Category: Search Engine Optimization

  • Local SEO and Why it is Important

    What is Local SEO?

    Simply put, Local SEO is the process of optimizing your search engine ranking around your local geographic area. This could be within a neighborhood, city, or region. Even though the internet is mostly ubiquitous around the world, local SEO is important. This is due to the rise of the smart phone and how it has impacted how we use use the internet over the last 15 years.

    Today, a mobile device is where many searches for local business, products, and events begin. Meaning they don’t necessarily start with the king of search, Google. While Google is still dominant, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Yelp, and Facebook Business are also driving the search for local goods and services. There has even been an increase in usage of the privacy-centric DuckDuckGo. On an iPhone you can still select the default search engine among Google, Yahoo, Bing & DuckDuckGo (settings->Safari->Search Engine).

    Local SEO – Did You Know
    According to Google, 76% of people who conduct a local search contact a business within 24 hours. 28% of those searches result in a purchase of a service.

    Source: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/marketing-resources/micro-moments/purchase-decision-mobile-growth/

    Why is Local SEO Important?

    There has also been a second driving factor in local search. Google has shifted their algorithm over the years. They would provide results based on the search term. Now they provide results based on both the search terms, plus what they believe to be the user intent. Unless you have taken steps to remove the location data from your device, it is pretty easy for search engines to know roughly where you are located.

    Knowing that, let’s invent a hypothetical user in Omaha who is looking for a new patio set on Google. They type “patio furniture” into their search bar.

    Google, knowing the user is in Omaha, connects the search phrase with the user intent that they are searching for patio furniture near them. The first result (after the ads, which were removed for legibility) is a compact map location showing the three most relevant sources for Patio Furniture in Omaha.

    In SEO terms, this map search results is called the “Google Map Pack” or “Google Local Pack.” In terms of search results, this gives local business the clout they need to compete with larger, nationwide businesses. Almost every type of business is helped by this type of search result.

    As you see in the next image, the first three organic search results are for large businesses.

    Local SEO is about optimizing the content and structure of your site, so that you capture the audience of local user intent.

    So how do you get there?

    How to Improve Your Local Results?

    First and foremost, start with consistency in Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) in your website and third party business listings.

    You should claim any business listings for your business that you can find. The most common would be: Google My Business, Facebook Business, Yelp, Bing Business, and LinkedIn. Add TripAdviser if your business touches tourism or place/things to do. There are several others out there, but let’s take care of the fundamentals.

    Each site has a different way to claim a business. It usually involves a postcard sent to the business address or a phone call to the listed business number. We do have a guide on editing your business on Google Maps, which shows the process more in depth. Once the locations are claimed, it is time to make sure the NAP information is correct and identical on all of the major platforms.

    Next, on your website, make sure your address is prominently listed in the site. The footer is a good place to do this. It provides space to include the business name (in text), the address, and a clickable phone number.

    Click to Call – Did You Know?
    A Google study shows that 70% of mobile searchers click-to-call a business from Google results.

    Source: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/click-to-call

    Keyword Research

    Now, it’s time to do some rough keyword research. Pro SEOs have many keyword tools at their disposal. But you don’t have to be pro to get some tips on what people are searching for to trigger local search results.

    Using the fictitious “Super Awesome Coffee” as a sample business, here are some searches that trigger local intent:

    • “coffee shops near me”
    • “super awesome coffee address”
    • “super awesome coffee phone”
    • “what time does super awesome coffee close”
    • “directions to super awesome coffee”

    If you need to find some other keyword ideas that might be trigger local SEO results, head over to Google and take advantage of Google Autocomplete:

    Once you have some rough keywords identifying user intent, you can measure how your site performs against those type of searches.

    You may need to modify your website structure to change the local SEO results. This could be as simple as content changes.

    As a small business owner, you may be too close to technical terminology in your business. You may specialize in selling Turboencabulators, but your customers only know them as Blue Widgets. Changing your website content to reflect “blue widgets” would likely have a positive impact in local SEO results.

  • Major Google Algorithm Update

    On August 1, Google rolled out a fairly big update to their search algorithm.

    Background Terms

    Before we get into the meat of the algorithm changes, here are a few terms you’ll need to know.

    YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) Pages

    Pages on a site that contrast benefits of a product/service/advice/etc that could have a negative impact on lifestyle or money. For instance, pages that offer information such as investments or tax information, medical information on specific diseases, symptom checkers, parenting, child support, divorce and creating wills.

    This also includes pages such as sales copy on lifestyle-related products and the Informational Products that many people are using to monetize their “expertise”

    E.A.T

    Google’s new name for the information a high-quality page needs:

    • Expertise.
    • Authoritativeness.
    • Trustworthiness.

    Thin Content, Thin Content Sites

    Generally speaking, rather generic content on site. Details are often lacking and word counts are typically less than 300-500 words, and often less than 20-25 total pages.

    Skyscraper Content

    The practice of producing content for timely subject matters and going bigger. For example to out rank a piece of content like “12 Things to Plan for Retirement,” you would build a longer, more in-depth page “60 Things to Retire Properly.”

    SERP

    Search Engine Result Pages

    NAP Data

    Name Address and Phone information about a person/business

    Squeeze Pages

    Landing pages designed to capture opt-in email addresses.

    Generic Lead Sites

    Sites developed by lead brokers, often designed with little or no identifiable business information

    About the Update

    So back to that algorithm update. On August 1st, one of the core changes to their algorithm includes a new quality score based on E.A.T. This will be a determining factor of how sites show up in SERPs. This score won’t ever be disclosed, but you’ll know you are affected by seeing fluctuations in search. The main focus of this update is to take on low quality YMYL sites, especially those offering non-traditional information such as supplements, anti-vaccinations and homeopathy, but this update will have a strong carryover to most industries.

    So what are they looking for to determine this score? Content should be ample enough to satisfy the needs of a user for a page’s unique topic and purpose (broad topics require more information than narrow topics, for example).

    • The page and its associated content is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for the topic they discuss
    • The website has a positive reputation for its page topics
    • The website features enough auxiliary information, for example, “About us,” “Contact,” or “Customer Service” information
    • The website features supplementary content (SC) that enhances the user’s enjoyment and experience of a web page
    • The page is designed in a functional fashion that allows users to easily locate the information they want
    • The website is maintained and edited regularly and frequently

    In short, they are looking for both the expertise of the author and quality of writing (grammar, flow, engagement) of YMYL sites. For instance, if a doctor or lawyer is producing content, make sure their credentials are spelled out on the page.

    Thin content, such as boilerplate services copy, will be losing ground in search results to custom, topical content. And conversely, skyscraper content may likely be adversely affected as well, as 4000 word pages of content typically have a poor user experience. Syndicated content will also likely suffer as this is a double whammy in conjunction with duplicate content scores.

    This may also hinder sites/pages that act as generic lead sites, sales pages and squeeze pages. That isn’t to say these types of pages are now frowned upon, they are just looking to make sure that these pages/sites contain enough credible information, contact methods and functionality to earn some authority. This is combat a common tactic of not-so-reputable leadgen, reputation management and SEO firms; building out as many single page sites using multiple, keyword-rich domain names as budget allows and driving traffic via AdWords, YouTube video spam and private blog networks (PBN).

    Recommendations

    1. Add and revise content on your site on a regular basis. Google will be looking at changes to a sites content over time. Stale sites will definitely start to see some fluctuations in their SERPs.
    2. Take a look at thin content pages on your site. Consider combining pages of similarly themed content to build out 800-1600 word pages. Also consider periodic content pruning: combining older, thin blog posts into larger posts and 301 redirecting the old post URLs to the new, combined post.
    3. For blog/news posts, we now suggest 500 word minimum content instead of 300 word posts. There are exceptions of course. Producing frequent (weekly or better) content is fine in 300 word range, especially if you practice periodic content pruning of older content (as mentioned above).
    4. When producing content from subject matter experts, make sure they have a biography on the site and include professional credentials when they make sense. For example, include credentials on the byline of an article.
    5. Ensure there is easy-to-find Contact information on your site. Hiding behind a phone number, PO Box or contact form may see some negative results in SERps, while those who list accurate and consistent NAP Data and multiple ways to make content could see a boost in rankings.
    6. If your site is not mobile-responsive, consider this your final warning to get this fixed. User experience and page functionality are a big component of this update. When combined with the Pagespeed update in July, it is clear that Google will be negatively impactings SERPS from slow, desktop-focussed sites.
    7. If you are building multiple lead generation sites, make sure you are building for quality and not quantity. A common tactic of not-so-reputable leadgen and seo firms, is to build as many single page sites using multiple domain names which are keyword rich.
    8. Scan your site for broken links to both internal and external sites. Update or remove these links as necessary.
    9. In highly competitive niches, consider dedicating areas on your site to display accreditations and industry awards. Also highlight testimonials, especially in a B2C-based website.
  • Explain Like I’m Five: Google AMP

    AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it’s an open-source set of web standards developed and promoted by Google. The idea behind AMP is to facilitate and encourage lightning fast load times for mobile sites.

    Have you ever clicked on a link on your phone, and it took so long to load you just hit ‘back’ and tried a different link? AMP is designed to prevent that from happening. And AMP pages are very fast, somewhere between 4 and 31 times faster on average to load than a non-AMP web page.

    While AMP is pretty new stuff, (it’s about 2 years old,) if you use a mobile browser, you’ve probably seen it already without noticing it. You probably just clicked on a link from google that loaded really fast, and then you didn’t even think about “Wow, that content was instantaneously delivered to me.” Which is the idea: Un-interrupted browsing.

    You’ve already been browsing AMP pages.

    Next time you’re scrolling through Google results on mobile, keep an eye out for this little gray lightning bolt icon. It indicates the link being served is an AMP version of that content. You’ll see that gray icon underneath some results-links, like so:

    google AMP icon on cards in search results

    And if there are news results for your search, you’ll see a little carousel of AMP versions of recent articles pertaining to your search:

    google amp carousel for news articles

    And if you want to see if AMP really is fast, you can access the non-AMP version of a page by clicking the link icon in the little bar up at the top.

    Notice the difference in load times when you access that version of the same content. Also go ahead and notice the subtle styling differences. More on that later.

    google amp URL display address bar

    How Does Google AMP Work?

    So AMP pages are very fast because of a two-fold approach: They’re small, and they’re they’re hosted on very fast servers. It’s like a tiny cannonball being launched out a very large cannon: it goes fast.

    AMP pages are written in AMP HTML, which is a slightly modified version of regular vanilla HTML. There are strict requirements about what can and cannot go into AMP pages, all with the intention of making AMP pages small in size, and fast-loading once they hit the browser. That’s over-simplifying things a little bit, but that’s the gist.

    Anything that is big and bloated is forbidden in AMP pages.

    Because AMP pages are generally intended to be slimmed down versions of other pages, every AMP page has a HTML tag in it that tells web-crawlers what regular HTML page the AMP page is a copy of.

    Similarly, that regular HTML page will have a tag in it that leads to the AMP version.

    You also can have sites that are entirely in AMP HTML, but this is very rare right now. The AMP site itself is written entirely in AMP HTML, though, so it is possible.

    With me so far? Now when google crawls a website, it finds any versions of AMP pages, and then — get this: it uploads and hosts those AMP pages on Google’s servers. That’s the second half of the one-two punch approach to AMP’s speed.

    • Punch 1: pages are slimmed down to their smallest possible size.
    • Punch 2: those slimmed down pages are then hosted on very fast servers.

    Now, to be clear: Google doesn’t own AMP. It’s not technically a Google “product”, it’s a set of standards they’ve helped develop. Other companies can also host AMP pages too. Twitter currently uses AMP for linked content embedded in tweets. But for now and the foreseeable future, Google is the primary host for AMP content.

    Should you be using AMP on your website?

    Well, it depends. AMP is new, has a somewhat unclear future, but also is constantly expanding it’s capabilities.

    If content and clicks is your business, you absolutely should be using AMP pages right now. AMP started out as primarily targeting news and blog content, and it still has the strongest adoption and benefit in that sphere. It doesn’t matter if you run a niche blog about international table tennis news: if your article is not in that slick AMP pages carousel for news articles and someone else’s is, you are probably losing pageviews to them.

    eCommerce Sites and Google AMP

    If your business is primarily eCommerce, you probably should look into AMP pages. Ecommerce is the next area of web traffic the AMP project is targeting. Ebay has already adopted AMP pages, and very soon other major retailers may follow.

    Having AMP versions of your pages may be a meaningful competitive edge for you, and it might pay off more and more in the next few years. If you’re starting a new site, AMP is definitely worth investigating. If you’d be converting an existing project, it’s at least worth looking into.

    Do AMP Pages Boost SEO?

    But what about if you’re neither a dedicated news site or an ecommerce merchant? Does your site need to be re-built to run on AMP HTML? Well, if you asked Google this question, their answer would be emphatically yes. Google would like every website to be using AMP pages for everything.

    Aside from having special presentation for some AMP content, Google does not recognize AMP as a ranking factor for SEO… yet. But we do know that Google does consider how fast your site loads, and AMP version of pages are bound to load faster.

    Understanding Limitations With Google AMP

    If you remember, AMP pages will often look slightly different than the non-AMP versions. Fonts might change and design elements might be gone from the AMP version. That’s because AMP forbids or excludes a lot of things that most sites use to make them run.

    Really that’s the whole idea: it’s like a bike lane for slimmed-down mobile pages where clunky semi-truck web pages are not allowed.

    The problem then, is that most web sites are more truck than bike. And creating a bike-site version of your truck-site, y’know, can be hard. And even though AMP HTML is expanding, it doesn’t currently allow certain common site elements, and requires unusual implementations of others.

    If your site is built on WordPress, there are some WordPress plugins designed to create AMP versions of pages (because there’s a WordPress plugin for everything), and there are tools for some of the other major content management systems as well. But because AMP HTML is a pretty major paradigm-shift compared to regular HTML, expect some hiccups with plug-and-play tools like that. That’s like a DIY truck-to-bike kit, your mileage may vary.

    If you’re not using a CMS that already has an AMP tool developed, you will need to have a discussion with your developers as to what adopting AMP pages would cost. Chances are, if you’re just looking for more visibility in search results, there are less costly ways of accomplishing that.

  • What is RSS…And How Can You Use It?

    You’ve probably heard the terms RSS or RSS Feed or maybe you’ve seen the icon in use throughout the web.

    rss icon displayed on websites with rss feedsWhat is it? RSS stands for Rich Site Summary, although there is another common moniker Really Simple Syndication. In a nutshell RSS is structured data format based on XML. It displays information such as:

    • A website’s URL
    • The title of a piece of content
    • The date of the content
    • A summary of the content
    • The URL where this content permanently resides
    • The full text of the content
    • Information about the author
    Historical Use of RSS Feeds

    The history of the RSS feed coincided with the rise of blogging in the early 2000s. RSS quickly gained a foothold among tech-minded bloggers as a method of reading content in one place without the need to visit numerous sites daily.

    sample of an rss feed in xml format
    Using Feed Readers for RSS

    Through the use of a feed reader, a user could enter the URL of site’s RSS feed, along with any other sites they commonly visited. The feed reader would periodically visit the feed throughout the day to see if there was new content. If it detected something fresh, it would automatically pull it in.

    It made keeping up with the news and bloggers an easy task. Your news feed, right where you want it, in a streamlined format using Previous and Next navigation.

    Popular RSS Feed Readers

    Perhaps the most well known Feed Reader was Google Reader, which really opened the door to the use of RSS feeds. Sadly Google Reader closed down in 2013, despite heavy usage, as it appears Google was never able to find a way to monetize Google Reader.

    rss feed reader feedly.com

    Today Feedly.com is one of the most popular, along with NewsBlur.com, InoReader.com and Feedspot.com. Additionally, there are numerous application-based readers as well including NetNewsWire for Mac and iOS [netnewswireapp.com], and functionality within the browser like Safari, Firefox, and Chrome (via an extension).

    RSS Feeds Are Still Useful In 2017

    I’m subscribed to over 150 different RSS feeds. But using a feed reader, it takes me only a few minutes a day to scan through the headlines. If I see something of interest, I will open it in a new browser tab for later reading.

    I also have additional tools which allow me to share something I like to my Twitter account. The beauty of RSS is that it frees you from having to read everything you subscribe to. Using keyboard shortcuts you can easily skip over items that aren’t of interest.

    In today’s world, there are even more uses for RSS as well…

    Writing a new blog post for your website? Use an automation tool such as Zapier or IFTTT (If This, Then That) to automatically grab the information from your blog post and push it out to your social media accounts.

    Compiling news or press releases for a multi-location business? Set up a dashboard tool to bring in current headlines or display company news on esignage without the need for rewriting a news story.

    Adding support for Facebook Instant Articles for your brand or website? Facebook relies on a customized RSS to create lightweight pages that load fast for mobile readers on slower connections.

    Privacy Concerns and RSS Feeds

    For the privacy conscious people among us, RSS also provides a layer of anonymity. Since feed readers capture the data provided from an RSS feed. The websites you subscribe to will never see any personally identifiable data.

    What are you waiting for? Fire up a feed reader and subscribe to our feed.

  • Local Search 101: NAP Consistency

    What Does NAP stand for? NAP Consistency? NAP stands for NAME, ADDRESS, and PHONE number. Your business’ NAP CONSISTENCY refers to the accuracy of all listings for your brand across the entire web.

    Why is an accurate NAP important for SEO?

    At the end of the day, search engines are computers and we all know that computers are extremely detail-oriented machines. In order to build confidence in your brand, search engines must be really sure of who/where/what you are. They rely on local listings sites, social media profiles, and other places around the web as signals for your business information. Just one single inconsistency in your NAP across the web can hinder a search engine’s confidence in your brand’s location, contact information, or even company name.

    Why is an accurate NAP important for your customers?

    If a customer attempts to find your address or call a phone number using incorrect information on the web, it could make all the difference when deciding between your company or a competitor. Additionally, the rise of mobile devices has increased local searches significantly. According to Google Trends data from March 2015, search queries that contain a location qualifier such as “nearby” or “near me” have doubled in the past year. Your customers are performing research on the go, and demand accurate local results as soon as possible to make a decision. Many of the sites where your business can and should get listed also offer onsite reviews where customers can provide input on the quality of their experience. According to the 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal, 92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses, and 97% of consumers aged 18-34 read online reviews to judge a local business. For the sake of your customers, past and future, keep your information up to date everywhere your business NAP is listed on the web.

    NAP Consistency is a Huge Problem for Local SMB’s

    The process of evaluating your business’ NAP consistency across the web is not extremely difficult, however it remains a critical issue for small business owners in 2016. In a recent survey of 500+ local search consultants and SMB owners from BrightLocal’s webinar series, inconsistent citation and NAP (Name, Address, Phone) data was by far the most common issue, reported by 41%. The problem is that most business owners have no idea where their business is listed online, let alone an acute awareness of any inconsistencies that may be out there.

    How Did My Business NAP Become Inconsistent?

    There are many reasons why your business information might have become inconsistent over time. Here are just a few:
    • Your business moved to a new address
    • Your business got a new phone number
    • Your business got a new zip code
    • Your business hired an SEO company in the past
    • Your business got a new domain
    • Your business has multiple locations
    • Your business had a location close

    How Can My Business Improve NAP Consistency?

    Your business can improve NAP consistency first by making sure the listings that are out there are accurate. This is a time-consuming process that requires the eyes of an extremely detail-oriented staff member. We’ll discuss some tools in a minute that can contribute to your success. Another way to improve NAP consistency is to increase the frequency of accurate mentions on the web by populating new listings.

    Why Have Multiple NAP Listings?

    Remember how we talked about websites providing quality signals about your business information to search engines? Well the more positive and accurate signals, the better. Additionally, when your customers perform a branded search with your company name in Google, the chances of a competitor making it onto page 1 for your company name are a lot slimmer if the entire SERP is filled with your business listings.

    Where Should My Business NAP Get Listed?

    Your business should be listed anywhere your customers live online, with some exceptions. Consider looking at your customer demographics and consumer profiles for insight into who they are and how they search for things online. Analyze your competition and find out where they are listed, then get your business information on those same sites. Here are some of the types of websites that any business can benefit from being listed on:
    • data aggregators
    • local search engines
    • local blogs
    • social media sites
    • locally focused directories
    • industry focused blogs or directories
    And if your business is located in the Omaha area, check out this list of Top SEO Citation Sources in Omaha, NE from Moz:
    •    Yellow Pages
    •    Journal Star
    •    Dex Knows
    •    Yelp
    •    BBB
    •    Superpages
    •    Manta
    •    Facebook
    •    Yahoo Local
    •    Omaha.com
    You’ll notice the Omaha local list includes search engines, social media sites, and even news publications. Be aware that some of these websites may require the completion of a profile and a payment for full verification. In my experience, you don’t necessarily need to pay for any of these services to make sure your information is accurate. You can create a user profile or business account and provide edits and suggestions. Depending on the site, your edits may not be made in real time unless you are paying for a verified profile.

    What Tools Can My Business Use to Check & Maintain NAP Consistency?

    There are a number of tools you can utilize to check and maintain your business’ NAP consistency across the web, here are a few of our favorites:

    Manual Spreadsheet Audit

    Good old-fashioned data entry. Using Google or another search engine, find as many of your listings as you can find and import that information into a spreadsheet that can be shared with clients and collaborators. manual spreadsheet audit local seo While it is nice to have an offline record of everywhere your business is listed on the web, populating this information manually relies on the accuracy of humans behind keyboards. Be sure to nominate the most detail-oriented member of your staff or team to perform this task.

    Moz Local

    Moz is one of the internet’s most trusted sources for information related to search engine optimization, content marketing, and local search. Their Local tool offers an incredibly powerful free version and also a paid version. What I love about the Moz Local tool is its ability to find hard links to any duplicate or incorrect listings across the entire web. Your business will receive a score based on the accuracy of your listings as well as recommendations about how to improve it. moz local seo nap consistency tool When we do site assessments for our potential clients, Moz Local is one of our most trusted tools for evaluating NAP consistency for any business. Try it out for yourself, the results may be shocking.

    Yext

    Yext offers a tool that is very similar to Moz Local. My experience with this tool is limited. Much like Moz Local, Yext’s tool offers a full analysis of your business profiles across the web for free but requires a payment to perform any edits in bulk. Agencies even have the ability to white-label their scanning tool to integrate it into a lead generation tool for any website. yext local seo scanner tool

    BrightLocal

    BrightLocal is another local citation management software company that helps businesses manage their location data in some unique ways. They describe their service as “a hybrid solution that combines manual, direct-to-submissions and or automated distribution via local data aggregators.” Savvy SEO’s will enjoy direct control and flexibility by only paying to submit to the networks they really want. Those that lack knowledge of how to build the right citations can use a prepackaged option with a bulk discount. local seo citation building aggregator submissions with Brightlocal Does your business need help improving your local search visibility in the Omaha area? Correct any inconsistencies with your location data and provide immediate benefits for your customer search experience.

  • Choosing Your Next Domain Name

    1. Do Your Research Before buying anything from a domain name service or web hosting company, research the domain name you’ve selected to see if it has been used in the past by a previous owner. This is a critical step in the selection process that can make or break your site’s potential for future success on the web. Just recently, marketing guru Neil Patel documented the dangers of missing this step in his $100,000 Challenge. If your desired domain was successful in the past for a particular niche or industry, it will be significantly easier to get a new site off the ground with that domain for that same niche or industry. If your desired domain was unsuccessful or spammy in the past, it will be significantly harder to launch a new site with that domain for any niche or industry. The reasoning for this boils down to an understanding of how search engines work. The domain authority and backlinks associated with a domain in search engines do not magically disappear when a domain name record changes hands or expires. Search engines rely heavily on these backlinks to interpret signals about the strength and accuracy of the content on a website. Do not assume that purchasing a premium domain will avoid this issue, even domains that are listed for higher than market value can have a history of spammy link tactics. Our interactive director, Shawn Hartley, recommends avoiding sites with any history of the “Three P’s: Pills, Porn, and Poker.” Take advantage of cached web pages on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and get an actual glimpse of the design and layout of the site as it once was. You can also reference the ICANN WHOIS records to track the domain’s ownership over time. You can then use sites like ahrefs.com, Majestic SEO, or SEM Rush to do a full analysis of the links pointing to the domain in question and assess if its backlinks are the result of natural traffic or if there is a history of spammy tactics or malware. Check the anchor text of the links for keywords that don’t align with the site’s niche or industry, these could be evidence of a hacked site. Research can aid in your search of a domain that has good history, but it is also necessary to make sure you are avoiding issues with other business names and trademarked brands. Conduct a search for trademarked words if necessary.

    2. Use keywords that are relevant to your topic or industry
    Using keywords that are related to what you do can help both search engines and human searchers decipher what your brand is all about. Our clients at Fireplace, Stone & Patio understand this concept better than anyone. But for years, they operated under the name Lumberman’s Hearth and Home. FSP President Jeff Funk realized that their name was already popular among design and construction professionals, but they wanted a name that resonated with the general public as well. Fireplace, Stone & Patio highlights their three areas of expertise and reminds customers where they can go to find everything in one place. If you’re thinking about going the keyword route, grab a thesaurus for some creative inspiration and brainstorming. You can also rely on keyword planning tools like KeywordTool.ioUbersuggest, or simply by typing words and phrases into the query box on Google.com for combinations and suggestions. While this approach may not be ideal for every industry, consider how your brand name resonates with your future customer base, especially if your target audience is rather diverse like in the case of Fireplace, Stone & Patio.
    3. Make it easy to remember and spell
    Taco Bell recently claimed a new domain name: ta.co If you ask me, this is one of the best examples of branding on the web. Taco Bell is clearly on a mission to dominate the online conversation about what they do best: tacos. The name is short—so short it can be entered into your search bar or browser by typing just five characters. It’s uniquely memorable because the combination of the URL’s extension and the domain name itself create a full word. This is known in some circles as “domain hacking.” Google recently performed a similar stunt with the launch of their parent company Alphabet. Their announcement for the formation of their new company was displayed on the homepage of a new domain: abc.xyz These two URLs are clever examples of how to leverage the domain selection process in some creative ways. Not all businesses will be able to pull off something like this, but it’s important to understand just how far some of the most successful brands on the web are willing to go to make their domain names truly unique and memorable.
    4. Select an Appropriate Domain Extension
    Back in the day, there weren’t many choices for domain extensions. Today it seems like I stumble on a new one almost every week. Despite the sharp uptick in the number and variety of available domain extensions, most webmasters would agree that the tried and true .com will always dominate the game. This has more to do with public perceptions on the web than it does SEO. Big businesses have relied on the .com for so long that it has become ingrained in the minds of users as a more reputable and authoritative extension. Although you can attract quite a bit of attention with some of the newly available extensions, they don’t provide any noticeable boost for SEO. Probably the most controversial new domain extension is the dot sucks extension. In fact, if you think you’ve identified a really awesome domain name only to discover someone is already using it with a .com, you might as well look elsewhere. There is not a lot of value in owning and building a domain name if someone already owns it with the most popular extension. This can create confusion for customers and even cost your company valuable business. Conversely, some companies reduce the chances that someone will snatch up an identical domain by buying up the name across multiple extensions. Some extensions are more popular in certain industries than others. In recent years, you may have noticed that many startups and app development companies have flocked to the .co and .io extensions. Some domain extensions can also give companies the opportunity for geographical targeting. Extensions like .uk, .it, .eu are examples of these and can perform well if you do business abroad.
    5. Choose Wisely
    Choose your domain and extension wisely. It’s always a good idea to see what your competitors are up to as well as notable online businesses in similar industries for inspiration and guidance.

    Additional Resources

    Does your website show up in organic search results? Renew your focus on search engine optimization tactics to become a known competitor in your industry or local market.

  • Addressing Duplicate Content & Canonical URLs

  • How fast does the site take to load?
  • Is the server overloaded, does it suffer from code-bloat or rely on poorly scripted external asset calls?
  • How is the content organized?
  • Does the site lend itself to providing a user experience which encourages either a path to a goal, or easy exploration and content discovery?
  • Are there technical problems which may add confusion for search engines?
  • Are there malformed links which lead to the same content being available through multiple URLs?
Today let’s tackle a technical problem that can confuse search engine spiders: duplicate content and canonical URL issues. We take pride in the websites we produce and work on, but we don’t like to use client sites or even competitor sites for examples of SEO pride or problems. However, we suffer from the same type of problems as the Cobbler’s kids since we’re a development shop, so I took a look under the hood of our own site to uncover some common technical issues.

The same content, but found at different URLs

When we launched our new site last year, I vaguely remember a change in terminology used in one of our web tools because it would “have a better marketing impact.” This was rather late in the development process, but the change centered around one of the tools in our CMS that has many options for configuration. During our development, we changed a section of our site to be named “Brands” instead of “Logos”. However, the terminology change didn’t quite make its way through all sections of the site. In two places in the content it still referenced “Logos” in the internal links. This morning, when I was looking through an updated XML sitemap – a tool we often use to point search engines to new content on our site – I realized we had a duplicate content issue that affected about 16 pages of content, giving the appearance of having twice that much in the site’s footprint. Duplicate content can have a negative effect on your site’s search profile. If the content comes from a different source, those pages will likely never show up in a search. If the duplicate content is from your own site, search engines will make their best guess as to which content has authority, and which doesn’t. We want to make sure we eliminate that issue from our site.

Where to start the fixing duplicate content?

First things first, I had to decide which term offers the most benefit. “Brands” and “Branding” are the terms we use to accurately describe what we create, but most people who are looking for a design firm to create a logo for their company are searching for “logos”. If you compare the query volume of the brands vs. logos using Google’s Keyword tool or other search tool, you’ll see that searches for “logos” has about 10x greater search volume than “brands”. Easy call, if you want your audience to find you, use their terminology.

How to fix duplicate content issues

The next step was to decide how to fix this. I could have simply made sure all links in the site linked to new structure properly, dropped a link rel=”canonical” meta tag in place and called it a day. The link rel=”canonical” meta tag was introduced a few years ago to combat this same problem on poorly coded ecommerce sites, it basically says to the search engine spiders: “I don’t care how the URL was formed that you used to find this page, this is the proper URL you should use.” Example: http://www.example.com/products/widgets/blue/large/rainproof and http://www.example.com/products/widgets/rainproof/large/blue might bring you to the exact same page of content. But with the link rel=”canonical” tag, you can tell the search engines: http://www.example.com/products/widgets/large/blue/rainproof is the official way you want that page to be linked but recognize that the same content can be found in many different ways. In short, link rel=”canonical” can be a godsend on large ecommerce sites, but for smaller sites, link rel=”canonical” can also be a crutch. So in this case, I wanted to fix it properly by removing the malformed URLs, permanently redirecting them (a 301 redirect), and letting the search engines know that there has been a change.

Here are the steps that I took:

  1. The URL needed to reference logos instead of brands. Old Structure: http://www.corporate3design.com/work/3/55/brands/authos/ New Structure: http://www.corporate3design.com/work/3/55/logos/authos/
  2. I identified all differing links on the site and corrected them to the “logos” form of the URL.
  3. I created 301 redirects from the “brands” version of the URLs to the “logos” version.
  4. I vented my frustrations to a co-worker or two.
  5. I tested every single link to ensure the redirects were working properly and with a 301 response code.
  6. I generated a new XML Sitemap and pinged our webmaster tools accounts with Google and Bing.
The end result of this should be clear in a few days. But hypothetically, our site’s footprint will shrink by about 16 pages and the relative search strength of the two different versions of pages should be passed to the URL structure we are defining. By itself, this likely won’t have much of an impact on improving our SEO for being found for “logos”, but it certainly solidifies the foundation of our site. Unsure about your company website’s performance? Renew your focus on search engine optimization tactics to become a known competitor in your industry or local market.

  • 5 Takeaways for Internet Marketing Success

    SEO or Social Media, or Content Marketing. Can you guys do this?” Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions about your online business:

    1. What is the number one goal of your company website?
    2. What have you done in the last 6 months to make your website achieve that goal?
    3. Do you know what your conversion rate is?
    4. Are you considered an expert in your line of work? Do your clients and prospects know this?
    5. Do you know the demographics of your prospective clients?

    Identify Your Business Goals

    The simple fact of the matter is that most businesses are hard pressed to come up with an answer to the first question. Despite the commercial web being nearly 20 years old, you would be surprised how many times I hear the answer “I don’t know; everyone told me I needed a website.” Would you hire a new employee and just expect him or her to just sit there? Usually there is a full blown job description listing the responsibilities of the job that lays out what is expected of a new hire. You should take this same step when thinking about developing (or rebuilding) your website. Whether or not you become a Corporate 3 Design client, being able to talk to your web developer and say “the goal of our site is this: _________________” you immediately define an expectation of success and give your web developer the ability to be razor focused on the project before them. Here are some sample goals to get you started:
    • “I need this website to be a bridge between my existing clients and myself, automating many of our shared tasks to make us all more efficient.”
    • “I make blue widgets, and I need this site to sell x amount of widgets every month.”
    • “Our company isn’t well known, but we are experts in our field. I need our site to help expose our credentials, get the word out to a larger audience, and get them to fill out our contact form.”
    • “We are a restaurant but need help reaching our customers. We want to grow our email list so that 1) we know who our customers are so we can market to a similar demographic and 2) build a better relationship with them by offering rewards via email.”

    Feed Your Site With Original Content

    When was the last time you added something new to your site? The simple fact of the matter is that for a website to successfully reach its goals, it needs to be fed. It doesn’t have to happen all at once; in fact, it would be better if didn’t. Taking the analogy of treating your website like an employee again, it needs to be treated as a living entity. Launching the website was step one, now you need to expand the size and depth of your site by: It doesn’t have to be done daily or even weekly, but take the time to put together a content calendar that gives you an outline and time-line for when you should be adding new content to your site.

    Find fresh content for your website

    Do you blog? Do you have dynamic individuals on staff that could be the focus of video? Do you have talent on staff that could maintain a podcast? Content can come from anywhere. Look to your staff for the people who are already doing it. Here’s a tip, if you have more than a few employees, I’ll bet that you have someone on staff who is already blogging on their own time, and more often than not, blogging about your industry.

    Make Sense of Your Conversion Rates

    What do you think is the better opportunity: Thousands of web visitors a day or a small handful? Do you know your conversion rate – those who complete an action on your site that fits with your site’s goal? If you don’t, you may be surprised on the correct answer. More traffic isn’t always the pathway to success. Now let me ask you this: Would you rather have 15,000 daily visitors that results in 10 people completing your goal action or would you rather have 100 visitors and 30 completing the goal action? Want to change your answer to the first question now? The simple fact of the matter is that in most cases, going after more traffic is often a wasted effort. But unless you know your conversion rate, you can’t be sure. Google Analytics is a great place to start!

    Leverage Your Thought Leaders

    Somewhere in your company you most likely have someone who is a thought leader in your industry. These types of people can be invaluable to bringing the spotlight to both your company and your website. Thought Leaders are ideal as blog authors, press interviews, podcast and video interviews and more. These people are also ideal on social media networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Putting a face to the knowledge and making them available, is a key method of getting in front of new prospects. They should also have some sort of featured element on your website, so don’t forget them when planning a new site architecture.

    Use Demographics For Targeting

    Do you know the demographics of your customers and prospects? Learn how to find your audience with the help of social media or analytics. If not, how can you begin to plan on how to reach them. Nothing sends a worse message than expending your resources in one direction only to find out your prospects aren’t even there. For example, companies who, even to this day, insist on having huge, complex sites filled with technology that breaks where it is needed most. I’m looking squarely at you restaurants. These days, most visitors to restaurant sites are visiting on a mobile device, and they want one of three things:
    1. The Phone Number
    2. The address
    3. The menu
    Yet I still see it on weekly basis, a restaurant sitting there with a website built in Flash, completely unusable in the mobile space. The next time you go down the path of designing or developing your web presence I hope you take the time to ask yourself these questions. Regardless if you ever become a Corporate 3 Client or not, having an answer to these questions can determine if your new site will be a success or a failure. Unsure about your company website’s performance? Contact us today for a FREE website assessment to discover your potential for growth on the web!