Search Engine Optimization (SEO) continues to mature as a discipline and as it does, the things that one must do continue to change. Some of the work of SEO is quite straightforward and in fact the single most important thing you can do to boost your rankings is to have quality content about what you do.
No search engine will send visitors your way if you don’t explicitly tell them what you do using the keyword phrases that people would naturally use in the search bar to look for a company doing what you do or selling what you sell.
But it used to be all about getting a page to rank. Earlier this year, Google rolled out “passage ranking” which is where Google tries to provide the one passage on a web page that answers the question the searcher has. I guess one example of that would be if you searched for “to be or not to be” you wouldn’t want the result to be the script of Hamlet. You want to get straight to Act 3, Scene 1 where Hamlet opens with “To be, or not to be, that is the question . . . “. And those are the passages that Google seeks to show you for specific searches.
Google’s ability to index pages and understand the content well enough to know that, buried deep in the page is a specific answer to someone’s search is powerful (and a tad scary). But what it really points back to is the importance of having quality content.
Another key to both SEO and user engagement is using a mix of content types. Text, yes, we’ve already addressed that. But having images, videos and perhaps infographics to help illuminate your content will help both getting traffic through the search engine AND in engaging the visitor once they get to your page.
Not long ago I wrote an article on Page Speed. Since then, page speed has continued to climb in importance. How Google’s algorithm for ranking pages works is the secret sauce that makes them who they are. But we do know that pages that load fast are moving up in importance in the algorithm.
So what can be done?
There are a few things you can do that can have a dramatic impact on your web page loading time.
- Optimize your images. Nearly every site we test has images that can be better optimized for display on the web. Remember, more and more people are using mobile devices as their sole connection to the internet. So having big images will slow them down and often not display as well as images that are optimized for mobile.
- Tell your site to use browser caching. While there are different ways of doing this from the technical – like manually editing your .htaccess file – to much simpler – like installing a caching plugin, this one change can score you points with page speed and ultimately provide a better user experience.
- Make sure you are displaying the proper size of images. Together with point # 1, you can become the ace of images by making sure that you are displaying an image at 300 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall, that your image is 300 pixels X 400 pixels. If you’re loading an image that is 600 X 800 and then displaying it at 300 X 400, you can get a 50% reduction by resizing that image. This is pretty easy to do. I sometimes do this in Windows using the Paint program and it can be done in seconds, not minutes.
- Deliver your files with compression. Windows users will be familiar with zipped files. That is pretty much the same concept here. Telling your web server to deliver files using gzip usually improves your page speed a bit.
Why do you want to have a fast site? There are two main reasons. First comes the user experience. If people visiting your site are met with spinning icons as your page slowly loads, they’ll likely feel like they’re spinning their wheels and go elsewhere. Second is search engines. Having a fast-loading web page is one of the “search signals”. A search signal is a factor that Google or other search engine uses to determine how to rank a page for different key words. While it is but one of many signals, since it also fits with a better user experience, we HIGHLY recommend optimizing your site for speed using one of the tools in the previous article
You have all seen it. It is an integral part of search these days. You are out and about. You decide to look for a good place for lunch. Searching for “restaurants” works but if you want to be clear with your search, you can say “restaurants near me” and up comes the list. This is “near me” search and you need this for your listing.
While this makes a lot of sense for local sensitive places like restaurants, coffee shops or (my favorite) brew pubs, it is important for businesses all across the spectrum.
A mantra we often hear in business is “Shop Local” because by supporting local businesses we support local jobs. I know several people who will not go for coffee at Starbucks and will not have lunch at whatever the convenient big chain is. Instead they go out of their way to find the local coffee shop and independently owned restaurant to do business at.
In the same way people go out of their way to select the independent hair stylist, the local plumber, the local cpa and yes a local (or at least domestic) web design firm.
Still not convinced it matters to you? Let’s dig in a bit deeper. From 2014 to 2015 the traffic from “near me” searches doubled. At the same time, Google’s organic listings are LESS likely to have the magic 10 on the first page or results, opting instead for, on average, 8.5 listings. So being ranked 9 or 10 in the “organic” listings can bump you from the first page but being near where someone searches for you can pull your site or business up.
How do you optimize your local business listing for near me searches? Here is a high level overview of what you need to do:
- Claim your business if you haven’t already: www.google.com/business for Google or www.bingplaces.com for Bing (we recommend avoiding the Yext and YP type services that will do this for you – you’ll pay a lot for an ongoing service that usually just needs done once)
- Make sure your address is IDENTICAL everywhere – on Google and Bing, on your web site, on any other sites or groups that might list you. This leaves no room for ambiguity as to whether it is the same business or same address. No ambiguity is a very good thing when it comes to search.
- Complete the business profile as much as you can. Put in your hours. Put in all of the information that is asked for, including photos. Make the images be real photos of you and your office and your team.
- Encourage happy customers to give reviews for you. If you Google your business, you should see it on the right. From there your customer can click on Write a Review and tell the world how happy they are with you.
One of the most common mistakes in web site design today is the design itself. The most common “abuser” of this is the firm that comes out of the graphic design world and decides to start doing web sites (but there are other perpetrators as well).
How does this happen? It’s simple actually. A stunningly beautiful or moving design is put together. And it looks really good. But when it becomes the web site two things don’t happen:
- There is no next step. It looks good but the web site visitor has no idea what to do once they get there. Every good web site and even every good web page should have a next step. But with just a nice design, there often is no call to action or next step for the visitor to take. So they leave.
- There is nothing for the search engines to see. With a design that has complete control over what the user sees, there is no content for the search engines to index. With a heavily graphic web site, even written content becomes a part of the image – that way you can show the precise font – but then the search engines either don’t index it or index it differently than they do written content.
So don’t let a good design get in the way of a great web site. Instead incorporate the elements of your good design into the site but also make sure that it is usable (has a next step) and that it is searchable (search engine optimized). Then you’ll be on your way to success.
- Thinking about starting a social media marketing campaign
for your company?
- Wondering why your social media marketing isn’t getting
- Wondering IF your social medial marketing is working?
If you answered “YES” to one or more of the questions above, plan to attend the next EduCyber seminar. Attendees will learn what the core components of a social media marketing
campaign are, how they interact, and how you can measure success.
Unravel whether being “retweeted” on Twitter, “Liked” on FaceBook or “Connected” on LinkedIn is really beneficial for your company and if so, why and how.
Learn how to build a firm foundation upon which to launch your success.
Who should attend this seminar?
CEO’s, COO’s, Marketing Directors and IT Directors. Those who make decisions regarding the company’s web presence.
When: Wednesday, May 18
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 am
Location: 4251 Kipling St.
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Cost: $24.99 (includes a light breakfast)
Pay online to reserve your spot >>
There are still good domain names to be had if you are looking either to start a new business or to claim a better domain name for your existing business.
First let’s examine why it is important to choose a good domain name. Say you were a church called Mt. Zion Christian Church. You decide to go with mtzionchristian.org. Seems pretty straight forward at first. But then once you start telling people you realize they’re going to mountzionchristian.org. Oops. So it is important to get a domain name that is descriptive of where you are or what your business does.
We had a client whose last name was one of those difficult to pronounce east European names. Though that was the name of their company, we went with a much more generic denvertreeservices.com for their domain. This served them well when they later changed the company name. And “Denver” “tree” “services” rolls off the tongue much more easily. It is more memorable as well.
Sometimes it is OK to have a long domain name if it is descriptive. Imagine if you worked at the Colorado Historical Society and decided to go with coloradohissoc.org to make the domain shorter. How would you say that domain? “Colorado” “his” “sock”? You’d spend all your time trying to spell it out and folks would undoubtedly still get it wrong. But if you went with coloradohistoricalsociety.org it is easy to say and easy to remember.
Not long ago I strongly advised a client to not use hyphens in their domain name. So instead of two, they used one hyphen and thought that was a pretty brilliant idea. Then just the other day while we were meeting with them, they realized how the domain doesn’t roll off the tongue when they have to insert a dash. Just listen in your head: “mybusiness” “dash” “mysecondbusinessname”. Or, to reuse the example above – “Colorado” “dash” “historical” “dash” “society” “dotorg” doesn’t roll off your tongue very easily.
So here’s what we recommend for choosing a domain name:
1. Do NOT use dashes or hyphens
2. Do NOT abbreviate
3. Do NOT use a name if it is easily misspelt
4. Do use longer names if necessary and if memorable
5. Do use something descriptive if the company name is not a good choice
6. Do consider whether to buy other top level domain names such as .biz, .net and .org to protect your brand.
Local search is where it is at for service related companies. Whether your service is landscaping, roofing, dry-cleaning or computer support, it only makes sense that you would do most if not all of your business in and around your local community.
So how does local search work? While it can be quite complex to get your site listed high in the local listings, the basics are simple and sometimes that is enough.
Let’s use Google since they account for 84.72% of all search engine usage worldwide.
- First go to http://www.google.com/maps and in the search bar, type in the name of your company. If nothing comes up, type in your address.
- When you see your listing (there should only be one – if there are more, that’s a topic for another day) click on more info. Along the top on the right you’ll see a link that says “Business Owner?”. Click on that link and claim your listing.
- If it says “Owner-verified listing” then someone from your company has already claimed the listing. You’ll need to talk to them to get more information.
- If you don’t have a Google account, it only takes a few minutes to create a verify one. Do this and come back to the maps. If you already have a Google account, then login.
- Now you’re ready to enter your company information. The more info you enter, the better your chances of being listed.
- Put in your complete address and ALL of your contact information.
- Choose two or more categories for your business.
- Enter your hours of operation as appropriate and check off the types of payment you accept.
- Upload a couple of pictures – of you, of the outside of your place of business, of the inside, etc.
- Upload a video or two. These don’t have to be professionally shot. Just practice a few times and take the best one you have. Introduce people to your business.
- Enter some additional details and click on Submit.
- The first time you do this, you will be asked to select whether Google should call you or mail you. Select call and be prepared to enter the PIN number they’ll give you on the phone as soon as you click Finish. Then within a day or two your listing will be eligible to begin appearing.
There are lots of things you can do to enhance your local listing such as:
- Upload more pictures
- Upload more videos
- Add / Create fields for Additional Details
- Add as many categories as you can think of for your listing
- Try the free trial of Google Tags
- Update your status
- Create a coupon
If you’ve been following me at all you know that the cardinal rule of Internet Marketing is to have a plan.
Once you have that plan, you can look at the different ways you can invest your marketing dollars. Here are three of the avenues you can explore, along with the risks and benefits of each:
- Paid Search: The most well-known paid search venue is Google AdWords. The main benefit of a paid search campaign is that you get immediate results. The most common type of campaign is Pay Per Click – you design your ad and it might show up hundreds of times but you only pay when someone click on your ad. The biggest risk is that, unlike other kinds of search marketing, the minute you quit paying for clicks, the minute the traffic stops.
- Local Search: As in all other kinds of search marketing, Google also dominates here. Their local search offering is dubbed Google Places. What they discovered is that since most searches are local, they should have a special way of showing local results. Getting listed in the top seven of Google Places can be a boon for your business. Imagine, if you run a plumbing company and you get into the top 7 (1st page) of Google Places. You could go from no calls to dozens of calls a day. A benefit of local search is that it is free (Google doesn’t charge you anything). Completing your profile is fairly easy as well. A drawback is it doesn’t make sense if you’re bigger than local and it also is difficult to work with if you are a home-based business.
- Organic Search (this is the area commonly known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO): Getting ranked high in the organic search engine listings continues to pay off for businesses. This is process whereby your site is ranked at or near the top when someone searches for general terms for your service. For example, if I search for “buy contact lenses” the first two organic listings I get are visiondirect.com and lens.com. Getting to the top of organic listings typically costs the company quite a bit (paying a firm like EduCyber to get there) but a huge benefit is that once you’re listed, you can “coast” for a while, not paying anyone anything but not losing you place because of it.
If you want help with marketing your web site, we can help. EduCyber has Internet Marketing plans and packages for many kinds of businesses. You can also call us at 303 268-2245
Yesterday may seem like it was less than 24 hours ago but time flies quickly on the Internet. Just a few months ago John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing wrote about 5 great research tools. I tried to visit the last one today, Bing xRank, to find out how it worked. And it’s gone.
I’ve been talking to a lot of people, colleagues, customers and potential customers, about Google Places lately. And the more I talk about it, the faster Google changes it. Just this week they changed the display dramatically.
If you haven’t claimed your business on Google Places, you should. It’s important for marketing purposes. Last week if I did a search for something local like “Denver Landscaping” I would have seen the two paid ads at the top and directly below that a map. To the right of the map were 7 listings of local (Denver area) landscapers.
This week when I do the same search I see the two ads at the top but the map has now been moved over to the right column and the local listings appear where the organic listings used to show up. Beneath the 7 local listings are the top 3 organic listings.
What does this mean for companies engaged in search marketing?
- Local search is more important than ever – completely dominating the first page of Google searches
- Google realized that seeing the location on a map is not nearly as important as the listing of the company (so they moved the map to the right column).
- If you are going to compete in organic search for many key words, your goal needs to be to get into the top 3 instead of the top 10. Being fourth bumps you to the second page of results.
These changes are designed to make things work better for the end user – the consumer – but sudden changes like this are seismic shifts in the search world. Whether you are a vendor (like EduCyber is) or a customer (like the landscaping companies in the example above), the organic competition just got a lot tougher and the Google Places listing just got a lot more lucrative.
So just like that, what used to work (last week) needs to be changed.Need help trying to figure all this out? Give EduCyber a call at (303) 268-2245.