What is a Google featured snippet?

When you use Google to search for something, sometimes Google displays what they call a featured snippet. According to Google, “this featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a webpage, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL.” A featured snippet looks like this:

10 most common native tree species in the U.S.

As you can see from this, Google’s featured snippet isn’t perfect. My question pertained just to the North East and only asked for the three most common trees. However, the point of the Google’s featured snippets is to provide the best answer to a user’s questions. Google will display what they believe to be the best answer to the question, and they will feature this in a section above the ads and above the organic search results. Sometimes this will be a paragraph, or a list, or a table.

These snippets provide enormous opportunities for marketers. Businesses with a featured snippet:

  • Increase brand visibilty
  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase the click-through-rate of the web page that answers the posed question
  • Increases and reinforces authority and credibility
  • Improves exposure on mobile devices – this is what appears in voice-activities inquiries


Why You Need to Optimize Your Google My Business Page

One of the most important things you can do to rank well in local SEO is to optimize your Google My Business page. Chances are high that if you haven’t done this yet, a Google representative has been hounding you with robocalls to set up your Google My Business page.

Local SEO is so significant that almost half of all Google searches are local, and this will become even more significant in 2018.

When it comes to local searches, the information Google uses to rank your website — and that  it displays to people in local results — comes mostly from your Google My Business page, not from your website. You can set up your Google My Business page directly with Google, but it’s important that you verify your listing so that nobody else is able to edit your page in the future.

Your Google My Business page must include:

  • a proper and unique description of your business,
  • the correct business category
  • local phone number and address that is consistent elsewhere online
  • relevant photos of your business,
  • plenty of 5-star reviews

Google gives a lot of weight to the reviews. But as you may be aware, reviews aren’t always easy to get. Even a business with loyal and satisfied customers must work hard to get them.

The key is to ask often and make it as easy as possible for happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review for you, such as on Google My Business listings and Facebook. You can always repurpose these reviews in other areas such as in email newsletters or on your website. One site that makes this particularly easy is Whitespark. Check out their Google My Business Review Link Generator.

If you run a local business, it’s important to make the steps above a priority. Whenever a review is left about your business, positive or negative, it’s important to respond to it. It shows others reading the reviews that you care what your customers think and that you are willing to dedicate time to their own unique experiences and needs.

If you set up a Google My Business page and make a concerted effort to build your reviews, your local search engine rankings will improve and help you compete with your local competition.


How to Sync Multiple Google Calendars to Your IPhone or IPad

Google Calendar is one of the best online calendars. I use it for work and play but recently had some trouble syncing the calendars I have view-only access to with my iPhone and iPad.  Follow these instructions and you will be fully synced in no time.

Here’s how to get all of your Google calendars working on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. First, make sure your Google calendar is synced. The process is the same on all devices.
  2. Go to Settings. Then open Mail / Contact / Calendars.
  3. Next, select Add Account and Gmail. If you have already added your Gmail account, then instead of Add Account, choose Gmail from the list.
  4. Toggle the Calendar switch to On.

Next you must choose which calendars to sync to your phone or tablet:

  1. To do this, you need to visit www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect
  2. Make sure you are signed into your Google account. On this page you will see a list of all your calendars. Beside each calendar there is a check box.
  3. Tick the check boxes of the calendars you want to sync with the iPhone or iPad.
  4. Shared calendars that you don’t have administrative control over need to be selected individually, and the default setting is “Off”. This means that when a new calendar is shared, you will have to go back to https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect and configure again.
  5. Click save.
  6. Open the Calendars app on your iPhone or iPad and wait for it to sync.


Google+ Undergoes Huge Redesign

Google+ has just had a huge redesign. The social network has been entirely refocused on interests, and in the process dropped several of its most used features.

The new Google+ is much simpler. You’ll see this clearly in the new navigation centered around Collections and Communities. With Collections and Communities, discovering amazing things is simple: just follow or join whatever happens to pique your interests.

Google+’s new focus is on Collections and Communities: Collections allow you to immerse yourself in a specific subject — home brewing, sous-vide cooking, or Guatemalan entomology, for example; Communities allows you to meet up with like-minded users.

The new Google+ also makes it easier to post, search, connect, and keep up with great content in a fully redesigned home stream.

You can preview the new Google+ on the web today by signing in and clicking “Let’s go” when you see the prompt. (And since not every feature of Google+ has made its way into this new design, for now, you can toggle back to the classic Google+ with one click in the bottom left-hand corner.)


Big Update to Google Photos Today – You Can Now Share Albums

There’s a big update to Google Photos today. You can now share albums.

The feature allows friends and families to collaborate on photo albums. Google Photos users can subscribe to albums and receive notifications whenever an image is added to the album. You can also send out invites for collaboration, as you can with Google Docs.

Google also added the ability to label people on your albums. These labels can be customized, so you can call your friends and families by nicknames if you prefer.

You can also now finally use Chromecast to cast your photos to your TV. And you can also cast Google’s animated GIFs to your TV.

The features are launching on Android this week, and will arrive on the Web and iOS a while later.

Master Google Photos

To put it simply, Google Photos – even with its quirks – is a revelation. Within minutes of playing with the free product, I knew I was going to cancel my SmugMug account. I also knew that I would probably never look at Amazon Photos again. If you use the free version, Google will compress your photos (down to 16 megapixel – still quite large). The paid version is inexpensive (100 GB is $1.99/month. 1 TB is $9.99/month).

The appealing features include unlimited storage for photos and videos, some neat user-interface tricks that make the thousands of photos that we all now take easier to navigate, and, perhaps most importantly, smart image recognition technology that makes your library of photos almost endlessly searchable. Google Photos promises to turn the haphazard collection of images you generate daily into sortable batches of meaningful photos.

We still have a lot of exploration to do, and some pain points are already evident. For example, migrating 50GB of my photos from SmugMug to Google Photos was a headache. I had to download in increments from SmugMug (55 zipped files in all) and then unzip and upload folder by folder to Google Photos. It took about 4 hours.

It’s also worth noting that all of this has been done before in some form or another. Facebook has great facial recognition. Flickr can identify content in your photos and place them in broad categories. Google’s real accomplishment here is stringing everything together more or less seamlessly. Plus, you’ve already got a Google account. No new accounts! Just sync everything you take on your phone and this stuff all works like magic.


Twelve Steps to Make Yourself a Google Photos Master

Step 1 – Share and Unshare

One of the best features introduced by Google Photos is the ease with which you can share an image or group of images through a link. Anyone with the link can see the selected pictures though, so you might want to review them regularly and delete the ones that are no longer required—choose Shared links on the web menu to do this.

Step 2 – Test Out the Search Capabilities

This is one of the most amazing things about Google Photos. Google Photos’ intelligent search function is more intelligent than you might think. As soon as you click inside the search box in Google Photos on the web you’ll be given some suggestions, but you can look for almost anything: Try “truck”, “wine”, “ice”, “dog” or even “selfie”, for example, or a photo type like “panorama” in your queries. It doesn’t get it right every time, but it looks like it learns from its mistakes. Because the search capability is so powerful, you no longer have to organize your photos in folders.

Step 3 – Send Videos to YouTube

Google Photos handles your videos too—it will store an unlimited number of them if you’re happy with a maximum quality of 1080p. If you have the paid version of Google Photos, the quality isn’t restricted but there’s a maximum video size of 10GB. Head to the YouTube upload page and there’s a new option to import clips straight from Google Photos into your YouTube channel, where you can title, tag, and share them as required.

Step 4 – Backing up Photos from Other Apps

This is where Google Photos really earns its chops and, in my experience, is much smoother than Apple’s icloud. Google Photos does a quick and clean job of sending pictures you snap on your smartphone or tablet to the cloud, but you can also do the same for apps like Instagram and WhatsApp on Android. From the Android app, open the app menu then tap Device folders to choose which folders to include or exclude from the back-up process.

Step 5 – Select Multiple Pictures at Once

Most of us will have a ton of digital images on our devices and Google Photos offers a few tricks to make managing them more straightforward. For example, inside the mobile app you can press and hold and then swipe to select multiple pictures—it’s almost as easy as using a mouse and a keyboard to drag across a bunch of photos.

Step 6 – Make Stories from Your Photos

Stories in Google Photos are like guided albums with captions and a particular flow to the pictures, but you need to go through the mobile apps to create them. Tap the Create icon (a plus symbol) then choose Story—from there you can select the relevant pictures, add captions and locations, and change the cover photo.

Step 7 – Remove Geolocation Data

The location data stored with your pictures helps Google link pictures together based on where they were taken, but you don’t necessarily want to include this data when you share photos with others. Head into Photos settings on the web and enable Remove geo-location in items shared by link to do exactly that.

Step 8 – Import Photos from Computers and Cameras

The mobile app for iOS and Android have been getting most of the attention—that’s where we take most of our photos after all—but you can upload photos from the desktop and memory cards too. Download the client for Windows or Mac, specify the folders you want to back up to the cloud, and Google takes care of the rest.

Step 9 – View Photos and Videos in Google Drive

Go into the Google Photos settings on your computer and you can choose to view photos and videos stored in Google Drive through the Photos interface: This doesn’t actually move them over, so if you disable the feature the images disappear from view in Photos. This is only really useful if you already have a lot of your content stored in Google Drive.

Step 10 – Download Photos to your Desktop

In Google Drive’s settings on your computer, you can create a folder showing your Google Photos and then install the Google Drive desktop client as well—everything uploaded from mobile and stored in Photos then gets saved to your local Google Drive folder. (If you also have the desktop uploader installed, you may end up with some duplicates.)

Step 11 – Check Out the Assistant

Google knows some of us take a ton of pictures of the same thing from slightly different angles or in slightly different lighting just to be sure we got it. Most of those repeat photos land in the dusty corners of our hard drives, never to be seen again. Assistant finds those repeat photos and puts them to use by automatically creating photosets, collages, and animations.

Even better: It detects images that are similar and, when possible, stitches them together to create panoramas. While you may not have had the presence of mind to snap a panorama, Assistant will pick up on those overlapping images and create the panorama you never thought to take.


Step 12 – Create a Video with Music and Share it in Minutes

This is perhaps the most powerful feature of Google Photos. What used to require a special photo or video editing program and at least an hour of your time now takes minutes to create. The Google Assistant actually created this one for me – https://goo.gl/photos/9bJtewdmj9wEz6yK8


Must Have Google Chrome Extensions

I have been a diehard Google Chrome user since its inception. The ability to sync bookmarks, passwords, and web history across all my devices made the switch from Firefox a no-brainer, but what I find really interesting is the amount of extensions available for Chrome. Extensions are tiny programs that run inside Chrome. There are more than 50,000 extensions and you have to be careful because not all are friendly and not all play friendly with others. A 2014 study found several hundred malicious extensions.

That said, you can trust me that the following extensions are safe and useful if you’re part of the 64.9% of internet users who use Google Chrome as your browser.

Must Have Google Chrome Extensions

1. Limit Your Time on Distracting Sites

With social media, it is way too easy to waste time surfing instead of getting things done. To help save you from yourself, use the StayFocused extension, which prevents you from connecting to any time-wasting sites for a set period of time.

The list of blocked sites can be customized from the options menu if you do not like the stock blacklist. Keep in mind that once the timer is set, it cannot be stopped, so be sure that you don’t overstate just how long you need it to run.



2. Reduce Chrome’s RAM Usage

Google Chrome uses lots of memory, so this extension reduces RAM usage by stopping inactive tabs from eating up even more resources, try out The Great Suspender.

This extension makes a tab inactive if you don’t interact with it for a period of time. The inactivity limit can be changed from the extension’s option menu. Once you return to an inactive tab, all you have to do is reload it to start using it again.



How to Make Google Chrome Run Faster

Google Chrome is by far the best internet browser. It is the most secure and has the most features and, as of May 2015, is used by approximately 64.9% of all people browsing the internet from a desktop or laptop computer. Apple’s Safari accounts for just 3.1% of the market.

As great as Google Chrome is, there are ways to make Google Chrome run faster.

Step 1 – Access Google Chrome’s Secret Settings

Google Chrome allows you to use unofficial “beta” browser features called “flags” while they are being tested. These features are strictly experimental and may break or disappear while you are using them. To access these settings, simply type chrome://flags in your browser bar. Hit Enter and you will be taken to the flags page and shown a warning:


Step 2 – Use Find to Make Things Simple

The Chrome flags page is not presented in a user-friendly format – probably because it is not intended for mainstream users. To make things much easier for you, type Ctrl+F to open the search bar in the right-hand corner. Then, in future steps on this post, just type the search term into the search bar and let search find the content on the page.

Step 3 – Set Maximum Tiles to 512

Basically this feature will increase the amount of RAM (memory) that Chrome is allowed to use and this should immediately speed up your browsing. By default Chrome uses 128MB of RAM. In the search bar that you just opened in Step 2, type Maximum Tiles and hit Enter. Once you’re brought to the Maximum Tiles row, click the drop-down menu and change Default to 512.


Step 4 – Change the Number of Raster Threads to 4

This modification will change the rendering speed of images in Chrome. Search for Number of Raster, and change the number of raster threads to 4.

raster threads

Step 5 – Relaunch Chrome to Make Chrome Run Faster

In order for these changes to take place, you need to relaunch Chrome. At the bottom of the chrome://flags page, you will notice a “Relaunch Now” button—click it, and you will quickly see how Google Chrome is faster.


Be Ready For Google’s Mobile Update on April 21st

What does your company’s website look like on a mobile device? Be ready for Google’s algorithm update on April 21st.

On April 21st, Google will begin taking mobile-friendliness into account a ranking signal in search. What does this mean? Websites that are not mobile-friendly will see a severe negative impact on their search ranking and organic traffic. Site that are mobile-friendly will likely see a boost! Site that are not mobile-friendly will be penalized by Google.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What exactly is a mobile-friendly website?

A mobile-friendly website is a website that is dedicated to the mobile user experience as well as the restrictions that result from smaller screen sizes. Some mobile websites are separate stand alone sites, but all Connect4 Consulting websites are responsive in that they change adapt automatically depending on the screen size.

If I hire Connect4 Consulting to design a mobile site for me, will that work for Google’s mobile SEO site update?

All Connect4 Consulting websites are built to Google’s standard for mobile search.

How can I know whether my site is mobile-friendly?

Google has a simple tool you can use to determine whether your website is mobile-friendly according to Google. Simply go to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and enter your url. If your site is not mobile-friendly, or if your site is mobile-friendly but has errors, you need to make some changes to your site as soon as possible.

Increase Search Traffic with Google’s Next Update

Increase search traffic with Google’s next update. On April 21st, 2015, Google will roll out an update that makes mobile friendliness a larger part of its algorithm. This is a really big deal.

Why? Because Google is saying the mobile update will have a bigger impact than its Panda update.

Should you be worried? Yes!

Neil Patel’s blog on Quick Sprout gives you 3 steps to help you take advantage of this update. Be proactive and help yourself so you are not caught with your pants down.

Don’t Get Caught with Your Pants Down: 3 Steps to Increase Your Search Traffic with Google’s Next Update