SEO

  • No Money, No Problem: 17 Free Ways to Boost Your Website's SEO

    SEO is a popular online marketing strategy, and therefore, competitive, but I’m consistently amazed at how many business owners and marketers opt not to engage in an SEO strategy because of its perceived limitations or drawbacks.

    One of the biggest misperceptions is that SEO is expensive, and it's driven by the fact that some agencies have higher-level packages that cost tens of thousands of dollars per month.

    Yes, SEO can be expensive for hyper-competitive, national-scale businesses, but that doesn’t mean it’s unaffordable for the average business owner.

    In fact, there are dozens of simple strategies you can execute yourself, for free, to better optimize your site for search engines. These are just some of the major ones:

    1. Find better keywords.

    Optimize for keywords that are closer to your niche and have fewer competitors. Google Trends and Google’s Keyword Toolin AdWords are free tools that should give you all the data you need. For help, see this article.

    2. Delete duplicate content.

    Google Search Console will display any instances of duplicate content it finds on your site. Usually, these are the result of canonicity errors (not plagiarism), but you still need to correct this to keep your site in good standing.

    3. Fix 404 errors.

    These errors are like dead ends, and nobody likes dead ends. Again, refer to Google Search Console for help, and set up 301 redirects where necessary to close the gaps here.

    4. Write a unique title tag for every page.

    Every page should have a title tag, of under 70 characters, that describes the page, features the desired keyword and is unique from every other title tag on your website. For a more comprehensive guide on on-site optimization, see this article.

    Related: 5 SEO Mistakes That Are Costing Your Business Money

    5. Write a compelling meta description for every page.

    Every page should also have a meta description, under 160 characters, that more elaborately describes the page. The meta description probably doesn’t play much of a role in your actual page rankings, but it certainly affects click-through rates. There’s evidence that click-through rates affect rankings, though, so ensure that your meta descriptions are unique, concise and compelling.

    6. Clean up your URL structure.

    Your URLs should have a breadcrumbs trail and feature readable indicators of the content on the page, such as the page title. Avoid using numbers or random strings of text in your URLs.

    7. Update your blog often.

    More content, as long as it’s valuable to readers, is never a bad thing. Google recently released an algorithm update that seems to favor fresh content, so keeping your blog updated is more beneficial than ever before.

    8. Include H1, H2, H3, etc. headers in your content.

    Your content should be logically divided into subsections, with headlines and sub-heads. These need to be marked with html tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to help Google process and understand the intent and organization of your content.

    9. Add internal links.

    Linking together the relevant pages of your site is good for user experience, and helps Google better understand relationships between pages on your site. If your site is on Wordpress, there are plugins that can automatically help, such as SEO Auto links.

    10. Optimize your images.

    Your images should be optimized for SEO too, and that task is relatively simple -- title them appropriately, add descriptive alt tags and keep them in the proper format.

    11. Reference authoritative outside sources.

    Google pays attention to what you link to in an article. Citing authoritative sources to back up your claims will make your content more credible and trustworthy to Google as well as to your readers.

    12. Include social media integrations.

    Every article on your site should be accompanied by social share icons; social shares serve as indirect ranking signals, giving you the opportunity to earn more inbound links, which pass authority back to your site.

    13. Optimize your website loading speed.

    This can be as simple or as complicated as you make it; there are several ways to make a site faster, such as reducing image sizes, adding a caching plugin, switching hosting providers and deleting unnecessary plugins.

    14. Optimize for mobile devices.

    The majority of Google search now occurs on mobile devices, so if your site doesn’t display attractively for mobile users, you could be missing out on a huge chunk of traffic. Also, Google will not display your website prominently in mobile search results if your website isn’t mobile-optimized.

    15. Earn some links.

    As a consistent strategy, link-building demands heavy investment, but if you’re just getting started, you can earn some links by: 1) getting active enough in your community to earn media coverage; 2) publishing an opinion about a controversial topic you’re qualified to write about; or 3) reaching out to a publication in your industry to secure a guest posting opportunity. These days, there are really only three viable strategies for link building; this article covers them.

    16. Remove bad links.

    Use Google Search Console to download a list of links to your website. Then, evaluate your link profile and identify “bad” links from low-authority sources. Remove them manually or through an email request to the webmaster.

    17. Syndicate your content.

    You’re writing lots of great content, but what are you doing with it? Take a moment to syndicate your content through social media channels, which increases the likelihood that it will earn rank-boosting links to your site.

    These tactics alone won’t guarantee you a top ranking for a competitive keyword, nor are they suitable to manage a campaign in the long term, but they will give you a strong boost and a good foundation to build an ongoing strategy. Building a full campaign from scratch takes time, effort and patience -- and you’ll probably run into hurdles.

  • Five quick tips to boost your SEO in 2017

    It’s the right time of the year to evaluate your SEOstrategy and examine the best ways to improve it during 2017. This doesn’t have to be a complicated process, though.

    New year’s resolutions are not just about our personal goals, so it may be the ideal moment to focus on your business goals and seek for the best ways to boost your SEO presence to improve authority, value and ranking.

    If you’re wondering how to start fixing your SEO for 2017, here are a few suggestions you might find useful.

    Add value

    As simple as it sounds, it’s important to create content that adds value, while it maintains its relevance for the target audience.

    It’s not just about creating quality content, but also about knowing your audience, to the extent that the content is useful and has more chances to be ranked higher in the search results for the relevant queries.

    Quick tips to add more value with your content:

    • Examine your existing content and find the most popular topics
    • Learn more about your audience and find the questions that you’re going to answer
    • Find the best way to use combine timing and context, in a way that you’ll be able to beat your competitors
    • Do not hesitate to expand your niche area, provided that you’re still useful for your target audience

    Facilitate the browsing experience

    User experience is critical to SEO, so it may be a good idea to test how it affects the traffic to your site.

    In fact, user experience starts even before the user visits your site and according to Forrester, 93% of online experiences start with a search.

    Thus, it’s important to proceed to the necessary tweaks that ensure a smooth visit:

    • Test your site’s link and fix the broken links to minimise the error pages or the duplicate content
    • Your content should be appealing both for users and search engines and thus, both readability and crawlability should be taken into consideration
    • The navigation should help the user browse the pages without problems. From the menu structure to the link structure and the page’s design, even a slight detail may impact the user experience
    • A page’s speed is crucial, so don’t forget testing it from time to time. From heavy images to unnecessary scripts, there is always a reason that your site gets slow.
    • AMP may also be relevant to your site and Google seems to prefer the pages that start using it. Is it time to experiment with it?

    Invest more time in your content

    It was already clear from 2016 that search engines focus on the actual content rather than its optimisation.

    There’s no need to spend more time on the optimisation if your content is not appealing enough for your audience.

    Monitor the keywords, the site’s stats, the levels of engagement on each topic and find what users really expect from your page.

    Think of new ideas to expand your content, or even to invest in evergreen content, and make sure you think like a reader, rather than a search engine.

    Are the topics and the structure appealing to your target audience?

    Remember, the combination of seamless user experience with quality content can have a very positive impact on your SEO rankings.

    Optimise visual content

    Visual content is more important than ever. It manages to supplement text in the best possible way (or even to replace it) and it certainly can affect SEO.

    We tend to forget how visual content should still be optimised for search engines, but luckily it only takes a few minutes to boost its SEO performance.

    • Think carefully of the titles
    • Don’t forget to add alt text, metadata and keywords
    • Pay attention to the file’s size
    • Create a video transcript to facilitate your content’s discovery from search engines
    • Consider the idea of hosting the video to your own site, not just Youtube
    • Be unique, add personality and make your visual content shareable

    Keep your online footprint up-to-date

    Your online presence goes way beyond your site. The problem is that we tend to forget how our online footprint may extend to all the different platforms we may try out at some point and then abandon.

    It’s certainly a great idea to experiment with new platforms to promote your presence, but make sure you keep them up-to-date even if you stop using them.

    Let’s say you have a Google+ page, but you’re not using it anymore (or you tend to forget to share your content there). Are the details accurate to help users find more about your business?

    Here’s a new task for your calendar in 2017, create a spreadsheet that monitors your online presence and check once a month that the information is up-to-date.

    You never know how useful this may turn out to be!

     

    Add URL Directory,

  • Nine top tips for finding new customers

    Relying on too few customers can leave you vulnerable - losing just one could mean a cashflow crisis. By consistently focusing on new business, you'll reduce your risk of failure and grow your business in a sustainable way. Here are nine tips to help you win new business

    Nine top tips for finding new customers{{}}

    1. Know your customer. You don't have to pay for market research, but you do need a good idea of your target market. Build a profile of potential customers - in particular, think about what they want and how you can appeal to them. Always aim to be special or offer better value for money than your competitors.
    2. Give incentives to existing customers. Offer discounts on future purchases or even commission, if your existing customers introduce new customers to you. Word-of-mouth recommendation is the most potent form of advertising, so surpass customers' expectations where possible.
    3. Freshen up your image. Is your signage or business logo looking tired? Does your website need revamping? Is your online marketing strategy working? Could it be time to rebrand or even rename your business?
    4. Set targets. To judge how successful your new business drive has been you'll need benchmark goals. For example, you might aim to attract enough new customers to increase profit by 10% over 12 months. Keep your targets realistic.
    5. Go back to basics. Put up flyers up in local shops. Distribute leaflets and provide introductory offers. Adirect mail campaign or an email marketing campaign can also be an effective way to reach new prospects; be sure to observe data protection rules if you go down this path.
    6. Advertise on a budget. Should your advertising strategy be improved? Give free advertising on your website to non-competitors who return the compliment. If you pay for advertising, try to negotiate cheaper rates. Pay-per-click advertising online can be targeted and cost-effective.
    7. Get in the news. Try to get coverage in your local paper or trade press. You will need a newsworthy story, or you could put yourself forward as an expert to comment on your industry.
    8. Network. Go to trade events and speak to as many people as possible. Get involved in local business associations and events. Would closer involvement in your local community be good for business? Online networking can also generate sales.
    9. Find new sales channels. Maybe it's time to start selling online, if you aren't already. This could enable you to reach many more customers and to sell round the clock.
  • Small business SEO: Your questions answered

    Being a small business is tough. Many businesses fail in the first year, and many more will not make it to the five-year mark. But even established businesses can fail if they are unable to adapt to changing times.

    Marketing is difficult — digital marketing even more so. And the black-box nature of SEO can make it the most difficult form of marketing your business. Yet when done well, there is little that can compete with strong, organic search engine visibility to promote your small business. Organic listings build trust with local customers, and all the best business relationships are built on a foundation of trust.

    In this article, I want to look at SEO as a marketing tactic specifically for small businesses. I will share everything we have learned working on hundreds of small business SEO projects. My intention is to arm you, as a business owner, with the knowledge and power to make the right decisions when implementing an SEO strategy — whether you choose to do some or all of the SEO work yourself, employ an in-house SEO or outsource the work to an SEO agency.

    It is a given that search engines and SEO will play an important role in the future of your business. And the goal of this article is to use my 20 years of SEO experience to help you make the best possible decisions when putting SEO to work for your small business.

    What on earth is SEO?

    In 2017, this is a hell of a question. Is SEO market research? Keyword research? Is it building a perfectly optimized website? Is it copywriting? Is SEO content marketing via search engines?Building links and authority? Is SEO conversion rate optimization and analytics? Is SEO ensuring you present a highly positive and credible image to potential customers? Is SEO usability and UX? Is SEO mobile optimization?

    The answer to all of these is yes. And much more. SEO is a complex, layered discipline. There are different types of SEO and many factors that can influence your SEO. An experienced SEO consultant will help you identify the type of SEO that is important for your business. This will be influenced by the industry you’re in, the geography in which you operate, and your SEO strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

    A helpful way to look at this is to consider that a search engine is just a referral engine — a tool that provides the best answers to users’ questions. For your small business to truly succeed in this search landscape, you must do everything in your power to be the best result. Whatever your prospective customers need to make a decision, be driven to provide it. This has the benefit of helping you convert more clicks to customers as well, so this is a sensible all-around approach.

    For small businesses, the main SEO areas to consider will be:

    • Website. A well-structured, fast, mobile-friendly website is essential.
    • Content. Your content should help demonstrate why a customer should choose you.
    • Content marketing. Informational blog content can put you in front of a wider audience.
    • On-page. Basic optimization is important so think page titles and meta descriptions.
    • Local SEO. Local businesses need to consider local SEO best practices.
    • Authority building. Links are still highly correlated with strong search engine results.
    • Credibility. Case studies, portfolios, reviews and testimonials help you clinch the deal.

    SEO can be complicated. So understanding your current situation and marketplace is key to making the right decisions. And fortunately, for smaller businesses we can often strip away much of the complexity, and the conversation ends up being about content, links and website design.

    Is SEO right for your small business?

    Search engines are a key way in which we all now look for products and services. So, in the majority of cases, search is a great way to get in front of potential customers. This is not to say that it is the right marketing approach for every business at any given time.

    The following should be considered:

    • Budget. You may not have the budget to compete with established competitors.
    • Speed. SEO can take a long time to deliver results, especially in competitive markets.
    • Competition from ads. Ads now occupy a lot of screen space.
    • Big competitors. Some search terms are dominated by titans, and it can be hard to compete.

    So, while organic search visibility is always desirable, it should not be relied upon solely, especially if you need results fast and have a long way to go. Typically, other methods like PPC advertising can deliver fast results while you start running the SEO turtle race.

    Generally, some form of SEO is certainly a good fit for most businesses, but the real question here is whether SEO is a good fit for your requirements right now. Consider your budget, speed and starting position to determine when this valuable tactic should be introduced. (I covered the topic of how to determine if SEO is a good fit for your business in a previous post.)

    In many cases, a combined approach using PPC and SEO can deliver the best results. PPC delivers quick results at a cost, and when your organic visibility builds, you can look at dialing back on your paid search marketing.

    So, you may not rank quickly with SEO, but the sooner you start investing in your SEO strategy, the sooner you can benefit from this highly popular marketing channel.

    How to choose an SEO provider

    This is tough and does require some groundwork on your part. Does the freelancer or agency have a good reputation and positive reviews? Do some digging, and don’t take things at face value. Who is the owner of the business? Who are the SEO consultants? Are they known and respected in the industry?

    The following questions can provide a good starting point to generate a discussion with potential SEO companies. Certainly, understanding these questions and potential answers make you a more educated buyer and as such will help ensure your SEO company becomes a secret weapon rather than a wooden leg!

    1. How will you improve our SEO?

    This is purposely an open question. You are trying to get a feel for the strategy that the SEO company will follow. We would like to see mention of technical audits and fixes, on-page optimization, local SEO, page speed optimization, mobile optimization, content optimization, keyword research and most likely some form of link and authority building.

    2. What type of SEO work do you specialize in?

    SEO has many moving parts. Technical. Local. National. Organic. Content. Links and authority. Many smaller agencies focus only on small parts, so ask the question to be sure this agency is a good fit for your requirements.

    3. What specific jobs will you work on each month?

    We would expect the agency to detail an initial three-month process that involves technical audits and fixes, on-page optimization, content creation, content optimization and link building.

    4. What strategies do you use to build links and authority for a site?

    This is an important question. We are looking for an understanding of how the web and page rank works. We want natural links. Typically, we would want to see some form of content created (or promoted) to build links to a content piece. Some form of guest posts for exposure. Possibly some digital PR.

    We don’t want to see mention of link farms, private blog network (PBN) sites, dropped domains and the like. We really want to ask the company if all links will comply with what Google considers acceptable (i.e., no link schemes).

    5. Do you adhere to all of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines?

    Leading on from link schemes, we can ask about Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Again, this shows you are an informed buyer, and many a low-quality company will run a mile when you ask this question (which is exactly what you want).

    6. Can you provide case studies or examples of similar companies you have helped?

    It is always good to get some examples of similar companies that the business has helped. You want an example of how the provider took someone (ideally in a similar industry) from the position you are in now to a position of strength.

    7. What metrics do you measure to track progress?

    You want to know which metrics the company will use to track success. Keyword rankings are the baseline here, but ideally, we want to see a more robust set of SEO KPIs. For small business SEO, you likely can’t expect too much, but I am fond of total organic search traffic — the total number of pages receiving organic search traffic.

    8. Do you have contracts or a minimum term?

    You certainly don’t want long contracts for unproven providers. If there are contracts, then you want a get-out clause after three months, when you will have a better measure of the company.

    9. How & what will you report to us each month?

    The quality of reporting will depend on the budget to some extent, but you will be wanting reports on the visibility of tracked keywords, improvements in results for tracked keywords, work completed (including all links) and work planned for next month.

    10. How often do you review progress?

    Here we want to know what will be reviewed, and when. After six months with a good provider, you will likely be in a far improved position. Hence, you want to know how the strategy will change. I would be looking for either three-monthly or six-monthly reviews here.

    Can you do SEO yourself?

    The simple answer here is yes. At least some of it. If you have been running a website, then you are likely doing some SEO yourself already. However, a professional will do a better job and generate improved results more quickly. Likewise, your time may be better spent doing what you do and paying an SEO consultant to do their thing.

    Certainly, there are some good resources out there if you want to have a go, and I recommend for all small business owners to at least have a look. Even if you only do the reading and don’t attempt to perform any SEO yourself, you’ll still be a better-educated buyer.

    Some SEO resources worth your time:

    If you really want to go deep, I recommend the following two books:

    The key takeaway is there are elements of SEO you can do yourself, but a skilled consultant or agency will get you better results in less time.

    *Things get a little more difficult on the link-building side of things. Doing this and doing it well requires specific talents. Marketing strategy, content creation, graphic design, outreach — there are a lot of moving parts, and you can spend a lot of time on the link-building hamster wheel with little to show for your efforts. If you can, use a pro.

    SEO-friendly small business websites

    I covered building SEO-friendly websites in some detail in a previous column, and I would certainly recommend that you give that a read.

    The usual suspect platforms like WordPress and Magento can work well here, depending on your business requirements. Certainly, self-provisioning platforms like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace are starting to show real promise as well for creating SEO-friendly sites without a huge learning curve or massive costs.

    Small business SEO tools

    If you are going to have a go yourself, then there are some tools you can use to help provide information on what you can easily optimize. Many of the big tools will have a monthly fee, and before long, putting a toolset together could cost as much as a reasonably priced SEO provider, so you have to take that into consideration.

    1. Screaming Frog — SEO Spider. This really is the SEO Swiss Army knife, and it will give you intel on broken links, page titles, meta descriptions, URLs and so much more. The tool is free for up to 500 pages, so most small businesses should have no costs here. However, at only £149 for the year, it comes in way cheaper than any of the typical SEO tools.
    1. Moz.com. Moz builds on the crawling tool of Screaming Frog and presents issues in a prioritized format. There are also other tools to do keyword research, rank tracking and link analysis. Moz.com is a well-rounded SEO toolset. It certainly won’t do the SEO for you, but it does a really good job of pointing you in the right direction. Moz Pro has a 30-day free trial, so you can likely get in to make some improvements to your site and get out without generating any costs.
    1. Google Search Console. This one is free and provides diagnostic information direct from the horse’s mouth. It won’t rank your site for you, but it will help you identify potential areas for improvement.
    1. Ubersuggest. Ubersuggest is a powerful keyword research tool that taps into the myriad search suggestions to help you identify a broader range of keywords you can target.
    1. Answer The Public. Answer the Public again uses keyword search data, but it uses where, which, who, what, when and why prefixes to provide commonly asked questions. This is very powerful for identifying the questions your prospective customers have so that you can target them with content.
    1. Google. Often the best source of information is simply the search engine itself. Who are your competitors? Where are they mentioned? Who are the biggest ranking sites in your industry? To truly understand which sites Google finds authoritative in your space, what better way to answer that question than to Google it?
    1. Majestic/Ahrefs. Both of these tools will give you information on who links to your competitors, and this can provide some simple direction for a link- and authority-building campaign.

    Note: None of these tools will do SEO for you. At best, they provide direction. However, SEO is one of those areas where there is always something you could be doing to improve your standing, so if you are stuck for ideas, these tools will deliver in spades.

    Small business SEO tips & checklist

    Over at my agency, Bowler Hat, we have just compiled a comprehensive list of 30 small business SEO tips to radically improve your SEO in 30 days.

    The following are 10 of my favorites and should be easily actionable with a bit of research:

    1. Register with Google Search Console.
    2. Register with Bing Webmaster Tools.
    3. Claim or create a Google My Business listing.
    4. Conduct keyword research.
    5. Organize keywords by page.
    6. Target long-tail keywords.
    7. Test your keywords with PPC.
    8. Optimize your page titles.
    9. Optimize your meta descriptions.
    10. Request links from business partners.

    There is so much that you can do as a small business to help improve your own SEO given a bit of time and structure.

  • 10 Timeless Keyword Research Tips

    10 Timeless Keyword Research Tips

    Keyword research isn’t a blog post thing. It isn’t a website redesign thing, either. Instead, it should be an everyday thing, a continual harvesting of data so you can make better marketing decisions.

    There are plenty of keyword research tools out there. But this isn’t about tools. It’s about principles – simple strategies that work now and will continue to work in the future, no matter which tools or zoo animals come next.

    Here are 10 timeless keyword research tips that will never go out of style.

    1. Funnel Stage

    Keyword research should start with a page or a group of them. On the left side of a spreadsheet, you drop in the URL. And on the right, you’ll input the keyphrase for each.

    You tick off the usual boxes like volume and competition. But you’re forgetting about something: context.

    Want more visitors? Easy. Talk about celebrity gossip. The problem is that none of it will stick around. Unless you’re paid per page view, it’s fruitless.

    Instead, that “volume” number needs some context. Some long-tail variations. Some stuff in the middle and bottom of the funnel that will bring in people who are already primed to convert.

    Take Las Vegas. Talking about the city (generally) would net you tons of visits. Discussing the finer points of “Vegas Odds” would bring you a particular type of segmented audience — people who might visit and check things out, but not yet buy. Discussing “Vegas Hotels” would finally bring in a small subset who has their credit cards in hand.

    Keyword research for the search terms "las vegas," "vegas odds," and "vegas hotels" with corresponding relevancy and volume

    Then you use content mapping to align these funnel topics to existing (or new) pages.

    • Awareness: The 10 Shortest Las Vegas Celebrity Marriages
    • Consideration: Vegas Odds for Blackjack eBook: 10 Insider Secrets to Beat the House
    • Decision: Vegas Hotels Pricing Page

    That’s a good start. But unfortunately, not all businesses are similar. This means search intent might shift up or down the funnel depending on the industry.

    Google’s own Customer Journey to Online Purchase can help you figure this out. Select your size, industry, and location then it will show you which channels are emphasized at different points within the buyer’s journey.

    For example, organic search plays a huge role when people are evaluating products (comparing alternatives in the middle of the funnel).

    Google's Customer Journey to Online Purchase tool

    So now you know where to allocate the most resources.

    2. PPC Performance

    Every company thinks they’re short on money. But what most marketers are truly short on is time.

    You simply don’t have enough hours in the day to grok around in the dark. You can’t guess which keyphrases are going to work.

    So, you pay Google to find out.

    Start with the product or service name. You know, the super commercial one that nobody searches for. Then look up related keywords to balance relevance; something pretty close but hopefully a little more popular.

    Keyword overview for "gluten free beer" showing organic search volume, paid search competition, CPC distribution, phrase match keywords, and related keywords

    Then load those suckers into AdWords and let ’em ride.

    Marketing, after all, is no science. It’s a guessing game. You have no idea what’s gonna work until you try it out, test it, and iterate it.

    3. Existing Page Topics

    Category pages on your WordPress blog are supposed to bring together closely related topics. And they do a decent job of it for readers.

    But not search engines. Cue duplicate content and canonicalization issues.

    There isn’t a lot of context around closely related posts, either. So category pages often become a mess with hundreds of posts. It’s a UX nightmare in the making.

    However, categories will do some of the work for you. For example, you’ve got tons of visually appealing, in-depth posts about cocktails. Like this one on Whiskey Sours (yes please!).

    Perfect. Now you’ve got some low-hanging fruit with potential hub pages staring you in the face.

    First thing that comes to mind is the whiskey. I mean, the type of alcohol in each cocktail.

    It might take you half a day to compile these posts in a few hub pages, breaking out drinks for people based on their liquor preference.

    So you do the usual. You start researching “whiskey cocktails” to find the right angle (and volume and competition).

    And that’s when something jumps out at you…

    Keyword research for variations of the search term "whiskey cocktails" with corresponding relevancy and volume

    Three of those relevant keyphrases have something in common: season.

    Two “summers” and one “fall.” I couldn’t have created a better segue if I tried.

    4. Seasonality

    Seasonality usually relates to when your business is booming. That short window of time each year (or several times each year) when things pick up and get interesting.

    Take flat screen TVs, the headliner at most Black Friday sales. So guess when search demand peaks?

    Line graph of interest over time for the search term "flat screen tv" which peaks during the months of November to January

    But as we just saw, seasonality can affect keyphrase choice in top and middle of the funnel, too.

    A hub page targeting “whiskey cocktails” might be tough. You’re most likely going up against the biggest brands in the industry like Bon Appetit, AllRecpies.com, or even BuzzFeed.

    That’s where the long-tail variations come in. Specifically, whiskey drinks for summer (crisp and refreshing) and those in the fall (warm and full-bodied).

    Think about seasonality in terms of affinity or what your customers are into. Here’s an extreme example.

    If customers are music lovers (and/or your product/service is best accompanied with some musical backdrop), you can capitalize on the ~four weeks a year people actually care about the Grammy Awards.

    Line graph of interest over time for search term "Grammy Award"

    5. Trending Topics

    Sometimes we overcomplicate things. We think our campaigns and strategies and content pieces need to be so creative or breathtaking or interesting.

    Jason Quey helped me simplify it in an email: “It’s a mix of doing good work + talking about an uber trendy topic. :)”

    That ‘uber-trendy’ topic he referenced was the intersection of content + influencer marketing.

    Sometimes, you don’t need to overthink it. You just need to time it right — to capitalize on freshness and Hummingbirds.

    Award shows, like the example from the last section, are a perfect example. Breaking news stories, sporting events, and major indecisions are, too.

    6. On-Site Search

    Sometimes the answers are literally staring you in the face.

    You know those times when you hear something so effective and obvious, yet you realize you aren’t doing it?

    This is one of those times.

    The first time I heard Andy Crestodina tell me about on-site search, my first reaction was: duh.

    People are coming to your site. And they’re literally typing words into a little box, telling you exactly what they want to see.

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    But then my heart rate sped up. Fear enveloped me. Panic ensued. I don’t think I ever even looked at people’s submissions until that point.

    Why would I? A handsome and witty and amazing marketer like me? Actually listen to what a customer tells me they want?

    Right. Get real.

    Enable site search inside Google Analytics, then go in under Behavior. Here you’ll find a variety of searches performed over that time period.

    Site searches as seen in the Behavior section of Google Analytics

    Some are fleshed out. But most are a starting point, a kernel, a catalyst to finding more closely related topics to guide new content creation for the foreseeable future.

    7. Branded Keyphrases

    Big brands get preferential search treatment.

    That’s the myth anyway. Largely because it’s, well, kinda true.

    Ranking for brand terms is also kinda obvious. I hope Nike ranks for “Nike running shoes.” Also, “Nike sweatshops” (oops).

    But there are variations on this tactic, too.

    For starters, “branded” terms can extend to industry terms you invent. There’s no better example than “inbound marketing.”

    Line graph of interest over time for search term "inbound marketing"

    Google themselves even have a few spins on this idea. For example, savvy brands invert the process by using certain search queries to build their brand (instead of trying to rank for a specific brand term, you target the term that can build your brand).

    Here are a few great examples they provide:

    • Category Searches: running shoes
    • Affinity Searches: marathon running
    • Interested Audiences: Boston marathon

    You can find some of this data directly inside Google Analytics. Go toAudience and then scroll down to Interests. Underneath you’ll find the Affinity Categories option.

    Affinity categories in Google Analytics

    The best part about this report isn’t just how many visitors fall into these affinity categories, but more importantly, what those groups do on your site. So you can analyze their on-site behavior (time on site, pages/visit, etc.) and see which groups tend to convert the highest.

    For example, you’ve got tons of different segments for your e-commerce stores. Which sections should you build out first? Which should you put the mostoomph behind?

    Different sections of BigCommerce e-commerce store

    Actionable segmentation data at your service.

    8. Location + Widget

    “Pizza” is popular because it’s yummy. And because there’s no shortage of places to get it.

    Therefore, it ain’t such a good keyphrase.

    The big brands will snatch it up. You’ve got no shot at ranking unless your name is synonymous with Dominos or Papa John’s or Pizza Hut. (Or, apparently, unless your pizza is terrible.)

    That’s where the location qualifier comes into play. It works because it’s easy. It’s exactly how people search already.

    A few minutes of keyword research will show you. If you don’t already know a tax attorney or an insurance professional, you’re gonna search Google for one. Preferably, in your local area.

    Keyword research for ads on tax relief

    9. Keyword Difficulty

    Keyword research is a constant balancing act.

    First, you’ve got relevance. The keyphrase needs to be (at least) tangentially related to what you do or offer.

    Then you’ve got volume. The numbers you see in most tools range wildly. However, you can at least determine if it’s a super-popular one from a decent opportunity to one with little existing search demand.

    Those two are good. They’re a start.

    But they’re not complete until you balance those attributes with the competition, specifically the other people already going after the same words. For example, here are a few possibilities for your new agency website services page:

    Keyword research for a new agency website services page

    “California digital marketing,” based on this example, is a terrible keyphrase. Volume is barely a trickle. And the difficulty is also the highest of the three.

    “California digital agency” is a little better. Volume is a tiny bit higher and not competitive.

    “California web design” is somewhere in the middle. Volume looks great. But it’s a little more difficult than the last one.

    So. Which should you choose?

    I dunno. Gotta do more research, first. Let’s dive into a SERP analysis to see what websites are ranking (so we can flesh out that vague difficulty score).

    SERP analysis for web design agency

    The Domain Authority of the first three sites looks decent. But then the next few drop off.

    So while the average score might have seemed daunting initially, you’ve still got a great shot at competing for this term.

    10. Competitive Analysis

    When all else fails, emulate. A little competitive analysis can illuminate some overlooked areas.

    For example, let’s check out the link profile of the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego. This tells us where they’re getting links from so you can reverse engineer the same tactic.

    But it can also give you an idea of what terms or phrases they’re exploiting as well.

    Link profile of Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego

    The Hard Rock has done a great job getting editorial links. But many of those are around the same (or similar) phrases: Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

    Trying to come up with ideas for a new hotel deal to come out with? See what the competition is already having some success with and figure out a way to blow it out of the water.

    Conclusion

    Keyword research isn’t a box to tick off mindlessly before hitting Publish. Instead, it should be a more comprehensive, consistent activity that guides your next great marketing idea.

    Use keyword research to continually refocus on what your customers are searching for. Then figure out how you can do a better job giving it to them.

  • 5 must-dos for SEO beginners

    You might disagree, but I see Search Engine Optimization as both an art and a science. You need to be creative in your approaches to please search engines and outsmart competitors while also applying solid research and analytics-based strategies.

    To do this, you need to employ a variety of techniques and tools. Unfortunately, however, most people tend to stick to what they know. That can be dangerous in the rapidly evolving SEO space, as the search engines continually adjust what they’re looking for and how they display results.

    Following are some of the significant — but sometimes forgotten — levers you can pull to enhance your SEO efficiency.

    Keyword grouping

    Keyword grouping refers to the organization of keywords into clusters for a variety of purposes — to inform your site’s information architecture, to optimize landing pages, to identify potential areas of content development opportunity and more.

    But organizing your search keywords into the most valuable groups can be a difficult task, even for a seasoned guru. While different SEOs and tools take a variety of approaches, I find it best to unite keywords into clusters based upon whether queries using them results in similar URLs appearing in the top 10 results in Google.

    If you have many landing pages to work with, it can be a weighty task to make reports, optimize and manage your SEO projects. As the keyword landscape is always changing, you need a tool and a solid strategy to cope with the challenges.

    Benefits of keyword grouping

    • A keyword grouping strategy allows you improve your SEO and PPC workflow and get a better understanding of how each type of a keyword is working for you.
    • It helps with on-page SEO optimization, copywriting, topic selection and organizing your website architecture.
    • You can prioritize your landing page creation based on what seem to be the most promising keyword groups.

    Many webmasters use Excel or AdWords Editor to group big collections of keywords into smaller and more targeted lists, but it’s easy to make mistakes when working manually with large volumes of data. Using special tools for keyword grouping — such as SE Ranking Keyword Grouper or Wordstream Keyword Grouper — speeds up the process tremendously while maintaining quality and efficiency. Of course, no tool is perfect. It still takes a careful eye and some spreadsheet skills to make the groups perfect.

    keyword grouper

    Page change monitoring

    Monitoring page changes is a new tactic for me, but I find it’s absolutely crucial to SEO. With page change monitoring tools, you can receive alerts about any changes on the pages you are optimizing. If you’re a small business owner who is the only one touching your pages, this tip isn’t for you. But it will be invaluable for those who work within large marketing teams and agencies on projects where the website is accessed by many webmasters, marketing experts or clients.

    When you monitor pages, you will always know when your client or a webmaster make a website change that will impact your rankings — and you’ll be able to make any necessary adjustments before your rankings drop or you get penalized by Google. We all know that even minor changes can have serious consequences, so it is really important to be aware of any adjustments before the pages are indexed by search engines.

    You can use a variety of tools and apps to set up alerts for any page changes. These include VisualPing and ChangeDetection.com.

    SE Ranking’s Page Change Monitoring also allows SEO experts to set a scan frequency and track and analyze the changes that occur between each scan. If your website is getting hacked, the feature will detect and show malicious code and bad links as well. You can monitor any pages — yours, clients’ or competitors’.

    page change monitoring

    Competitor SEO research

    Staying smart on the competitive landscape is critical for SEOs and marketers. Inform yourself by keeping track of your competitors’ marketing activities, starting from search rankings down to new content and links.

    Lots of tools can help you discover competitors’ keywords for organic search. SpyFu,SEMrushBuzzSumo and Ahrefs are some of my favorites.

    As I mentioned briefly above, one often-overlooked tactic is to use a monitoring tool to spy on the changes (like new links or new content) competitors are making on their sites. This will allow you to discover what they are doing to generate quality traffic and let you develop your own outsmarting strategies based on those findings.

    competitor research seo and ppc

    Long-tail keyword variations

    Embracing long-tail keywords is vital for online businesses that want to get high rankings in organic Google searches. Long-tail keywords are often neglected because they initially get less traffic, but by cultivating those who search for these terms, you will get better results in the long run. That’s because these searchers — with their very specific lower-funnel queries — are exactly the target audience you are seeking.

    The challenge is to find profitable and useful long-tail keyword variations for your niche and your website. Luckily, a lot of keyword suggestion tools provide this feature for use in optimizing your pages. Some of the more well-known include Google’s Keyword Planner (in AdWords) and WordStream’s free keyword tool.

    Mobile rank tracking

    It’s impossible to ignore the incredible impact mobile devices are having in everyone’s daily lives, so mobile metrics are growing increasingly important.

    Though Google hasn’t yet fully rolled out its mobile-first index, it’s on the way. And the mobile-friendly algorithm is already in play. For these reasons, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your mobile rankings, and any mobile fluctuations and changes, as they occur.

    Using Google Search Console, you can check mobile rankings using the Search Analytics report. There, you can compare desktop and mobile rankings, looking at time frames, impressions and clicks for mobile rankings.  mobile rank tracking

    Comparing desktop and mobile ranking will allow you to quickly identify problems posed by the mobile-first index rollout. If a page is ranking significantly lower in mobile, look closely at the factors that might be less than mobile-friendly.

    There are also a variety of SEO platforms (too many to name) that provide info on mobile ranking, so consider utilizing these when optimizing for mobile search. You can import the results from multiple tools, including Google Search Console, into a keyword rankings dashboard to centralize your information in one place.

    Local keyword ranking

    If your products or services are of interest to folks in your geographical area, make sure you’re also optimizing for local searches. As people carry around their smartphones and perform searches while out and about, local search — like mobile — is becoming increasingly important.

    A challenge here is that proximity has been identified as a key factor in local search rankings, which means that different people in different places will receive different results for the same queries. Therefore, you need to employ tools that are designed especially to take on this task.

    Some possibilities include SERPs’ Keyword Rank Checker (which lets you input local parameters) and BrightLocal’s free localized ranking tool.

  • Top 15 Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    Img 5203

     

    Search Engine Optimization is a very hot topic on the World Wide Web. After-all, everybody wants to rank higher and come up on the first page of Google search and get more traffic.

    Sometimes it is easy to get carried away with SEO though. In my opinion, the best technique is to keep it simple and apply a bit of common sense.

    Most SEO plugins will take care of the common architecture related stuff for you. So in this article I will only focus on techniques that you need to do yourself (or be aware of).

    I have identified and made a list of top 15 SEO practices that I tend to forget quite often. These simple SEO techniques, if practiced properly, can make a significant difference as to how my pages are ranked in the Search Engine Queries.

    1. Use proper anchor text for inter-links. Don’t use “here”, “there” etc for the anchor text (if you can avoid it).
    2. Optimize the images, always create alt tags and write description in the alt tag.
    3. Use search engine friendly permalinks. Try not to have too many ‘&’, ‘?’, ‘!’ etc characters in the URL. Sometimes it is unavoidable but try to keep it to a minimum.
    4. Use hyphens (-) between words to improve readability.
    5. Do not use underscores (_) in URLs, use hyphens (-) instead.
    6. Do not use session id in URLs. If you are using good hosting then you shouldn’t have to worry about this one.
    7. Avoid using capital letters in URLs. Windows servers are case sensitive. Keep them lowercase so there’s no confusion.
    8. Use internal linking when possible and appropriate.
    9. Use sticky posts (if you can and if it applies to you).
    10. Have a category description paragraph.
    11. Let the visitors subscribe to category specific RSS feed. (Use category specific RSS plugin for WordPress)
    12. Use rel=”nofollow” tag on low value links to not pass the page rank juice. For example “Read the rest of the entry”, “About”, “Contact” etc.
    13. Use sub-directories rather than sub-domains when possible. Sub-domains do not share link love from the main domain as it is treated as a different domain.
    14. Research the target audience and aim the site content appropriately.
    15. Keep the content up to date. Visitors don’t like outdated content. Updating the content frequently also attracts the Search engines spiders to index the web pages frequently.
  • Competitor Link Analysis

    There are a lot of resources out there surrounding competitive link analysis (and a lot that have been written by me!) but whenever I speak with people that are working on SEO projects, it's always one of those "yeah, I know I should do it more" tasks.

    This is the first thing that I'll do whenever I'm mapping out a new campaign, regardless of the size of the project. I've done this within campaigns for local businesses and blue chip companies alike - it works just as well for both.

    That's why you should be doing it too!

    What Does It Involve?

    1. Compiling a short list of competitors within your industry.
    2. Looking at the websites and specific webpages that are linking to them.
    3. Finding opportunities where you can get similar links.

    It's a simple process and it doesn't always take that long, especially once you've done it a few times.

    From using simple competitive research techniques I've found tons of link opportunities, including those on top-tier publications. More than anything, the real value comes in the fact that the link opportunities are always hyper-relevant to your business.

    How It's Done

    The first step is to use a link analysis tool like Ahrefs, Majestic or Open Site Explorer to get a list of the backlinks for one of your competitors.

    Brian Dean's Backlinks

    In the above example I'm checking out the backlinks from the awesome Brian Dean's website, which my blog often competes with in the SERPs.

    Just by scrolling through the webpages that are linking to him I can see a ton of sites where he's written guest posts. These would be my first starting points - if Brian is writing for them then there's a high likelihood that they'd be interested in having me write for them too, seeing as we cover largely the same topics.

    Huffington Post Link

    Next up is a Huffington Post link. I'd love a link from the Huffington Post, so I could go through to the article and find out who wrote it. In this example it's Elena Prokopets. Maybe reaching out to her on Twitter would help me start building a relationship so that I could share some of my content with her?

    WordPress Link

    A few links down and I've noticed that Brian has a link from WordPress.org. Not bad! Turns out that his content has been referenced within one of WordPress's codex posts. If I were to reach out and offer some additional insight, citing one of my articles, there's a chance I could bag a similar link, especially considering they have a 'Useful Resources' section.

    These are just a couple of examples of things you can find and then instantly act upon. My advice is to run competitor research on a weekly or monthly basis to find any new opportunities that you can take advantage of whilst the iron is still hot.

     

     

  • 5 Christmas eCommerce SEO Tips

     

    Each year Christmas presents new challenges and rewards in the retail calendar, as Google continues to change and consumers develop new patterns of purchase behaviour, retailers need to evolve and adapt to this in order to hit their targets.

    • Keeping seasonal pages on your site but removing them from the navigation until they are relevant again so you don’t have to build up authority from scratch
    • Analysing current rankings for Christmas keywords and targeting keywords where you already have some authority providing the best opportunities of ranking well
    • Thinking about clever ways to use Christmas keyword variations across different pages
    • Ensuring your pages aren’t competing against each other for the same target keywords
    • Optimising your site for mobile visitors so they can easily view and purchase products

    With these best practice titbits in the forefront of your mind, let’s take a look at some more strategies, that are becoming more necessary with changes in technology and consumer behaviour.

    1. Connect to your customers with mobile 

    Connect at Christmas

    Image source: Pixabay

    Last year I talked about the importance of having a mobile responsive site to ensure that consumers who are shopping on mobile devices, have a good experience on your site and can easily navigate and make a purchase. As the number of people who shop on mobile continues to grow, retailers can’t deny the need for a mobile site.

    Beyond having a mobile friendly and well optimised site enabling consumers to purchase, mobile also serves an important function for local shoppers at Christmas who are out and about looking where to shop.

    We can all relate to the frantic Christmas shopping experience, consumers can easily be going in-store, on mobile and back to desktop before they make their purchase. You need to make sure your brand is there at as many points as possible and that means when they have a mobile in their hand.

    2. Put your opening hours on Google My Business 

    Setting up your Google My Business listing is a no brainer no matter what time of year it is. Not only will it enable customers to find your physical stores but it will also build trust and ownership around your brand.

    At Christmas the stakes are raised for your Google My Business listing and you need to ensure this is set up correctly. An important part of optimising your Google My Business listing for Christmas is to update your holiday opening hours. What’s the point in keeping your doors open late if anyone with a smartphone can look up your shop and assume its closed?

    3. Integrate organic and paid

    In the past few months Google has made major changes to the way the search engine results pages (SERPs) look. Gone is the right hand bar of ads and in its place there are four paid ads, pushing organic listings further down the page than ever.

    2016 is going to be the first Christmas where this SERP layout is in effect and for eCommerce sites this makes the inclusion of paid media more important than ever. SEO and PPC work very well together and with the right keyword strategy you might achieve total search engine domination.

    SEO and PPC make friends

    Image source: Pixabay

    4. Be more descriptive

    Christmas is the time to be super specific with your product descriptions. Making sure that product descriptions, images and meta data are all optimised for the most relevant long tail keywords (3 – 4 or more words long) ensures that your products have the best chance of being found in search.

    Not only will optimising your products for more specific long-tail phrases like “Rudolph Christmas jumpers for men” help you compete against the big retail giants like Argos and Amazon, who will likely be targeting the generic high volume terms, but it also indicates that the person searching is in a buying frame of mind, whereas a general search like “mens jumpers” might be a consumer who’s at the research stage.

    5. Build links and they will come

    As you may know, SEO doesn’t happen overnight and can take 3-6 months and more (depending on where you’re starting from in terms of authority) to take effect. So if you want to be on page 1 by October/November in time for the Christmas stampede you should be starting in April ideally and July at the absolute latest! With a considerably big difference between the click-through rate of position 1 and 2 it really is a case of “you snooze, you lose”. So start building links from a mix of different types of websites now and make sure they are sprinkled across to all of your seasonal pages, as every page you want to be found organically for will need to build it’s own authority to outrank everyone else and be in the top 10.

    You snooze you lose

    Image source: Pixabay

    So get growing those blogger relationships, start producing that cool offsite content and think of your competitors blissfully unaware.

    Thanks for reading

     

     

  • The Google Sandbox

    The Google Sandbox

    One of the most common questions I get asked is ‘what is the Google sandbox?’ or ‘How can I get out of the sandbox?’, so in this guide I'll aim to dispel some of the myths about what the Sandbox is, why it’s there, and how you get out of it.

    What is the Google sandbox?

    To begin with I must say that the Google sandbox is a ‘theory’. Google has never confirmed its existence, so until they do, it will remain a theory. The Google sandbox theory is extremely simple. Around February of 2004 (yes I've been doing this for that long!) Webmasters of new websites started to notice that their websites were not ranking well in the Google results for their targeted keywords, but they were seeing good results in Yahoo! and MSN (or bing as it's now known), or they found that their site ranked well for a couple of weeks and were then dropped to the 8th page of the results.

    The reason for Google doing this is not known for sure, but there are a couple of theories: 

    The first theory is that Google may delay the inclusion of brand-new websites to encourage Webmasters to build quality, content-based websites instead of building poor quality sites providing information that is available on countless other websites. The delay might encourage webmasters to focus on the content of their main website instead of building useless mini sites. So in essence, rather than the search engines being full of poor quality but heavily SEOd (search engine optimized) websites, they would get a better quality of website prevailing for the more popular keywords. 

    The second, more cynical theory is that Google makes huge sums of money from from its AdWords listings, so if your site gets relegated to the 8th page of Google, then the only way you can get listed is by paying for a sponsored listing. Obviously if Google sandboxes every new website, and a company has a large advertising budget then they will have no qualms paying 20¢ to get people to access their website.

    Regardless of the actual reason behind the introduction of the sandbox, it has had advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is for the users of Google; they can now be assured that for any popular keywords they enter, they will be seeing quality websites, not just websites that are good at search engine optimization. The disadvantage is for the search engine optimizers and producers of new websites as it means all their efforts will not be rewarded for eight months.

    How do I know if I'm in the Sandbox?

    Perhaps the easiest way is simply by looking at the age of your site. Most websites come out of the sandbox after 8 months or so, so if you have a website that more than a year old that is fully optimized and has a lot of quality backlinks and you are still listed on the 8th page of the results, then chances are your website is receiving some kind of penalty.

     

    What can you do to get out of the sandbox?

    If you have a new website, then you can expect that it will be fully listed within 6-8 months in Google from the time when Google first indexed your website. While you are waiting, don't just sit a twiddle your thumbs, add content to your web site, get good incoming links and make sure that your web pages are optimized for Google. But be careful not to over-optimize or you could end up doing more harm than good. See the Avoid Getting Banned tutorial to check you aren't over optimizing your website.

    In order to reduce your waiting time in the Sandbox, as soon as you have registered your domain name create a few temporary pages and link to it from a couple of other website to make Google index your website. The 6-8 month delay seems to start with Google's first contact with your website. The sooner Google knows about your website, the sooner it will be listed.

    Remember, Google isn’t the only search engine on the Internet, Yahoo! and Bing don't have this sandbox so don't focus all your efforts on Google alone, but also optimize your web pages for these search engines.

     

    Can you speed up the whole process?

    It seems that there's nothing or very little that can be done to speed up the sandbox process. Some webmasters advocate that getting inbound links that point to different web pages of your website (not just to your homepage) can speed your your time spent in the Sandbox. Others suggest trying to get links from authority websites in the same category as your own website.

    The sandbox is Google's attempt to prevent spammers from creating web sites that are just after quick gains. Google aims to return high quality web sites with good content in its result pages. So while you're waiting for your site to emerge you might as well spend your time productively; write good content for your website, and try to get good quality, one-way backlinks, and before you know it the 6-8months will be up.

     

  • How To Avoid Getting Banned or Penalized

    How To Avoid Getting Banned or Penalized

    I get many people contacting me asking, “Why is my site not listed in Google?” or “Why am I ranked 387th in Google for my most popular search term when I've been optimizing my site relentlessly?”. More often than not the reason is because the website in question is suffering a penalty of some sort.

    Search Engines Don’t Like SEO

    It’s no secret that search engine operators don’t like people manipulating the results through optimization, but this is exactly what search engine optimizers (SEO’s) do. So if you make it blatantly obvious that you are performing SEO on your website then the search engines are going to penalize your website. Therefore when performing SEO for your website you must always make sure what you're doing is not frowned upon by the search engines. 

    If your website gets banned by the search engines then it means you've probably done something drastically bad to the extent where they don’t want to list your website at all. 

    So how do you know if your website is banned?

    So how can you check whether your website is banned by a search engine? 

    Check the search results

    If you go to Google and simply type the URL of your website you should be presented with something similar to below: -

    avoiding search engine penalization

     

    If you enter your domain and you get a message saying “Sorry, no information is available for the URL: xyz” then chances are your site is banned. 

    search engine penalization

    The only other time you may receive this message is if your website is brand new and hasn't been crawled by the search engines yet.

     

    Check the PageRank Bar

    Checking Google PageRank

    If you download the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) then you can view the PageRank of every website you visit. If you navigate to your website and you see a gray bar where your PageRank would normally be displayed (as the graph above displays), then this is a very strong indication that your website has been banned.

     

    Check Google Webmaster Tools 

    Google provides Webmaster Tools,which is a free service that enables you to check for potential problems with your website. It details the number of errors it encountered while crawling your website, and also any on-page problems, such a duplicated page title and descriptions that are defined in the <head></head> section of your webpages.

    You can also upload sitemaps of your website to ensure that Google knows about, and spiders all of the pages of your website.

     

     

    How to Avoid Being Banned or Penalized 

    When you optimize your website you should always think about how your website will appear from the point of view of your visitors and the search engines. There are six common pitfalls that people fall into when optimizing their websites, and will usually account for 99% of all problems:

    No diversity in Anchor Text

    Search Engines like natural linking, that is where a website links to another out of choice, so if a website has 100 inbound links that all have exactly the same anchor text, is that natural? No, quite the opposite, it’s highly unnatural. In order to avoid this pitfall, you should vary your link anchor text for each link partnership you set-up, or each time you submit to a web directory. If you’re smart about your link anchor text then there is no way your linking strategy will look unnatural

    Getting Backlinks Too Quickly

    If you operate a new website and you get backlinks too quickly then this is often a clear sign of optimization tactics. Even worse, is the situation where all of these backlinks contain exactly the same anchor text (as previously mentioned). If you operate a new website you should build links slowly. As I've mentioned already, the search engines like to see natural linking, if your website is only a week old and already has 200 backlinks, is that natural? Link building should be a gradual process, and you should resist the urge to try to get thousands of links as soon as you launch your site. Although your intentions may be well intended, you may actually be doing more harm than good.

    Keyword Stuffing

    Another important step to prevent being your website being penalized is to ensure you don’t over-optimize your website. That is to say don’t ‘keyword stuff’. Keyword stuffing is a form of spamming where you use your keyword or keyphrase over-and-over again in your web page in order to increase the keyword’s weighting in the body text. The search engines can spot deliberate spamming quite easily, and as a result, should be avoided. 

    Usually if you write a well written, informative web page then there is no need to ‘optimize’ a web page, as you will have naturally mentioned your keyword/phrase in the text. The only thing you should consider optimizing is the Title tag, this should always contain your primary keyword or phrase.

    Title Tag, Meta Tag , Image Alt Tag Spamming

    In addition to over-optimization of your body text, you can also be penalized for spamming your tag attributes. For example if you create a title tag that looks like 

    <title>Doughnuts, DOUGHTNUTS, Doughnut, Doughnut flavors, doughnuts doughnuts doughnuts, Doughnuts, DOUGHTNUTS, Doughnut, Doughnut flavors, doughnuts doughnuts doughnuts</title>

    Then the search engines are likely to take a dislike to this and may penalize your website.

    Duplicating Content

    Search engines like unique content; they don’t like seeing the same information being duplicated across multiple websites. I have seen instances where websites have been dropped from the search engines for doing exactly this. If you must insist on duplicating content from other web pages then you should disallow access to it using your robots.txt file to avoid any potential problems. To do this create a file in the root of your website so that it can be access by going to http://www.mydomain.com/robots.txt

    In the robots.txt file your can disallow access to particular files on your website

    Disallow: myduplicatedpage.html

    Or you may also specify directories:

    Disallow: /mycontent/

    Hidden Text

    Hidden text is where you create text on your web page that is the same color as the background color, so it is in effect hidden. This allows you to enter your target keywords and phrases without the viewer of the website aware that the text is there.

    In this example I've gone to a website that has hidden text (I'll keep their identity secret)

    Hidden Text Example

    If I then select all of the text on the website by pressing ctrl-a I can see that the website has a lot of hidden text at the top of the page


    Viewing Hidden Text

     

    Drastically Changing Your File Structure

    By drastically changing the file structure or filenames of your website, you run the risk of damaging your search engine rankings. The reason you may get penalized for this is because it will leave a large number of 'bad' URLs in the search engine's index, and the search engines of course don't like referring their visitors to '404 Page Not Found' resources as it reflect badly on them.

    One way around this is to redirect your old pages to your new pages, in time the search engines will update their listings and you will not suffer any adverse affects. This is done using your .htaccess file, where you can issue a 301 permanent redirect, so when someone accesses that URL it will redirect the visitor to the new location. The search engines will also update their indexes with the new URLs.

  • How Your Brand Can Create an Enviable Customer Experience for Mobile Web Searchers

    We've all heard how mobile is transforming the web experience, reshaping the landscape for marketers, brands and consumers.

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    As marketers, we now have to account for how our content will be accessed and consumed on mobile devices, whether that's a phone, tablet or phablet. As brands, we realize our efforts will be judged not only on how well or high we show up in the SERPs, but also on much we can delight the on-the-go prospect who needs information that's (a) fast, (b) accurate and (c) available from any device.

    As prospects and consumers, we've come to know and value customer experience in large part because brands that use mobile to deliver what we need when we need it and in a way that's easily consumed, have earned our attention — and maybe even our dollars.

    But that's where the similarities seemingly end. Marketers and brands seem to get so wrapped up in the technology (responsive design, anyone?) they forget that, at the end of the day, prospects want what they want right now — in the easiest-to-access way possible.

    I've come to believe that, while marketers appreciate the overall value of mobile, they have yet to realize how, for customers, it's all about what it allows them to accomplish.

    At the customer/end-user level it's not about mobile-friendly or responsive design; it's about creating an enviable customer experience, one web searchers will reward you for with traffic, brand mentions and conversions.

    I was alerted to the prominence of mobile phone use by noticing how many people sit staring at their phones while out at dinner, even as family members and friends are seated all around them. "How rude," I thought. Then I realized it wasn't only the people at restaurants; it's people everywhere: walking down the street, driving (sadly and dangerously), sitting in movie theaters, at work, even texting while they talk on the phone.