Your Job Is to Make Google Look Good

Yes, that’s right, if you want Google traffic, your job is to make Google look good. This post will explore why this is true, and what it means for your SEO strategy.

make-me-look-good-text

Why, Oh Why, Is This True?

A few months back I was speaking with someone, and they asked me an age-old question about links. Basically, it went like this:

Other Person: “You are telling me I need links, but I can’t simply buy them. Why would someone link to my site?”

Me: “It’s simple. People link to other sites when they believe that doing so benefits them. Here are two examples of ways this might happen:

  • The site they link to is being used as an authoritative source of information as backup for some point they are making. This is like a classic academic citation.

classic-academic-citation

  • They believe the site they are linking to would be valuable to visitors on their site, and by sending these users (temporarily) away, they are building their relationship with these users.

In short, links from their site benefits visitors to their site, and that’s good.”

Other Person: “But that means I need to make a good site which is worth linking to!”

Me: “And, this conversation is exactly why you will never become a client!”

OK, the conversation did not really end like that, but you get the main point. Links are given by publishers for a reason, and it’s generally intended to benefit the publishers themselves — via the seemingly indirect means of being of benefit to the visitors to the pages of their site.

It’s no different for Google. Their search results have many links in them. They carefully sculpt and craft their search results page with the goal of providing high-quality results. If they send lots of people to your site, and most of them end up being dissatisfied, guess what? It reflects badly on Google.

In fact, they are constantly testing their algorithms in an effort to improve the quality of the results. They know that improved quality helps them build stronger relationships and higher levels of activity with their users, and ultimately, this leads to greater revenue for Google.

user-satisfaction

So how do they measure whether your page is a good for them to link to? There are two major methods they could use:

  1. An analysis of on-page content to evaluate its quality. Some of the core concepts of this are covered in this article by Cyrus Shepard: “More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO.”
  2. An analysis of user interaction with your content to determine how they like it. Some ways that this could be done are discussed in this Microsoft research paper.

So which methods do they use, and how do they weigh them? I don’t know. As a tech geek, knowing this would fascinate me. As a publisher, it does not matter, as the impact on my behavior is the same either way, so let’s discuss that next!

Provide Complete User Experiences

You have to start thinking about providing a complete user experience to your visitors. Think of it this way: If 100 visitors come to your page after searching on your target key phrase, what percentage of them will be happy with what they see?

For example, if you had a site that sells shoes, and someone searched on “women’s running shoes” and then arrived at your site, what might they be looking for? Here are some examples of things you might need to cover on your page:

  1. Some shoes to buy
  2. Different sort orders, such as by price, size
  3. Types of running shoes (e.g. track, cross country, etc.)
  4. Different brands
  5. Product descriptions
  6. Pricing
  7. A shopping cart and option to check out now
  8. A privacy policy
  9. An about us page
  10. Trust symbols

100-person-refinement-model

Your text on the page should reinforce the page’s ability to address a breadth of needs. Not every need is on the one page, of course. In many cases, people should be able to obtain different variants of their needs by clicking through to other pages on your site, or even off to other sites. The bottom line is that the search engines want to know that your site does a better job of satisfying users than the other sites out there.

Summary

Accomplishing this is hard. You will need to continuously invest in improving the pages of your site to get there. To get some idea of what Google does to pursue that, go back to this article I linked to above to get some ideas, or this article from Lisa Barone provides some useful tips.

However, know that this is a deep topic that needs more than a few hours of your time. Creating an awesome website has to become a compulsion, and yes, it’s an SEO ranking factor, one way or another.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
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How Do You Schedule Posts on Facebook 2014

There is always confusion over whether Facebook penalises pages which use automated posting. Things like Hootsuite and Buffer. So, if you’re not sure, you can use their own tool on the status update box to schedule posts on Facebook.

Facebook change the way you schedule posts on Facebook

However, in October 2014, Facebook changed the way that you schedule posts on Facebook.

Instead of this:

schedule posts on facebook

You now have to press the dropdown menu to the left of Post.

Then you will find the option to Schedule, Backdate or Save as a Draft.

Why you should schedule posts on Facebook

It allows you to spread your posts and status updates out a bit. Sometimes 10 posts in 10 minutes can be like having verbal diarrhoea on your friends’ or fans’ news feeds. And it’s never a good idea to swamp people with your thoughts or content. And in November 2013, the scheduler got an update that makes it much faster to submit several posts at once.

Some people make the mistake of doing two hours on Facebook one day a week and then not darkening its doorstep for the remaining six days. That means you are late to respond to anyone who does comment. It’s a bit like playing Knock Down Ginger. You ring their doorbell and then you run away!

Little and often is much better… but not too often! The two biggest reasons for people unliking a Page or hiding content in their news feed is too many posts or irrelevant content.

But, as is usually the case with innovations from Facebook, it’s not immediately obvious where it is… or how to use it.

Read our Welcome to Facebook post for more tips on using your business page.

SEO-Friendly Website Design for DeepCleen in Southend

Nozzy came to us looking for help with her website. It looked good but it just wasn’t bringing in the customers because it wasn’t showing up on Google.

We took the basic WordPress design and updated the theme so that it became responsive – it looked good on mobile phones.

SEO Friendly Website Design

And then we began the process of working on its SEO.

Amongst other things, we made sure that all the pages had proper meta titles and meta descriptions so Google (and Bing and other search engines) know what those pages are about.

Then we began regular blogging to show those search engines that the site was updating regularly. We made it look as well-loved and well cared for as one of Nozzy’s clients.

A month or two later, the DeepCleen site began climbing up the rankings. As a result, enquiries began to come through via the contact page and also on the telephone.

I don’t know what she does, but she obviously does it well because my website is starting to climb up the rankings

DeepCleen in Southend, Essex

Have a look at another simple website design we did here.

Click here to find out more about our affordable website designs or call us today on 01702 476517

“Which Update?” Is the Wrong Question

With the combinations of Google Updates taking places within short periods of time, one of the more frequent questions I encounter as an SEO is, “Which update _______ (fill in the blank with a comment related to either drops on increases in rankings)?” While I understand the instinct to relate X to Y and have fallen victim to the simplicity of it many times myself, we have to remember that this is entirely the wrong way to look at search algorithm updates. While normally I try to write articles directed as passing on a specific piece of information or skill (normally – not always), this time I’m hoping to pass across a learned (the hard way) limitation in focusing in on a specific algorithm or update.

The truth of the matter is this, inherent in the question, “Was my ranking drop related to Panda or Penguin?” is a frightening truth, a belief that it could be either and thus, a belief that the site is lacking in the area of links, quality, and content. That’s quite the lack of faith and if it’s well placed (i.e. any of these areas actually could cause a problem) well…that just illustrates the title of this article. The question to determine a specific one issue is misplaced, rather – a complete re-evaluation of the site and your online presence has to be evaluated. After all, let’s say it was a Penguin penalty that hit you THIS TIME. You focus and get it fixed and for what, to get hit with a Panda or Pirate or Plankton update down the road.

Plus…

Another major issue is that most people don’t fully understand how the algorithms themselves can impact your rankings and thus looking to a single algorithm tends to put the blinders on to other areas. Let’s say for example that you noticed a drop in your organic traffic starting in late September. That would tie in pretty tightly to the Panda 4.1 update and so it would seem pretty logical to start vetting your content. A drop in traffic tied to the Panda algorithm has to be related to content, right? Wrong, and it’s this focus on a specific update tied to a misunderstanding of the updates themselves that can cause a huge issue.

Now you may be thinking, if Panda is about content and more specifically, getting rid of low-quality or thin content (which it is), then how can a drop in results right after a Panda update not relate to having low-quality content or content that’s sending out a false-positive signal? Imagine a world where you did some less-than-stellar link-building. Let’s imagine that those sites you build links on had low-quality content. Now imagine what happens to the value of the links to your site when they get hit with the Panda update.

So yes, you got affected by the Panda update, but no it’s not related to your content. But do you see what happened there, if you focused on looking just to what the update itself was defined to do you’d be looking in entirely the wrong location for the issue.

So What’s the Right Question?

The right question to ask will depend on your skill level and experience. So let’s break it down to its simplest form:

Beginner SEO or Management

If you’re just at the entry level stages of being an SEO or if you’re not even an SEO and simply responsible for making business decisions, then the question is simple, “What can we do to improve out content and link profile?” You need to do a thorough and unbiased review of your content and your backlinks and develop strategies to improve both.

At this experience level, you can’t hope to understand the complexities of what different algorithms may or may not be doing and so you need to fully vet everything. You may start at the most likely culprit based on which algorithms you believe may be affecting your traffic but it’s important to address the full scope of the site.

Intermediate SEO

At this stage you’ll have between two and five years of experience and seen your fair share of updates come and go. With that we can safely assume you know not to panic and that you can think beyond the obvious. The question to ask if you’re at this stage is, “Which ranking signals could possibly be affected by the update I believe has affected the site?” You’ll then begin your audit of the site starting with those elements. Once that’s completed, it’s time for a full review of the content and links to insure you’re not about to get kicked with a different update or on the chance you missed something or were in correct in what you believed caused the issue.

Expert SEO

I decided to include this, though the question is the same as for the intermediate with a special caveat…being an expert (which I’ll qualify as more than five years of experience) leads to a terrible habit, the habit of thinking you’ve seen it all and know it all. I know, I’ve fallen into this trap myself and been burnt by it. If this is a site you’ve been working on for a while it may be time to call in outside help so they may be able to see the forest through the trees.

To steal from Tim Ash, none of us know our baby is ugly but anyone who’s ever seen babies before knows some are and some aren’t. If you’ve been the lead SEO on a site for years, you may not see the glaring issues with your own environment and it may be time to get some new eyes on it, eyes that don’t think they know it all and have seen it all. If you’re lucky, you have staff with experience in this area, but if you don’t you may need to hire a set of eyes to do an audit of your site. Either way, an expert in a ranking drop situation can almost be worse than a beginner at times in not knowing their own baby is ugly, especially if they have other sites doing well.

Assume…

…nothing. If your rankings are hit with an update, it’s time to fully review all the elements, not just the ones you think about. Don’t change algorithms, build what you know will be strong and what will withstand updates and if you drop, look at the structure as a whole. After all, there’s no point in buying new tires for your car if your clutch is about to die.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

seoClarity: In Mobile World, Search Result Placement Is Critical to Clicks

Search engine optimization – and where a website appears in search results – can have a significant impact on click-through rate (CTR), especially for mobile search, according to a study released last week by SEO analytics provider seoClarity.

The study – the first of a three-part series analyzing CTR for mobile and desktop users – collected data over 90 days during the summer to avoid any seasonal impact on the results.

The Findings

First and foremost the study found that if you’re not first, you might as well be last. The most significant findings of the CTR study are those showing mobile behavior. The first ranking result comes in at 27.7 percent CTR, and drops to just 9.2 percent for the second-placed search result. This study claims to be the first to compile a comprehensive data set of CTR for mobile.

ctr-mobile-study

When reviewing desktop metrics, CTR rates fell by 7.9 percent from the first ranking result to the second.

ctr-desktop-model

The study also included desktop results for branded versus non-branded CTR. As evidenced by the chart below, the top-ranked branded result has a 22 percent higher CTR than the number two spot. However, once you reach the fifth ranking result, the CTR stays consistent through the 10th ranking result.

When reviewing the data for non-branded keywords, a much more consistent decline in results is even clearer.

ctr-brand-versus-non-brand

What Makes This Study Different?

  • The team analyzed more than 2 billion imprecisions and 2.6 million clicks
  • Clients agreed to provide access to their data for research purposes
  • This is the first CTR study that drills down into mobile behaviors

To provide more insight into the results, SEW spoke with Ryan Heuser, senior technical account manager of seoClarity, and primary author of the study.

SEW: Do you attribute the gap between CTR on desktop and mobile purely to the platform? Or do you believe the user habits to be different, therefore causing the gap between Rank 1 and Rank 2?

Heuser: I don’t believe one factor independently contributes to the gap, as there are a number of variables such as user intent. User behavior certainly plays a role, such as if a user wants to quickly find information on a search they’ll be more apt to click the first available link with relevant content to find their answer. Customized results and local intent further impact the results page and inevitably influence click through rates.

SEW: When analyzing mobile results, did you differentiate between those that used the Google app and those that used the standard browser on their mobile device?

Heuser: For the study we used Google Webmaster Tools as presented and did not segregate the results for mobile between app or browser. I do not believe it would impact the data in any significant manner.

SEW: How much do you believe changes in search engine algorithm will affect samples like the ones collected for this study in 2015 and beyond?

Heuser: The best studies are those done recently and with a large sample size because of that exact reason of the algorithm changing. Not only does the result set change, but the lay out and display can as well. It would be beneficial to see the study done on a recurring basis to provide the most actionable data.

SEW: As the author of this study, what data points/results do you believe are the most surprising?

Heuser: Certainly the percentage and thereby the value behind ranking in the first position on a mobile was interesting, but I believe it’s understandable considering the custom and local results, as well as the need for speed of knowledge.

The most surprising points beyond that are the higher percentage in position 4 vs. 3 on mobile, which seems to be related to user behavior (aka fat thumb scrolling) and the higher percentages for position 10 vs. 9 (both desktop and mobile) that further speaks to user behavior (part of the reason ad space is sold at the bottom of the page).


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

Your Guide to 301 Redirects for SEO

Ever since Web addresses started appearing in print, it’s been tempting to lop the “www” off to make the URL easier to remember and to use.

Does it matter if you do that? Is a www address better for SEO? If a viewer uses www, will the page show up differently than if they don’t?

Though the “does www matter” question can spark holy wars, in general nothing bad will happen whether visitors type in www or leave it off. But there are things you should handle with care, lest your SEO campaign suffer.

Should I Use WWW or Not?

When you register a domain name, you register example.com, not www.example.com. That’s because the www part of the URL is actually considered a subdomain, much like blog.example.com, login.example.com, etc. The www largely is a carryover from the days of the Internet when you had to specify that you were using a World Wide Web site and not something like gopher or ftp.

While most of the time typing www.example.com and example.com will take users to the same place, they are technically different URLs that could be set up to display different content.

Now for the bad news. When it comes to domains, Google practices what’s called canonicalization, the process of selecting a “preferred domain” URL that best represents the site. If the site owner doesn’t choose one, Google will decide which URL to index.

If Google picks http://example.com but all your links point to www.example.com, then the fruits of your efforts are being diluted, causing a disadvantage to your SEO campaign.

The Preferred Domain

Thankfully, you can choose a preferred domain rather than leaving it to chance. Log in to Google Webmaster Toolsand follow these steps:

  1. Click on your site on the Webmaster Tools home page.
  2. Click on the gear icon and then click Site Settings.
  3. Find the Preferred domain section and select the option you want.

If you built your site without selecting a preferred domain, any links to your non-preferred domain won’t benefit your preferred one from an SEO perspective, unless your non-preferred one redirects to the corresponding preferred version using a 301 redirect.

What Is a 301 Redirect?

A 301 redirect is the HTTP status code for when a page has been moved permanently to a new location or URL.

In our case, if we set http://example.com as our preferred domain, we can set a 301 redirect for www.example.com, Similarly, we also can do this for www.example.com/index.html or www.example.com/index.php.

With a 301 redirect, the value of inbound links as well as historic/trust records for one URL will move to the other, though there’s debate as to just how much of this benefits are passed on to the new URL. While estimates vary, I’ll address this a bit later in this article.

Setting Up the 301 Redirect

To set up a 301 redirect on an Apache server, you have to open your .htaccess in a text editor, then enter one of these snippets of code into your file and save it.

For redirecting a non-www URL to a www URL:

Options +FollowSymLinks

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^domain.com$ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.example.com/$1

[R=301,L]

For redirecting a www URL to a non-www URL:

Options +FollowSymLinks

RewriteEngine on RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} .

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^example.com

RewriteRule (.*) http://example.com/$1

[R=301,L]

If your website is based on WordPress, dozens of free plugins exist to help you easily set up and manage 301 redirects. A simple one I prefer to use is called “Simple 301 Redirects.”

You can test your redirect by simple visiting your old URL; if you’re immediately taken to the new URL, it’s working.

The 301 Redirect and Inbound Links

You might have heard that using a 301 redirect can lead to losing 15 percent of your “link juice.” Many sites quote Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Web spam, as having made that statement. To the contrary, Cutts said in this video that links passed from one domain to another using a 301 result in no loss of link juice. However, skeptics remain, and many SEO professionals are hesitant to take Cutts’ word as truth.

What About rel=”canonical”?

Some SEO professionals recommend using rel=”canonical” instead of 301-redirects because they think that 301 redirects could hurt performance due to a browser having to make an extra trip. Again, Cutts has debunked this myth, stating in this video that while the rel=”canonical” tag is effective, browsers and search engines both know how to deal with a 301 redirect.

Conclusion

Using a 301 redirect is an effective, simple fix if you need to permanently move a page from one URL to another, or clean up www vs. non-www issues. It’s easy to set up and is well-understood by Web browsers.

Links, redirects, and technical SEO can be tricky to understand. If you want to learn more about technical SEO, see my e-book, “The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online.”


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

7 Best Presentations from ClickZ Live San Francisco (Available for Download) #CLZSF

August 11 we were enjoying ClickZ Live San Francisco. I did a few live coverages including one with Jim Boykin and Chris Boggs.

Today, for everyone who has missed the event or who wants to download the great presentations discussed there, here are the 7 Slideshare uploads from the event:

1. Analytics Swiss Army Knife by @thomcraver of Internet Marketing Ninjas

Mentioned tool: SpyFu

2. PPC Peak Performance: The Definitive AdWords Audit Framework by @LarryKim from @WordStream

I have also been live-tweeting this session:

3. Mobile Advertising in the Marketing Mix for ATT by @gregstuart

4. Leveraging Events for Triple Digit SEO Gains by David McClellan @HesDave from CBS Interactive

5. Boosting Social Ad Results with Audience Segmentation: Nowspeed and Hitachi Data Systems by @SharonHDS

Why Advertise on Social Media?

  • Huge Audience: Billions of People
  • Strong Momentum: Projections to double annual ad spending from from $4.6 billion in 2012 to $9.2 billion by 2016.
  • Advanced Ad Targeting: Targets consumers with interests that match the virtues and values of their products.
  • Multiple Engagement and Conversion Opportunities: Generate engagement, likes and followers, as well as traffic, leads and sales.
  • Mobile: with the social consumer on-the-go for proven social ROI (70% of FB users are mobile)
  • Low Cost per Click and Cost per Conversion 3

6. Using linguistic analysis to break through the noise by Benjamin Spiegel @nxfxcom

Mentioned tool: Rapidminer

7. Driving Revenue Over Leads by Bizible CEO Aaron Bird @birdstweets

Best resource mentioned in the presentation: Use this simple checksheet to determine the alignment between marketing and sales from both a team and data point of view

Also read: 30 tweet-sized insights from #CLZSF

Register at ClickZ Live Chicago!


Google+ Comments

3 Ways to Form More Integrated Social and SEO Teams

Social and SEO teams can sometimes play juxtaposing roles on paper. But to be truly successful, both social and SEO should engage in a two-way conversation between businesses and their target audiences.

Whether you’re an agency or your social and SEO teams are in-house, you can create a mutually beneficial relationship for these teams by simply facilitating a few conversations across teams. If you take the time to follow these specific tips and keep each other informed about relevant trends among your key audiences – trends that you see in social conversations or analytics data – you can brainstorm better ideas together without feeling as if there isn’t any time to get your regular to-do list completed.

Share Your Strategies

From a SEO perspective, your keyword strategy is a great place to start. Let your social team know the phrases that convert the right type of visitors for your business and be sure they understand the benefit of domain-level brand metrics. Your social team may be able to naturally work some of these terms into their own strategy so your audience starts to associate and use those phrases to describe your business, products, or services and amplify your brand.

As a social team, you must constantly listen to your audience and provide helpful information by joining the conversation, answering questions, or addressing real-time issues. You are the perfect set of eyes to help your SEO team discover pain points or creative ideas that your audience is discussing. Those observations can be repurposed into valuable content ideas for your SEO team to create. These pain points and ideas can also help your SEO team hone in on new long-tail keywords they can use to generate more genuinely helpful content pieces that will appeal to your audience.

Create More Targeted Content

For SEOs, while we want to deliver the most valuable content possible, sometimes it’s difficult to determine what kind of content our audience wants at any given time. Social listening is a great solution for removing this roadblock. If you don’t have the resources to monitor social channels yourself, listen to our social team and gather their feedback about the story you should be telling through your content based on what your audience needs or likes to talk about.

seo-social-diagram

Social teams can get involved by delivering focused content to their audience via paid media. Segment your social audiences by keywords, job title, company, followers, or geo-targeting using sponsored content campaigns on networks with sophisticated targeting capabilities like Twitter and LinkedIn. With strategic targeting you can help fuel the conversations you know your audiences are interested in having.

Share Your Results

SEO may have come from a more technical genesis, while social media was more traditionally a community-building platform, but both SEO and social are meant to build relationships with your audience and provide meaningful solutions and interactions for those groups. While sharing the details of your data reporting across these teams will be a more time-consuming task, doing so will help to reveal the areas in need of the most collaboration.

Use this formula to establish your goals and evaluate your efforts. Knowing whether or not these metrics are met will help you determine what content and conversations yield the best interactions from your audiences.

We believe that [this content, post topic, etc.]

Will result in [this outcome]

We will know we succeeded when [we see these results]

Ultimately, a better connection between your social and SEO teams will allow you to provide a more positive experience for your target audiences. And if you can provide a great experience, or even answer questions before your audience thinks of the question themselves, you will turn site visitors into customers and customers into brand advocates.


SES LondonOptimising Digital Marketing Campaigns with Search, Social and Analytics
At SES London (9-11 Feb) you’ll get an overview of the latest tools, tips, and tactics in Paid, Owned, Earned, Integrated Media and Business Intelligence to streamline your marketing campaigns in 2015. Register by 31 October to take advantage of Early Bird Rates.

New Facebook Like/Comment/Share Feature – Post Attribution Settings

It’s slowly been rolling out but I now have the Post Attribution Settings feature on my Facebook page.

What on earth is that, Jo?

Well, what it means is this:

New Post Attribution Settings Feature on Facebook

When I am using Facebook as Lollipop Local, I can go into the Page Feed that shows the posts from any other Pages that Lollipop Local has liked and I can choose to like, comment or share as Lollipop Local or as Jo Shaer – without having to switch between profile and Page.

Here’s what I mean!

In the top navigation bar, go to Activity.

Select Page Feed.

Now scroll down the feed through the posts and images that other Pages your Page has liked have published.

See something you want to like, comment or share?

Go to the bottom right hand corner.

You will see the profile picture of your Page with a little arrow next to it.

Click on the arrow to get the chance to swap from your Page to your personal profile.

It may only be a small thing but it is going to save a lot of time switching between your Voices in the navigation bar at the top right and then finding that Page and the content on that Page, which is what you had to do previously!

For more tips and tricks about how to use Facebook effectively for your business, book a 1-2-1 consultation! Fill out the form in the right hand sidebar and we will be in touch with some dates.