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When Should Startups Start Building An SEO Strategy?

I was approached by a startup founder the other day about when to approach SEO? To say I get this question or the question of how to get started often, would be an understatement. I’ve been doing this since 2002, dating myself quite a bit, which is a really really long time. I’ve seen all the iterations from spam to “white hat” to the usability side of it, and I always come back to the same things: build a great product, have great site architecture, and create amazing content…and you’ll easily win!

Okay, I know, that’s easier said than done. Because, of that, not a lot of startup founders have the experience I’ve had when it comes to launching into building an SEO Strategy or Program, no matter the stage.

Also, I have found many of these startups have investors OR advisors telling them they need to start doing SEO right away. (And, while it does Visible Factors an injustice to say that is incorrect advice, we’re not in the business of billing, just to bill.) It’s important to think through the phase the business is in relative to the approach of SEO the company should be taking.

Sometimes just an SEO Audit is a great start

One of the things I always tell people is to get started building SEO into your product from the day you get started. When founding Eventup, it was pretty easy for me to start building in the best practices, infrastructure, and requirements to start owning certain phrases quickly, because of my knowledge and experience. But, if you or your team is not well versed, it’s best to bring someone on with this expertise to build this out for you.

An SEO Audit can be pricey, but, you know what is even pricier? Getting an audit six months later and having to re-architect your site architecture, URL architecture, and page content all over again. You’ll be paying for the audit, plus all the development costs to re-engineer a large part of the site. Plus, add in the time and effort to pert resources from product development to this.

I always recommend at least starting here so you can get the basics implemented and lay the groundwork for future endeavors around SEO.

SEO just might need to wait

Great, so now I am contradicting myself, but, I promise it makes sense. If you’re an e-commerce marketplace or content/media company, it makes total sense to get moving right away because SEO can be a big part of your growth. But, other examples like lets say a B2B company targeting restaurants, yoga studios, etc. should wait on SEO because you’re even sure if there truly is search intent out there and if people will convert based on that intent. Many SMBs are bombarded with people trying to advertise to them and other searches like “how do I get customers” are so generic you might not even generate a conversion.

Where should I start before SEO? 

Usually my recommendation here is, start testing some SEM to understand if people are actually converting. Don’t worry about the conversion rates, don’t worry about optimization of keywords. But, answer three simple questions:

  1. Can I drive people to our website and have them convert into customers or leads?

  2. Is there enough search intent and volume of phrases people are searching for to benefit the endeavor?

  3. Can we afford to invest in this for 6-12 months before seeing a considerable return?

Answering the question about conversion is especially important because it would be a calculated mistake to start driving all this traffic to the site, have a terrible bounce rate and hurt your overall SEO relevance. (Bounce rate is a ranking factor). On top of that, if the traffic now doesn’t convert, and, you haven’t solved for that, you’re going to lose  an opportunity to convert what could be a lifelong customer and your brand will take a hit. People might be averse to clicking on search results if the experience is so bad they remember it and don’t ever want to come back. Maybe less dramatic, every time they enter through search, they might bounce, which negatively impacts your SEO long term. Once the site is optimized for conversions, driving organic search traffic will be able to drive a great return and brings down eCPA.

When it comes down to search intent and search volume, this is mostly focused on primary converting terms. Things like “comfortable women’s sweaters” or “engagement rings” or even “small business website builder.” Which leads me to the last question around can you afford to invest time and energy into an SEO Program knowing filling the top of the funnel with traffic will lead to conversions and revenue.

If you have solved for the above and you know people coming to the site will convert into customers, it’s now time to think about the investment of resources. There are many paths you can veer down in order to build more traffic to fill the top of the funnel and this is where SEO can get fun due to the somewhat “free” nature of the traffic. Building content relevant to the customer profile you have can be a great way to get people familiar with the brand at any point in the customer experience.

Creating a blog with content that answers specific things your customer might be searching for and/or content they might be interested in reading about are great ways to generate traffic even higher up in the journey. Organic search allows you to keep getting the brand in front of the customers, driving impressions and one undervalued thing is the building of customer lists and audience retargeting, thus leading to lower CPA from paid channels, more customers, as well as the benefits from the organic traffic.

Create things like resource centers, help centers, content directories, among many other examples in order to create evergreen organic search traffic that people will always be searching for to answer simple questions they might have. Creating a blog with tips, tricks, DIY ideas, etc. could spark someones interest in something they’ve been looking for. And, those ideas could lead to vitality effects of people sharing that content. Being a resource is a great way to drive brand awareness, conversions, and customer loyalty without even attempting to sell your product or service, and doing this from organic search with no customer acquisition cost associated will help even more.

Just remember to ask yourself if you are truly ready to get started with SEO. It’s not a simple process, it requires a lot of time and energy and dedication by your product, marketing, and technology teams to be done right. You’re going to need to be okay with investing 6-12 months of time without seeing a return because you’re at the mercy of Google’s search engine. SEO is not like CPC traffic that you are paying for clicks via keywords or demographic targeting. SEO is holistic, requiring you to get the right phrases on the pages, with the right architecture allowing search engines to crawl and index your content, and generating authority through links. If you think of it this way, holistically, and have some patience to understand it will take time, you will almost positively see the fruits of your labor with all that juicy sweet organic search traffic that you won’t have to pay for.

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know and What to Do Next

Many people in the digital marketing world were impacted last month when Google introduced a Google broad core algorithm update. There has been an obvious and visible change in the rankings of search results for many websites. Google confirmed this via a tweet:


Here is Google’s official statement:

“Just like with every broad core update, webmasters around the world are once again going over ranking fluctuations and examining ranking factors with a fine-tooth comb. Many websites hoped their rankings would increase, and it did, while others either had a drop of rankings or no change at all.”

Google Broad Core Algorithm Update vs. Core Search Update

If you are unfamiliar with digital marketing or SEO, Google updates and changes their algorithm very often, more often than they even announce. They do two types of updates – small daily algorithm updates and major ones several times per year.

Daily algorithm updates – core algorithm updates – generally happen a couple times a day, but are not really reported and there isn’t much info revealed about them. On the other hand, the Broad Core Algorithm Updates happen only few times per year and usually make significant changes in search results for users. These updates are focused on improving the quality of search results and providing the best possible user experience to it’s users. This is really the main difference, creating more relevance, between the two types of updates.

What do I do if I’ve noticed Rankings have dropped?

Many people have noticed a drop in their key rankings for some search queries. This is due to the fact the update was focused on improving user experience by providing contextual results based on search intent. Just like the update from March, there are no website fixes for those hit by the update. 

If your website, or some of your key pages had a drop in ranking after the broad core update, it is not because your website lacks quality, has issues, or is being penalized. Google explains this as a result of having other pages which were “under-rewarded” and now are ranking higher after the update. Or as Google officially stated:

“As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less than well, now. Instead, it’s the changes to our systems that are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.”

One of the things you can do is identify if there are content pages that are lacking in quality and see if there is a need to overhaul your content strategy or just make some minor updates to it. The key is to remember to tailor it to the search intent of your target audience. Based on our research and findings, we noticed that the focus has shifted from keyword-centric results to topic-based results. This is Google’s way of providing searchers with insightful results answering their search queries, matching search intent more closely. 

Even Google’s Danny Sullivan stressed the importance of high-quality content in a tweet soon after the official announcement of the algorithm update.

Actionable Tips in the aftermath of the Broad Core Update

First and foremost, take some time to identify the pages that dropped in rankings, how considerable the drop was, and what websites replaced yours. Do an analysis of your previously high-ranking pages and compare them with the ones that took over in rankings. Try to discover what makes the content on those pages better, more relevant and what matchers searcher intent as compared to the content you had that was rankings previously. 

Keep in mind, just like with any update, Google may roll back a few of the changes and you might have seen some rankings return, I have yet to notice this, but, keep an eye out. Monitor the SERPs carefully while you strategize your new content creation approach. When you do decide to start creating content, make sure you do extensive research! Quality over quantity generally works, but, keep an eye on what Danny mentioned above. 

Think about your overall content strategy, how the new research you’ve done has made you re-think or want to re-work the content strategy. This doesn’t mean stuffing pages with more content OR drastically re-writing entire sections of your site. Rather be thorough, be thoughtful, and be mindful about the approach and take into account the research you did relating to the sites now rankings for the terms you once were.

(Of course, our team would be happy to help you identify these trends and any obstacles you may have around your search rankings. Feel free to reach out about seo consulting and our team will be happy to help you!)

 

Featured Snippets and SEO

What You Need to Know About Featured Snippets

 

Featured snippets are short, direct answers that show up on top of Google search results as an answer to a search query. Featured snippets are a result of good on-page content best responding to search engine query.

 

There are three types of featured snipped that can show up in search: paragraph, list, table.  Paragraph is the most common type, occupying 82% of snippets.

 

Featured snippets are enticing to marketers because they can easily get you to the #0 position on Google search. This matters because it helps you to prove your relevancy to Google and users that your content is useful, and offers people with quality information. When your content is shown in a featured snippet, you are the top pick, meaning you are beating the competition and out-ranking sites that rank in the top 10 positions for that particular search topic. But the most important reason why marketers love seeing their content featured on top of search results is the increased traffic their websites receive which can go upward of 20-30%.

 

How Do Feature Snippets Affect SEO?

 

Featured snippets are changing the SEO landscape. Over time, Google has added different types of featured snippets, and modified them, but the most striking change has been the increase in the number of search queries that trigger featured snippets.

 

A recent study by Ahrefs, which included around 112 million keywords from their US database, showed that almost 14 million keywords have featured snippets in search results. That means that 12.29% of queries have featured snippets, out of which only 30.9% rank at the very top in organic results. As Google gets better at understanding search queries and delivering featured snippets, it’s most likely that the numbers will continue to grow. It’s also interesting to note that the majority of snippets are triggered by a long-tail keyword.

 

Another interesting finding shows that featured snippets have a negative impact on the first organic search result with fewer clicks to the overall organic search results. When there’s a featured snippet, the first organic result in Google search gets a significant drop in click-through rate. When there is no featured snippet present, the first result gets 26% click-through rate, compared to with the snippet at 19.6%, and the featured snippet itself at 8.6% click-through rate.

 

Are Featured Snippets Good or Bad for SEO?

 

We already established that featured snippets are gaining popularity with Google and stealing organic traffic. But do they have a negative impact on SEO and overall ROI? Not necessarily. Despite the fact that the reduced click-through rates, there are a few things to consider before labeling them “bad for SEO”.

 

  • People who read featured snippets are not your most valuable audience. This might be subjective, and vary from person to person, but hear this out. If a user is looking for a quick answer to a simple question, chances are they are not interested in reading long-form content or making a purchase. So the traffic you potentially lose isn’t that valuable.

 

  • You can optimize for feature snippets. If ranking at the top of search starts to lose meaning when there’s a featured snipped above the results, then you need to find your way to the #0 position. The right on-page content optimization can get you that position and get your site included in featured snippets.  

 

  • Brand visibility is still important. Getting a featured snipped doesn’t necessarily mean getting more traffic. Yes, we are aware it’s a bit contradictory to all said above, but it’s true, some people still choose organic results. But the good thing is, you will receive brand exposure and visibility that can increase brand familiarity and increase trust among your audience.

 

  • There are still 87.7% of queries that function as they always have. Even though there’s an increase in the number of featured snippets and almost one in every eight queries, that’s still a tiny portion of the overall search volume. You can and should still optimize for the 87.7% of queries that still don’t have a featured snippet, allowing you to rank higher and garner more traffic.  

Winter is Here. Sorry. Featured Snippets are Here.

 

Yes, featured snippets are here, and they are here to stay, as it seems. So, if you are thinking about optimizing a page or two to be cited in a featured snippet, then you can use these optimization techniques:

 

  • Use Microformatting. First, make sure your site is properly updated according to the microformat standards, which you can find and use on Schema.org. Microformatting will help Google understand the type of information on your site and make it easier for search bots to crawl and parse the information. If your site doesn’t have this formatting, it won’t be considered for featured snippets at all.

 

  • Optimize for long-tail search queries. Next, make sure your site is optimized for long-tail keywords, rather than shorter ones. The more specific your keywords are, the better. So instead of optimizing for “Game of Thrones” you can be more specific and go for a phrase like “What happens to John Snow in Game of Thrones Season 7?”. (No spoilers please, I’m two episodes behind.)

 

  • Offer brief and accurate answers. Once your page is optimized for a search query, you should answer it as briefly and accurately as possible. Users, and more importantly, Google, like to offer answers that are one or two sentences long, so do your best to keep it short and simple.

 

  • Get inbound links. Link building is an important factor, in organic search, and in featured snippets. Do your best to attract inbound links from quality sources, like you already do.

 

Yes, featured snippets are changing the SEO world. They steal potential traffic from organically ranked sites, but there’s no need to panic. There is still an 87.7% chance that your traffic won’t get poached by a featured snippet. Keep that in mind when you create and adjust your strategy, and optimize for SEO. From where we stand, you have two general options. Consider optimizing your own site to be included in the featured snippets as well, or adjust your strategy to avoid them altogether. We can provide suggestions and recommendations, but it’s up to you to figure out how you want to handle the situation.   

 

Stop Using These Five Outdated SEO Strategies

Web technologies change fast and with them, website optimization is constantly evolving, leaving many people confused about which SEO strategies are still relevant, and which have become obsolete.

In 2017, good user experience makes the best SEO strategy. Optimizing content for users is the best way to rank higher since RankBrain rewards content, garnering clicks and engaging users. Google webmaster guidelines always urge brands to create content for humans and the newest algorithm updates recognize user intent. But in spite of producing content for users, there are other things you need to look out for, like staying up to date with the SEO tactics and strategies and selecting which you should continue to use.

Truth is, many tactics and strategies that used to work are no longer relevant, and may actually hurt your website. If you still use any of those strategies, your site might be penalized or even lose your presence in the SERPs. In order to help you stay up to date, and to prevent you from going down a rabbit hole, we outlined five outdated SEO strategies that you should stop using right now.

 

1. Don’t Create and Optimize the Content for Search Engines

In the beginning of SEO, content would fall into one of two categories: content for people, and content for the spiders which crawl the web and are responsible for page ranking. The first type often meant creating clunky, keyword-heavy content, which would be awkward for users.

Now, years later, even though keywords remain important, this practice is not only outdated but can get you penalized. Keyword stuffing is considered a black hat technique and you should avoid it completely. Focusing on optimizing your content for search engines is a waste of time, and resources.

Instead, write your content in a natural and friendly tone, make it readable and understandable for your audience, and use your keywords moderately. Only by making your content high-quality and valuable, you can convince RankBrain that your content is relevant and useful for the users.

 

2. Don’t Neglect Optimizing Your Website for Mobile

After Google officially announced in January 2017 that: “…pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.”; you’d think that it’s natural for businesses to optimize for mobile, but many still neglect this crucial aspect of SEO.

Many web designers noticed and accepted the mobile-first trend that started a few years back. And companies are beginning to get more and more aware that they are missing out on a lot of mobile traffic even when the majority of their visits come from a desktop computer.

So, if you want to improve your ranking, first, start by switching to a mobile responsive WordPress. Make sure your text has readable zoom, and avoid using Flash or other software that is uncommon and won’t run on mobile devices.  Try to place your links far enough apart so the users won’t click multiple at once. Also, AMPs are becoming increasingly important, so consider using them. Lastly, don’t forget to check out Google’s webmaster’s guide on mobile friendly sites for in-depth information on how to keep your website mobile-friendly.

 

3. Stop Trying to Rank Multiple Keywords on a Single Page 

As we mentioned before, keywords are important, but are beneficial only if you use them moderately. There are two extremes that are still out there though.  One, trying to rank multiple keywords on a single page, or two, creating individual pages for each keyword you wish to rank for. In both cases, the results are penalized.

Whether there is a redundancy of keywords and long-tail keyword variations on a single page, or too many similar pages covering different variation of a keyword, it creates a usability nightmare.

Instead of doing this, try using a SEO plugin that can help you with the quality of the content, helping you analyze the keyword density. Focus on the clicks and quality, using proper calls to action and good writing. Make sure usability is your first and foremost consideration, and you will not get penalized.

 

4. Don’t Use Old Link Building Strategies

One of the best ways to get high-quality websites to link back to you is to create relevant content. And network with those who write about the same topics in order to get insights and strengthen connections. There’s no shortcut around this.

But many sites still use some of the old strategies for getting backlinks, like link exchanges, buying links, comments and forum links, article spinning, etc. And sadly, these can get you penalized.

As we said before, don’t go looking for a shortcut to link building. And stop obsessing over quantity. Develop relationships with high-quality websites in your industry, focus on creating valuable, original content and they will naturally link back to you. Engage in guest posting, it’s still valuable, especially when you’re present on sites with high Domain Authority.

 

 5. Stop Using Irrelevant or Over-Optimized Anchor Text

Optimizing your anchor text is, again, related to the content quality. And it plays an important role in creating a great user experience. Using the exact keyword into anchor texts for external and internal links used to be a thing for getting a higher ranking, but it got over-used, and now this outdated SEO technique can get you penalized because Google considers those “unnatural links. And you should stay away from them.

Stick to writing for people, and inserting the links in the text naturally. Don’t add words or phrases just to link them, but find a way to turn a part of a sentence that has a natural flow and talks about the subject from your link into anchor text. Other good practices are using the exact brand name you are linking to, such as Visible Factors, or the naked URL, like visiblefactors.com. Each link should fit the content and add extra value for the uses.

 

BONUS: Don’t Ignore Social Signals

The times are changing, and SEO is no longer all about links, code and content. But now social networks and social signals play important roles in sear engine rankings since both Google and Bing use that data to determine how to rank websites.

Plus, having more social media followers means that your brand and content get exposed to a larger audience, which means more chances for engagement and content traction, increasing your chances for getting backlinks.

So pick a social network that best suits your business needs, learn how to best use it, and make your presence noted. Generally, start by posting regularly, be consistent in your efforts, engage your audience and be responsive. Then, include ways for visitors to sign up for your social account on your website, and to your email newsletter. And if you still feel like you are stuck and wish to give up, read up on Social Media Examiner’s guide on improving ranking using social media. You might get a few ideas.

 

Search engine optimization is a crucial part of growing your website and getting more organic traffic. But it’s not something you can learn once and practice it in the same way indefinitely. SEO trends change, and if you want to keep your high place in the SERPs you have to keep up with the trends. Out with the old, and in with the new. It’s the only way to stay on top.

This year, the focus is on creating better user experience and value for your prospects and customers. So make sure you provide them with a seamless experience. If you’re still unsure whether your website is stuck with outdated SEO techniques which actually hurt your ranking, here at Visible Factors have an awesome SEO team ready to help you.

How to Optimize Your SEO for the Mobile-First Index

Google’s main goal is to provide the best possible results to a search query. And since most users rely on mobile devices for the majority of their online activities, Google’s focus is on catering to the needs of the ever growing number of mobile users. In the past years, Google has released several updates aimed at making the web better for mobile consumers, but now, it took its game up a notch by rolling out a mobile-first version of its index.

There’s no choice for website owners but to adapt to the mobile-trend in order to maintain traffic and ranking because the new index will split the desktop and mobile results, and if your website is not prepared for the change, you could be in for hard times. Mobile will become the primary index and mobile searches will no longer show results for desktop, and vice versa.

If you have a desktop and not a mobile version of your site, or different mobile and desktop versions, you should be concerned and address these issues as fast as possible, or before the mobile-first index is fully released. The first step is to create a fully-functional mobile website. Next comes SEO in a mobile-first index.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to improve your mobile website’s SEO. But to make things easier, and so you don’t have to do everything on your smartphone, open your website in a desktop browser and view the mobile version. You can do this by right-clicking on the site, and choosing the “inspect” option, then, you can toggle between desktop and mobile in the upper left corner of the menu.

 

1. Perform the Google Mobile Friendliness Test

First of all, you need to check if your website can pass the Google Mobile Friendliness Test. Begin with your key navigation pages, and your highest selling category and product pages, one by one. Take a look at the “No Mobile Configuration” section to see which pages you need to focus on first. If you still don’t have a mobile site, responsive site or AMP pages, start implementing them right away. Or, if you can, go for a responsive website design. But remember, pages without mobile optimization can badly impact your performance in the SERP.  

 

2. Check whether your Mobile Pages are Indexed

You’ll have to do this check on a smartphone. And to make sure Google is indexing your mobile pages, open Google and in the search box type: “site:visiblefactors.com”. If there are no results for your site, Googlebot may be unable to access the mobile pages. If you are using separate mobile and desktop site, and Googlebot is not indexing your mobile pages, we recommend you create and submit a mobile sitemap. Tag the mobile pages with the rel=canonical and rel=alternate tags.  Googlebot might not be indexing mobile pages because of the separate mobile and desktop URLs, but this should do the trick. But, if you don’t have separate URLs, double-check the robot.txt file and make sure you are not blocking Googlebot.

3. Look for Smartphone Errors in Google Search Console

For this step, go to Google Search Console, Crawl Errors, and choose Smartphone. The errors you identify here can help guide your strategy. Analyze each error and deal with it in the right manner. One common mistake that shows up frequently though, is a faulty redirect. Make sure you have matching smartphone and desktop URLs, so users (and Googlebot) get sent to the right page. When you fix the smartphone errors you allow Google to index your content better.  

4. Change Your On-site SEO Optimization for Mobile

Mobile and desktop on-site optimization differ. For example, title tags on mobile are shorted than those on desktop. Keep in mind that you need to create good user experience, and that includes good on-site optimization, from title tags, to headers. The simplest way to address this issue is by using Screaming Frog. Run the check, then go over the “Page Titles” mane at the top. Get all results for “Over 65 Characters”, and download the data. Rewrite the longer meta titles, and repeat the same procedure for meta descriptions as well. Make sure all of them are shorter and mobile friendly. And for the headings, you can opt for slightly reducing the size for a better mobile UX. Also, run a check with Google’s robot.txt testing tool to make sure you are not blocking Googlebot.  

 

5. Improve Page Load Times

Mobile page load speed can be a crucial UX factor, and load times longer than 4 seconds can make visitors leave. To test your page load times, you can use a lot of free tools, like PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom. Just open your website and run the speed test. Depending on the result, there might be several things to consider. But the simplest optimization you can do, without help from a development team, is optimizing image size. Next, if that doesn’t help much, have your dev team reduce code, add browser cache, manage plug-ins. And lastly, see if your web designer can move more content above the fold.

6. Mobile and Desktop Content Should be a Perfect Match

In order to cross-check and compare your mobile and desktop website, you will have to do it manually. Pull up a list of your most visited and highest performing pages from Google Analytics, then open each page, one by one on desktop and your smartphone. Also, check and scan your code for any inconsistencies. If you find pages with more content on desktop than the mobile version or vice versa, go over them with your editorial and development team to redesign them. It’s advisable to have a completed content audit before you do this so you’ll know what content can and can’t be removed, without hurting traffic. To make sure Google sees your web pages the same way you and your users do, use Google Search Console’s Fetch and Render, and choose mobile user agent from the menu. That way you’ll get to see two pages, side-by-side, and you’ll know whether your content looks the same to Googlebot and your users. Remember that Google ranks content only from the mobile site, and uses the canonical links as guides for users searching from desktop or mobile. So be careful when you making the redesign.

7. Make Sure To Add Structured Data to Your Mobile Pages

While many webmasters skip adding structured data to mobile sites, in the mobile-first index, if you want to keep it, you’ll have to add it to the mobile pages manually. If you already have a responsive website, then your schema should do it. But if you have separate mobile and desktop sites with different URLs, you will have to make sure you followed all the necessary steps for mobile, as you would for your desktop site. Double-check with the Google Structured Testing Tool if your schema markup has been added correctly to your mobile site. Use the “Inspect” function to make sure it’s coming up on mobile devices. Make sure to update all URLs you use in the schema, but be careful not to drown your site in structured data. And if you use a plugin for structured data, use a testing tool to make sure the displayed markup is correct.

8. Launch AMP if You Still Don’t Have Mobile Pages

If you still didn’t have a chance to create mobile pages for your website, then create AMP versions of your pages – it’s the easiest way to get Google to index them. But if you have a m.mobile site, and the content of your AMP page is full and different from the one on the m.mobile site, Google will rank he m.mobile site above your AMP page, and you won’t rank for the keywords included in the full content. Also, you can’t rank higher if you have a mobile version and an AMP version of a page. Google will rank the desktop version of the page instead. If you set up AMP pages, you can easily check them on your smartphone by trying to open a specific page from your website. If you see the small AMP symbol – the gray lightning bolt next to the result, you’re good. You can also do a check-up on your desktop, by viewing the source and searching for rel=”amphtml” or by using the AMP Chrome extension in order to switch between the regular and the AMP versions. And in order to do a final check on whether you implemented AMP pages correctly and get suggestions on how to fix any problems you might have, use the AMP testing tool.

9. Check Your Subdomains Using the Google Search Console

If you already have a responsive website, then skip this part 🙂 But if your website uses subdomains such as m.visibleactors.com or visiblefactorsmobile.com, than you need to verify them in Google Search Console. First, open your Google Search Console account and click the “Add Property” button, and add your subdomains. Next, after you upload your subdomains, Google will send you notifications about your mobile site to let you know if you have smartphone errors, manual actions, if you’re blocking Googlebot, or basically if there are any issues with your site. Beware that Google treats subdomains as separate sites so pay attention to all notifications you receive and make sure to fix all problems.

 

The challenges for SEO-teams become even greater when you need to adapt your SEO-efforts to the upcoming mobile-first index and prepare your website for the upcoming change as fast as you can. And maintaining a dedicated mobile site, if you still don’t have a responsive one, is vital if you want to stay afloat in the mobile-first index, at least for the time being. The rollout will be global, and all websites will face the same constrictions, there’s no escape. So make sure to be prepared when it happens.     

 

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How to Make Your Textual Content SEO-friendly?

Whether you are writing content for your company website or the next company blog post, the goal is to create great content that offers value to the reader, while positively reflecting your brand. But at the same time, you want your content piece to be search engine optimized. Let’s face it; great content is not useful if nobody can find it.

The goal to write a great blog post that is SEO-optimized while attracting an audience can seem contradictory. But if you have great writing skills, it is easy to create content that can accomplish both objectives.

Generally speaking, writing valuable content is one of the best ways to optimize it for SEO and there are no tricks that can compete with the raw power of high-quality content. That being said, even the best content can use a few structural tweaks and tricks to make it even more SEO-friendly.

If you want to be optimized for SEO and easily discoverable/sharable, here are some universal guidelines that you should stick to when creating your next piece of textual content (supposing you already did your keyword research).

 

Headline and Subheadings

First things first – your headline is the first thing anyone sees and reads. If your content is valuable, but your headline is mediocre, your click-through-rate will be low. Before writing your blog post body, write your headline. It should be clear and concise, conveying a specific message or idea that attracts people’s attention and prompts them to click and read further. A good practice is including your main keyword in the headline. Adding numbers is also an effective way to make the headline more enticing and clickable.  

Subheadings are an important part of you blog post’s body because they make the text scannable. Most people read the headline and subheads first, then decide whether to read the whole text or only the parts that matter to them the most. Also, subheads are another way to strategically use your keywords and increase keywords saturation.

When you prepare the blog post for publishing, make sure to add suitable HTML tags (H1, H2, H3…) to your heading and subheads in order to optimize the post for search bots too.  

 

Body Structure

If you created your headline, and are ready to move to writing the body, start by writing a short outline of the text. Think about the purpose, target audience, and the main action you want the reader to take at the end of the text. When writing the outline, you can write the subheadings first. That will give you an overview of what you need to write in each section.    

Once you start the actual writing, pay attention to the quality, originality and the structure of the text.  Always write unique content. Plagiarism can only hurt your ranking with Google, and the trust and authority you built among your audience. Use storytelling principles to improve the content quality and try to connect with readers on an emotional level. Use short sentences and short paragraphs, no more than 100 words, to improve the readability and the blog post structure. Smaller chunks of text are easier to read. When you want to specify or highlight and list certain points, use bullets or numbering to emphasize their importance and separate them from the general text. That will also help readers scan the text easier.

Be careful with the keywords used throughout the body. Use the main keywords and synonyms in moderation. And try to use signal words like “first of all’, “second” and “finally”.  And conjunctions “surely”, “consequently”, “for this reason”, because they will improve the structure of your text, and the reader will get clear signals about what follows.

 

Blog Post Length and Keyword Density

The minimum length of your blog posts should be 300 words. Even though Google likes long articles, and sometimes ranks them better, readers often are scared away by posts that are over 1000 words long. The ideal article length is somewhere between 600 and 800 words, depending on the topic, the target readers, and the goal of the blog post. For example, in-depth guides may require 3000 words or more.

As a general rule of thumb: the ideal keyword density is about 1-2% of your text. So, in a 600-word post, you should mention your keyword 6 to 12 times. Do not stuff your blog post with keywords because instead of making your content more SEO-friendly, it will only hurt your ranking.

 

Links to Previous Content

Page links are the main building blocks of your webpage. Your link structure is important to Google. Links tell Google if your content is valuable to people, and you are connected and sociable. Adding links to high-quality, reputable websites also improves the validity of your website, and your ranking. And using credible sources in the body of your text is also a good way to create trust with your readers.

If you have other posts closely related to your current one, link back to them. It will make the post stronger because it will show more authority on the subject. But whether you link to internal or external pages, use appropriate anchor text which flows naturally with the rest of the content.     

 

Meta Descriptions

Another important part of on-page SEO optimization is writing your meta description. Use the meta descriptions to guide the search engine, and help it understand what your content is about. It is the HTML attribute that provides search engines with a concise explanation of your page’s content. The meta description should be enclosed in the <head> section on your webpage.    

But meta descriptions help searchers understand what your content is about too. The text in a meta description is what Google uses as a snippet when your web page shows in the SERP. And that copy, along with your headline, will determine whether the searcher will click on your page or not. So use those 150 – 160 characters wisely, and make sure to incorporate your main keyword as well.

 

Optimize the Images

Visuals make textual content more interesting and shareable. People are more likely to share the content if there’s a fun or unusual image included. And if it a sales-related text, people will be more likely to buy if they can see the product featured in attractive and relevant photo. But images are important and should be optimized for search bots too. So make sure you enter text in the title and alt tag fields, and preferably use your keyword too.

Optimize the photo dimensions and size. It’s a good practice to match the image dimensions (width) with that of your web page template and use browser resizing capabilities to make the images responsive by setting a fixed width and auto-height. Try to use smaller files because large files load slowly and that can hurt SEO. Make the images slow, but don’t compromise their quality and visibility.

 

There are no special tricks on how to write great content. Nor are there tricks on how to rank high in Google if your content is average. Remember to always write for people, and don’t underestimate the importance of SEO-optimization. High-quality, original content is what matters the most, but it takes a little extra effort to additionally optimize it for SEO and rank highly for SERPs, clicks, reads, likes and social shares.

It may be difficult at first, but it’s very much possible to achieve both goals. Then again, if you believe that it’s a job best handled by the pros, you are welcome to drop us a line or give us a call, and we’ll make sure your brand’s name and story take off.

 

 

 

Boost Local SEO Efforts to Improve Reputation, Rankings and Revenue

If you want to market a local business online, begin with search. Investing in, and optimizing for local SEO is a great way to place your business in front of a local target audience, while selling your product to people who will provide the most growth for your company.  But, unlike optimizing for organic search, SEO optimization for local business includes a slightly different set of components. 

So let’s take a look at the main components of local SEO that influence your 3 Rs – reputation, rankings and revenue.

1. Set up a Google Place and Google+ Local Page

Begin your local SEO optimization with opening a Google Business account. This will allow you to set up a free listing on Google Places, appearing on the right hand side of the SERPs anytime someone does a relevant search. By listing on Google Places, you are giving your website the most important backlink you can get – from Google. You can emphasize the impact by creating a Google+ business page and entering your business details there too.

Make sure your business qualifies as local by checking the Google Compliance Guidelines and stick to them to ensure you are not spamming Google.

2. Optimize your Website for Local Rankings

First, have a technically clean website that offers great user experience and regularly audit your site to resolve problems and avoid penalties.

Next, include your location info, along with your brand’s name and keywords in the pages’ title, tags and meta descriptions. Also try to insert your location as a keyword, or a long-tail key phrase in your content. But make these location-insertions sound as natural as possible, especially in places read by people. Avoid keyword stuffing and include your business address and contact phone number in the footer of the site.

Optimize your website in such a way that you are the best in the business’ geo-industry, but don’t forget that you need to optimize for organic search, local search, and conversions. 

3. Make use of Citations Identical with NAP listings

Your presence on other high-quality listing sites such as Yell and Trip Advisor is very important. They provide authority links to your site, encouraging users to visit your site and trust your business.

Next, make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) listing are correct and identical with your citations since they are a key ranking factor, and can improve your ranking especially if they present quality and relevant listing sites. Decide which location information you want included, and use that address on yours, and when you list on third-party sites.

So make sure your citations are correct and up-to-date. Monitor and audit them regularly, fix any inconsistencies, remove duplicates, and don’t forget to look for new geo- and industry-specific citation opportunities.

4. Use the Power of Positive Customer Reviews

We all know the power of reviews, and how strongly they can influence our decisions. Google and other search engines are no different. If your business has numerous five-star reviews, you will have a higher rank with proof of excellent service.

In order to get positive reviews from customers more frequently, start by providing better in-store service and encourage customers to leave reviews on Google and other relevant sites. Monitor your reviews, good and bad ones alike, and respond to them – thank them for their honest comments. Take people’s remarks seriously and try to improve your service. Customers always appreciate the extra effort you are willing to put in for them. Use this to your advantage and earn your positive reviews.

5. Get Valuable Local Links

Just like optimizing for organic search, optimizing for local SEO also requires relevant links, especially from other relevant and authoritative local business websites.  To optimize your links, find broken links and resolve them or disavow them.

Make sure to create new linking opportunities by providing great content, and always be on the lookout for new linking opportunities in editorial contributions, local sponsorships, relevant blogs and online local magazines, etc.

6. Create a Strong Social Presence

Being present on social media is a must nowadays. It’s not up for discussion anymore whether you should create social media presence, but where to create it. Start by identifying which social networks are most relevant to your geo-location and industry. Based on each platform, and your goals, come up with a participation strategy, and try to engage your audience. Talk to your audience, share information and experiences with them, and don’t sell your products and/or services aggressively.

Also, remember to use social media to monitor the social conversations about your brand, and to listen to your customers. Try to be fast in answering customers’ questions, and resolving any problems of conflicts. Social signals do matter!     

7. Watch Your Offline Behavior

As a local business, you must beware of your offline behavior too. Anything that happens offline, can be published online, whether it’s a company activity or in-store experience. Your offline and online experience should be consistent because the consumers that found you online and visited your store expect to see the same branding, messaging, signage, promotional materials, in-store experience, apps, etc. Be consistent in your efforts.

Also, use the power of real-world opportunities for establishing a strong brand presence in the community using traditional marketing methods such as TV, radio, print media, and organization, participation and/or sponsorship of local events and happenings.


Now that we explained how to optimize each part of local SEO, let’s look at how these factors influence your 3 Rs.

Reputation: When you are present on Google Places as a local business, your NAP listings and citations are identical, and you have numerous positive reviews, you prove not to be spammy to search engines and you are relevant to customers. Additionally, when you have a great website that is supported with high-quality links, excellent user experience, and positive social signals, your reputation in the search results is greatly protected.

Rankings: All of the above mentioned factors influence how Google perceives your website. Google evaluates and trusts the validity of your business based on your reputation, your website’s performance, content quality, penalties, and more. And when your on-page efforts are supported with good reviews, listings, citations, and strong social media presence, Google will rank your site higher in the SERPs.

Revenue: By optimizing all these areas, you save yourself from losing customers due to lack of or incorrect information, lack of customer support, bad comments, or plunges in visibility. If you prove to be a highly reputable site that ranks high in the local searches, you will get more online traffic, more store visits, and ultimately, and will enjoy increased profits.

By providing good customer experience, online and offline, instigating positive reviews, getting quality listings and citations, generating great and relevant content, being present on social media, and getting recognized as a high-quality brand, you set yourself for success in the online and offline world.

Never underestimate the power of any component of local SEO, and optimize each and every one of them at the same time, and be consistent in your work. Keep monitoring, tracking and improving your actions and adjusting your strategy. And if you can’t do it alone, we can assist your local business and help you grow and become the best in your area. Give us a call!  

 

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Google AdWords: A Guide to Finding High-value Keywords within Campaigns

Your work is only just beginning after you launch your campaign.  To get the ROI you need from your campaign, it is crucial to determine the strongest keywords within your AdWords campaign as soon as you have actionable data. The only way to keep your campaign strong enough to meet your goals is to regroup and analyze the performance of your keywords. This can seem daunting, especially if it is your first AdWords campaign. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to analyze and pin down high-value keywords within your campaign without relying on any expensive tools or secret tricks.

1. Pay attention to your click-through rate

If your CTR is low, your keyword selection and corresponding copy isn’t inviting clicks. This could be from poorly written ads, or mismatched keyword grouping. Your bid price goes up if you mismatch keywords with ads, further diminishing your ROI, so pay attention.

An easy way to boost your CTR and improve your ads readability is to use the {keyword} variable to generate a headline or sub headline for your ad based on the related search. To utilize this variable properly, you also need to choose a keyword for Google to fall back on if someone searches for a word or phrase that exceeds the ad text character limitations. The code is then {keyword:replacement text}. If you don’t choose a proper keyword that matches up with the text, it can confuse your audience.

Using Google’s keyword matching system is an important way to make your keywords work harder and improve your click-through rate. The fact is your audience is more likely to click on ads that reference their specific search query.

Utilizing Google’s keyword matching system, you can control how Google chooses whether or not to display them on a certain page of results. Search for bids on keywords with these variations to refine how your keywords target your audience:

Keyword = broad match

[Keyword] = exact match

“keyword” = phrase match

Eliminate any quote when you enter your keyword to match it as broad a search as possible. Add the square brackets, and Google will match your keyword to a search of the exact phrase.  Use quotes, and Google will match the words to the specific sequence they are entered. This further refines when your ad appears, further increasing the potential for a higher click through rate. Of course, there is no reason no bid on all three varieties to improve your results!

 

2. Experiment with keyword grouping

How many ad groups have you created? Your PPC campaign’s success hinges on connecting your target audience with the correct ad. If you are only showing one ad regardless of the keyword entered into Google then you are setting yourself up for failure. This is a major reason for low click-through rates. Take the time to create different ads based on your keyword groups. Make sure they make sense! And make sure they match.

If you are using too many keywords, usually over 20, you could be aiming too broadly with your keywords. Create new ad groups and refocus your keywords and their corresponding ads.

Also as important, is creating more than one ad for your group of keywords. Creating two or three ads is a great way to test your copy and see which ad is sharpest. This is also a great way to test how dynamic your keywords are, and what kind of language works best for them.

3. Pay attention to your ROI

Are your keyword purchases putting the right ads in front of the right crowd and creating conversions? If not, your keyword choices are either too broad or too specific.

Usually, it is the broader, short tail keywords that are problematic. They are usually high cost and high risk because they appeal to a broad audience. Short tail keywords do not necessarily create more conversions because they lack actionable phrasing. Stick with specific phrases and similar keywords. These long tail keywords are better for your ROI, generally being cheaper and stronger at connecting your target audience and creating conversions.

4. Compare your conversion rate to your landing page

If your conversion rates are low, your keywords and your landing page might not be meshing. It’s also possible that your keyword usage on the landing page or your call to action is weak. Sometimes all the keyword strategy in the world can’t make up for a dud of a landing page.

Start by tightening up your copy by keeping things relatable. Make sure to buy words that match the audience’s intent on their journey from the search, to your ad, to your landing page. Take a look at what your competitors are doing.  Compare your keyword choices with the choices of your competitors. How do they stack up? How does your copy and its use of keywords stack up? Are your keyword choices matching the ads you’re writing?

5. Use conversion tracking code to see which keywords are working and where

Google will supply any advertisers with a conversion tracking code that can be placed into certain parts of your site code to monitor whether your click-throughs are creating the desired effect of your campaign. You must place the code after the point on the page you want your audience to reach. This is crucial so you can accuratly track the visitors who reached your call to action or email sign up list, not just visitors to the page. Your keywords and their integration into the copy will have a large role in creating conversions while serving as a handy tool for gathering data to manage your keyword selection and usage.

 

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Mobile-First SEO Planning and Strategies for Startups

Woman on mobile device looking for local listings

Startups often have issues gaining traction on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in general, so trying to make sense of the differences between desktop and mobile SEO can be painful. And, gaining real traction in search engine rankings and getting organic search traffic can feel impossible. There are so many sites that have had more time to tinker with their SEO, more time to produce high-quality content, and more time to build the links that drive the results. How do you even begin to think through your company’s SEO strategy for Mobile at that point?

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Increasing your SEO opportunity by thinking outside the box

Many times, as companies, we get so laser locked in on “ranking #1” for our keywords that we lose focus on the real KPIs that matter: conversions, revenue, traffic.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen this in our SEO engagements where people are so focused on a ranking of a keyword or set of keywords. It takes a minute to get people to understand what is truly important. The true goal is never ranking #1 for something or even ranking top 10 for example. Usually, it’s generating revenue, leads, traffic, engagement, etc. Focusing on this is the most important thing, not where a specific keyword ranks.

Along with that, it’s important to think outside the box. Creating a content program or finding new traffic opportunities for the business can create new opportunities to connect with customers.

And, speaking of content, one of my favorite measurements of this was a company I worked with who was worried about blog traffic converting. Think about it this way, if you have a blog with 100 visits that converts 3% of the time but a site that only gets 10 visits and converts 30% of those visits, you’re net conversions is still 3 for each one. If your goal is converting users to paid customers, it’s important to understand your traffic sources.

Similar to rankings, it’s important not to think so narrow minded about the opportunity. Thinking broadly about topics and thinking outside of the box could present growth were the business previously didn’t have it.

Content is an amazing example because you can find so much new opportunity on your SEO efforts. Creating content for SEO purposes not only increases your traffic and long term conversion (albeit at a lower rate), but, if you’re running retargeting campaigns, you’re creating a broader audience by pixeling users that come to your blog for education.

You can also take a look at competitors and understand what they are doing to increase their SEO Opportunities. Are they creating a blog? are the growing their blog content constantly? Maybe another opportunity is creating a resource center for your customers to educate them on products, services, etc.

A company like OnDeck, for example, could create a “small business loan knowledge base” and create a resource center for all terms related to small business loans. At the same time, a company like Luxe Valet could create a “parking costs” or “valet costs” resource that shows parking costs, meter costs, or average valet rates across the U.S. and educate visitors while increasing brand reach, and possible conversions for search terms like “parking costs in los angeles”.

Again, the key here is understanding the opportunity, mapping it out, and finding ways to reach new visitors and hopefully convert them instantly or over time, using other methods like email marketing and retargeting.

Would love to hear more about how you look for SEO opportunities and think outside the box for content. Leave a comment below!

Our team has grown SEO for companies like Blue Bottle Coffee and Ticketmaster. Inquire more about our SEO services and we can help you grow as well!

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