February 7th, 2020

SEO Roundup: Acronyms, Moz SERP Update, and Featured Snippets

Author: Laura Lynch
Laura Lynch
Director of Marketing

As Google continues to tweak its algorithms, we’ll take a dive into the finer points of SEO.

An SEOs work is never finished. Many days, it seems as though the more expertise we gain in a field, the more we encounter unusual edge-case scenarios that require added thought and analysis. SEO is often about improvements on the margin, meaning that seemingly small updates in places most users would never notice can lead to significant gains in search engine rankings. And it can also mean that time that a lot of time can be needlessly spent on areas where the effort isn’t being put to best use.

It’s often difficult to do a deep dive into some of the most unusual technical issues, but we do like taking a moment every now and then to recap some of the more significant changes that have been made over a given period. So in today’s post, we’re going to deal with a few SEO topics that address both the edge cases and the latest updates.

How are acronyms handled for SEO?

Ever Google an acronym and end up with results you didn’t expect? I know I have. Most often it happens when someone uses an unfamiliar acronym in conversation, and rather than ask what they mean, I try to find the answer myself via a covert Google search.

Sometimes those answers line up. Sometimes they don’t.

In many ways, Google handles acronyms the way they handle other SEO key terms. If you’re trying to optimize for an extremely common acronym (FBI, NFL, NASA, SEO), you can probably use it without ever having to spell it out.

However, for lesser-known acronyms, it’s more common to see them first spelled out in full, the acronym delivered in parenthesis, and then the acronym used consistently throughout the rest of the document.

e.g., Part of this blog will focus on the use of Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

But what does that mean for how a page is optimized? If you use “UX” consistently throughout a web page, will it still rank for the search “User Experience?”

The answer is: yes, usually, although the same might not work in reverse.

How to use acronyms more effectively in your copy.

Let me give an example. My background in Russian Studies means that when I see the acronym “RT,” I immediately think of the news outlet “Russia Today.” But many of my friends use the acronym “RT” to refer to the movie-ranking website, “Rotten Tomatoes.”

Now, if you wrote a page about movie ranking websites and used the acronym “RT” throughout, Google would be able to tell from context that you meant “Rotten Tomatoes.” Ditto for if you were instead writing about modern Russian media outlets.

But if someone uses “RT” in a search, Google might have a harder time identifying their searcher intent.

I’d chalk this up to a bad search query on the user’s part. This is something many users will quickly adjust for. If they search for “RT” intending to read about movies and instead end up reading about Russian news, they’ll refine their search to make their intent more clear.

However, in writing content, you can make it clearer to Google what your page is about by using both the acronym and its full-length counterpart semi-interchangeably. My strategy is to begin with the spelled-out phrase with the acronym in parenthesis, then use the acronym primarily throughout the piece, but still include the full-length phrase in strategic places, such as headers and alt text.And if it’s a very common acronym that everyone knows, or one that is universally recognized within your industry, then you shouldn’t have to worry about using the acronym exclusively.

What does Googles update on ranking featured snippets results mean?

On to a more technical topic. Google recently updated the way they display featured snippets in their search engine results. In the past, Google would display the featured snippet in what came to be referred as “Position 0.” Featured snippets were a smart way for many SEOs to help boost the rankings of their page past more dominant rankings.

Even better, ranking in Position 0 often meant that users would see you twice: in the featured snippet, and as an organic result if they kept scrolling down the page.

Alas, these days of double-dipping are over. In a recent update, Google has announced they are “deduplicating” organic results that appear in the featured snippets. In other words, earning Position 0 means your second ranking at Position 4 will be removed.

There is some indication that pages that appear in Position 0 will appear as a normal search result at the top of Page 2, although this is not guaranteed. Google spokespersons have also said that if a page loses its status in a featured snippet, its previous organic ranking will be restored.

What does all this mean? There are still massive benefits to  gaining the featured snippet. It’s a more prominent result on the page, and it can even let you leapfrog over pages with higher organic rankings. But pages that achieve this ranking won’t get to have their page featured twice in search results.

How is MOZ handling their SERP analysis in response to Google’s update?

On an even more technical note, those of you out there using Moz to track SERPs may be wondering how this change will affect the way Moz measures their metrics. Fortunately, Moz is even more on top of these changes than we are. Their solution is eminently practical and straight-forward.

Instead of having your featured snippet be marked as Position 0, it will now be treated as Position 1, which is just how Google handles it.

So, if you track these metrics like a hawk in your analytics, then this should help you make sense of any strange and inexplicable changes you’ve been noticing in Moz recently.

SEO is always evolving, which is why it’s up to experts to keep up.

The most dangerous thing a SEO can do is to rest on their laurels under the mistaken belief that their expertise is secure. It’s not. Expertise in this field must be continually earned and reaffirmed. As technology changes, the way people use technology changes with it. And as user behavior changes, so do the algorithms and systems designed to cater to said behavior.

Our awareness of these changes is what motivates us to stay at the top of our game. We keep an eye on industry news so that our expertise as SEOs never hits its expiry date.

But not everyone can devote the same resources to maintaining their expertise as we do. If you need help building your SEO, contact us. We can run an audit of your site and work with you to implement the latest best practices.

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