tools are coming up to make life easier for content writers, and here are a few examples to help you understand how AI can improve your publishing workflow. 

Creating SEO-Driven Article Outlines

We can train autoregressive language models such as GPT-3 that use deep learning to produce human-like text. Creating a full article is possible, but the results might not be what you would expect. Here is an excellent overview by Ben Dickson that demystifies AI in the context of content writing and helps us understand its limitations.  

There is still so much that we can do to help writing be more playful and cost-effective. One of the areas where we’re currently experimenting is content outlining. Writing useful outlines helps us structure our thoughts, dictates our articles’ flow, and is crucial in SEO (a good structure will help readers and search engines understand what you are trying to say). Here is an example of what can be done in this area. 

I provide a topic such as “SEO automation” and I get the following outline proposals:

  • What is automation in SEO?
  • How it is used?
  • How it is different from other commonly used SEO techniques?  

You still have to write the best content piece on the Internet to rank, but using a similar approach can help you structure ideas faster.  

Crafting good page titles for SEO

Creating a great title for SEO boils down to: 

  1. helping you rank for a query (or search intent);
  2. entice the user to click through to your page from the search results

It’s a magical skill that marketers acquire with time and experience. And yes, this is the right task for SEO automation as we can infuse the machine with learning samples by looking at the best titles on our website. Here is one more example that we’re working on: a trained model that can come up with great title suggestions given a few topics. Let’s try it out. Here I am adding two topics: SEO automation and AI (quite obviously). 

The result is valuable, and most importantly, the model is stochastic, so if we try the same combination of topics multiple times each time, the model generates a new title.

Generating meta descriptions that work

Also, we can unleash deep learning and craft the right snippet for our pages or at least provide the editor with a first-draft to start with for meta description. Here is an example of an abstractive summary for this blog post.  

Creating FAQ content on scale 

The creation of FAQ content can be partially automated by analyzing popular questions from Google and Bing and providing a first draft response using deep learning techniques. Here is the answer that I can generate for “Is SEO important in 2021?”

DISCLAIMER: these tools are not yet part of WordLift but are being tested with a selected number of clients. Do you want to join our VIP Program to automate your SEO? Drop us an email

How Does SEO Automation Work? 

Here is how you can proceed when approaching SEO automation. It is always about finding the right data, identifying the strategy, and running A/B tests to prove your hypothesis before going live on thousands of web pages. 

It is also essential to distinguish between:

  • Deterministic output – where I know what to expect and
  • Stochastic output – where the machine might generate a different variation every time, and we will need to keep a final human validation step.   

I believe that the future of SEO automation and the contribution of machine/deep learning to digital marketing is now. SEOs have been automating their tasks for a while now, but SEO automation tools using AI are just starting to take off and significantly improve traffic and revenues.

Are you Interested in trying out WordLift Content Intelligence solutions to scale up your content production? Book a meeting with one of our experts or drop us a line.  


The image we used in this blog post is a series of fantastical objects generated by OpenAI’s DALL·E new model by combining two unrelated ideas (clock and mango).

Wayback Machine for SEO

Wayback Machine for SEO

The Wayback Machine is an Internet-based archive of the World Wide Web,  launched in 2001 by the Internet Archive, a US non-profit organization. It’s a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. 

Its goals include:

  • offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars,
  • preserving the Internet’s legacy and cultural artifacts,
  • providing value to the public.

The service enables users to see archived versions of web pages across time, which the archive calls a “three dimensional index”. The WayBack Machine is a free tool that can identify more than 362 billion URLs, and it can be used in many ways to improve your website’s search rankings.

If you are looking for ways to identify changes in your website’s traffic, the Wayback Machine could be a good place to start. The cached page from archive.org will load in your browser like any website except that it will have a header from Archive.org. Then you will be able to look for obvious changes in structure and content that may have lead to a change in search visibility. 

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