Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #7

SEO Tip 7

I often find it a bit depressing that opportunities in life are often dictated by who you know, and it didn’t make me feel any better when I learned that SEO is beholden to the same standard. To say that SEO Tip #8 and this one are entangled would be an understatement, as SEO Tip #8, if only for a brief moment, foreshadowed what was to come when it mentioned “link building” as a part of a successful SEO strategy. But a short paragraph won’t suffice for how important this aspect of SEO is, so this post is the full follow-up to that mention.

Link Building in Layman’s Terms

Chain Links

The easiest way to understand link building is by framing it as a metaphor for a letter of recommendation. When you’re searching for a new job or generally trying to build your resume, a letter of recommendation from a well-established individual, who holds higher prestige in your field goes a long way towards validating your claims of qualification for a particular position. Link building revolves around this concept.

At its core, a link from another website is a letter of recommendation from that site. Link building is about collecting as many letters of recommendations and referrals from other websites, whose influence and prowess are already established, as possible. The higher the ranking of the site providing the referral link, the more “equity” it carries to your site, which is why it’s important not to waste it with poor SEO strategies.

What makes link building so hard for the DIY, SEO crowd is the amount of footwork involved in obtaining these links. Did you really think it was going to be easy to convince a significant online player to post a link to your website? I bet you did because most people think it’s generally straightforward to accomplish, but in reality, it takes a massive amount of convincing, as established websites are well-aware they are putting their reputation on the line through the affiliation that link provides. So before you ask Google to link back to your website, maybe you should start with a list of easier targets.

Adding Links in Directories

SEO

The easiest way accomplish building your first set of links is by making sure you’re accurately listing your business in all of the relevant directories. Online directories are the digital equivalent of phonebooks (look it up Millennials), and registering your company in them is an easy way to establish some website links while also leveraging the existing online traffic of those sites.

While the links may be easy to obtain, this process will also be an introduction to the amount of legwork it takes to be a successful link builder. There are about ten directories you absolutely have to be in, and each one requires the business owner to complete a sign-up process, list out the company’s geographical information, upload a logo and pictures, write a description, etc. Here’s the list of the directories we find to be the most useful:

  1. Yelp
  2. Angie’s List (when applicable)
  3. YP (Yellow Pages)
  4. Manta
  5. Better Business Bureau
  6. City Squares
  7. USDirectory.com
  8. Local.com
  9. Merchant Circle
  10. EZlocal.com

 

Listing your business in most of the previously mentioned directories is free, but some require payment, and others have a premium tier of listing available. If you manage to get yourself through all ten and are somehow still in the mood for more tedious work to increase your online presence, you can acquire even more links through premium listings and industry-specific directories for your particular business category.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Services

I’ll be honest; most people aren’t up to the task of managing all of these directory listings. The number of usernames and logins alone is enough to drive a sane person mad. There are some subscription services available that manage these listings on your behalf, but it seems like a bit of a ripoff to pay a monthly fee for something that you should only need to do once, and then update annually. If you’re interested, the most popular service is probably Yext, but if you’re going to pay someone for search engine marketing, you might as well get a full package to make it worth your while.

Link building is only one aspect of SEM, and RTR Digital offers it as a part of a larger package that also includes more advanced webmaster techniques, like Google My Business and Bing/Yahoo Listings. When combined with social media management services, RTR Digital provides one of the most well rounded SEO/SEM packages available. If you’re interested in our SEO offerings and would like to start by taking advantage for of our free SEO evaluation offer you can contact us here.

Also, if you would like a full list of our SEO tips before they are released on our blog, you can find them here.

Feel free to leave any questions or comments regarding this post in the comments section, and start a meaningful conversation that could help your company breakthrough in the search engine results pages.

Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #8

SEO Tip 8

It will only take me two paragraphs to explain why SEO Tip #8 is so important, the rest of this article is about what else you need to know to make sure you’re not making any mistakes related to it, and give you an idea of what kind of knowledge is required to reach the “first page” in 2019.

Link Equity

As a consensus, I think almost everyone in the SEO services sector will tell you that a site’s home page is the most important page for its ranking. It may not always contain the most specific information on products and services, but it is the page where the majority of other sites will direct visitors and those links impact SEO rankings in a particular way. Each link on the web brings equity, and every time visitors successfully follows a link to a page, the link transfers its weight to that page’s SEO ranking.

I’m not using the word, equity, in an abstract context to sound more intelligent. The term “link equity” is an industry term used to describe the way SEO authority passes from one site to another. Every time a user clicks a link with the expectation of being taken to a particular page and is redirected to an intermediate landing page, the equity of that link is also being diverted, wasting any ranking increase associated with it. Leading us to the conclusion – landing pages are bad.

Redirects

Redirect InfographicA temporary landing page is considered a form of redirect, one of many web developers have at their disposal, and there was a time when they were the latest craze, but it seems as though that time is fading fast. Companies tend to use landing pages to perform A and B testing, advertise a limited time promotion, or serve customers with a priority notice. Every time companies use a temporary landing page they are unknowingly preventing equity for their SEO ranking from being transferring the intended page.

Redirects themselves, are a necessity of the internet, but they should be avoided at all costs, as they always negatively impact a page’s SEO ranking. Regardless of how a developer deploys a redirect, pages visited as a result only capture a fraction of the equity intended for initial page. An incorrectly configured redirect transfers even less equity, so it’s important to know when, and how, to deploy them before using them on a website.

 

Building Equity

I’ve yet to see a page with perfect SEO because SEO algorithms are continually changing so there are always ways to improve. Outside of hiring a professional, here’s a short list of tactics you can use to get the most out of your existing links.

1. Link consistency – make all the links back to your site read identically. A small difference, like listing “http://” versus “https://” means a loss in equity, as moving a visitor to the secure version of a site still requires a redirect. If possible, link them directly to the final version of the page.

2. 301 Redirects Only – If you have to use a redirect, make it a permanent one, this enables the browser to save the information for future visits. Most browsers have a feature that allows them to automatically redirect themselves to the final version of a page once it encounters a permanent redirect.

3. Start Link Building – Much like the real world, the internet is all about who you know, and getting more popular sites to include links to your page will lift your page in the rankings. Think about how much credibility a direct link from Microsoft or Google would garner your page.

Get Expert Help

As someone who works in SEO services, I understand that this can all be a bit overwhelming. If you ever need additional assistance from RTR Digital, you can fill out a contact form here, and you should definitely download the full SEO tip sheet here.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions about this blog post, and we’ll answer them in a timely fashion.

Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #9

SEO Tip 9

Everyone knows the popular idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but to search engines, a picture is worth absolutely no words. Whenever a site uses an abundance of images to describe their products and services, search engines have no way to enable these images to assist with increasing a site’s ranking when people are searching for the products and services they portray.

Unlike with humans, search engines can’t interpret images and decipher their meaning; instead, they only index the fact that an image is present. For modern day designers, the overuse of pictures has become a staple of creating beautiful websites, but it comes at the cost of their SEO rankings, and that’s not something everyone is aware of when building a site.

The dramatic increase in the amount of imagery used on web pages is a result of one of two design tactics. One, you’re using a template provided by a web builder application, something that we discussed may already be hurting your ranking (Tip #10). Or, two, the developer building the site hasn’t mastered CSS, so they’re inserting images in sections where they should be writing code. We’ll discuss how both of these approaches affect your SEO ranking.

Image Heavy Templates

Wordpress Theme
Longform WordPress Theme

Part of the allure of web building applications is not needing to know how to write code to build a website. Gorgeous templates offer clients a variety of design options from professionals, and with some customization of wording and imagery, even my grandma can produce an “Applesque” site that makes mere mortals marvel at its beauty. The downside is, the same person using a template to build a website doesn’t always understand how preconfigured sites affect search rankings. Images give websites a stunning visual appeal, but they don’t integrate with the core results of a search query.

When visitors enter a term into a search engine, the majority of the results display because of the text information contained within the page’s heading and title elements. Images are elements of a web page as well, but when a search engine encounters them, they log them into a different area of the results page than where most of us find the answers to our inquiries about products and services.

Every time a user selects the images tab on the results page, they’ve moved in the dedicated area where search engines store images that they find on websites. When considering how search engines divide text-based and image search results into separate areas, it should come as no surprise that clicks in the images tab do nothing to assist a site in appearing higher in text-based rankings, and this concept is at the core of how a surplus of images is lowering your SEO rankings.

CSS Mastery

On the other hand, developers aren’t perfect either, and they can stumble into different kinds of errors when using images on pages. Modern websites often display beautiful images with subtext sprinkled over them to add context to what’s on-screen, but if developers haven’t quite mastered advanced styling techniques, these subtexts are sometimes rendered as part of the image and not an individual web element.

Integrated Image

Adding text over images requires developers to understand relative and absolute positioning values, and early-stage developers may not have developed this skill set, so they often include wording in the images themselves. Since these articles are meant to focus on SEO, and not web development tips, we won’t go into great detail about how these settings work. What we can do is let you know how to identify if you’re a victim of a novice web developer by letting you know how to detect if the technique is executed correctly.

Non-integrated Image

Not
Integrated

Text that has been directly integrated within an image cannot be selected, and trying to highlight it with a mouse cursor, or pressing and holding your finger over the text on a mobile device, will identify if the wording is selectable. If the words are not selectable, it means these words are only interpreted by sight, and not by search engines. Those images are also not doing anything to improve your search ranking.

Figuring Out Where You Stand

Understanding how much text is on a page, versus how many images the page contains, provides insight into the content/code ratio. The content/code ratio is used to determine if a page is overly reliant on images, and there are a variety of tools that measure this ratio.

For those not familiar with how this measurement works, it relies on reading the source code of a web page and measuring how many page elements are present versus the amount of content they contain. The measurement produces a percentage that developers know as the code ratio. Search engines can also see this ratio and prefer it to be between 10%-20%.

Tools that display the exact percentage are usually made available with professional SEO software, so you’re working with an agency they should have access to it, but it’s unlikely you’ll naturally stumble across it by yourself.  Make sure you’re discussing this aspect of your site as a part of any SEO audit. If you haven’t had an SEO audit, you can get a complimentary one from RTR Digital by clicking here. You can also preview what fully integrated SEO looks like by clicking here.

If you have any question or comments about this article, please them in the comments section.

Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #10

Top SEO Tips 10

Welcome to the first article in our ten-part series that discusses the top 10 Search Engine Optimization tips from 2018 that should govern your approach to ranking your site higher in 2019. I’m not going to assume that you’re familiar with Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it’s commonly known (if you are all in on the tech acronyms), so I’m going to give you a brief overview of what it is and why it’s essential.

“SEO is the practice of making online content more easily readable for search engines.”

SEO comprises many different elements, such as a page’s structure, metadata, and performance, with the goal of the service being to balance these three aspects of page design to maximize its efficiency, without sacrificing too drastically from its design elements. There are a lot of companies offering SEO services in today’s marketplace, and that’s making it harder for potential customers to distinguish the SEO experts from the SEO imposters.

The goal of this series is to provide education around some of the subtler points of SEO, so when you encounter a so-called “SEO Expert” lacking knowledge of these points, you can determine if the organization is possibly exaggerating their qualifications. So let’s get started.

#10: GOOGLE SEARCH PREFERS CUSTOM BUILT SITES

The first tip you need to know about Google Search, and search engines, in general, are that they favor custom built sites and not ones created with web builder applications. I’m not saying that designing your website with Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress is some nail in the coffin for your search rankings; I’m stating there is a clear preference for one over the other and I’m going to explain why.

The truth is, a search engine can’t distinguish between a site built with a web building application or one coded by a developer, but what search providers can consider, is how long a website takes to load. While not all developers write perfectly efficient code, even those sites created by developers on the lower end of the efficiency spectrum tend to load faster than those generated by applications, and the reason for this is site overhead.

Site Overhead

Load Time Research

Site overhead is a development term used to describe the number of tools a site is required to load before the page can be displayed appropriately. The more tools there are, the longer the loading time. And According to data from Akamai, a leading content delivery network (CDN), loading times in the three-second range dramatically affect a site’s abandonment rate.

Data points like the one mentioned above are not lost on search engine algorithm designers seeking to gain any advantages in their own competitive markets, so loading time is something every web designer needs to consider when deciding what tools to use when creating a site. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that websites created with web building applications are required to load significantly more tools than a site designed by a developer. The reasoning behind this is that sites built with applications have to load every resource they contain regardless of whether they are applied to a particular website.

For example, most templates usually include code that enables designers to create drop-down navigation menu items. For large sites, drop-down style menus make a lot of sense, each product or service is given its own link, making navigating directly to pages much more manageable for visitors. For less robust sites that may only have four or five top-level pages, every page link can be easily fit into a single row navigation bar, meaning the extra code required to create drop-down menus is loading unnecessarily. The result is additional loading time for the smaller site.

 

Mitigating the Damage

Whether your website was created using an application, or by a developer, there are some steps organizations can take to reduce the site overhead. Most hosting companies offer features like photo management and enabling site compression through a visual interface, and executing these steps can minimize site loading times by as much as 20%, but to make real headway, you’ll probably need a developer to perform some more advanced operations.

Intermediate tasks like minimizing HTML, JS, and CSS, require coding knowledge that most novices haven’t yet acquired, with expert level tasks like configuring the browser cache and asynchronous loading requiring someone who knows the server side configurations as well. Given what you now know about SEO, don’t be afraid to reach out for help, you’re not the only one who needs a bit of third-party assistance.

RTR Digital provides complimentary SEO Audits for any organizations that request them, and you can start your organization down the path to higher search rankings by seeking a consultation by clicking here. If you’re a bit timid about reaching out, we offer some more tips about full SEO integration here. If you have questions that you think will benefit everyone by having them answered publicly, feel free to add them in the comments section.

 

 

Can “New Silicon Valley” Survive without Ads?

Silicon Valley Apocalypse

I’ll start by stating something that I thought should be obvious by now, nothing is free, especially when it comes to content and services. I’m not trying to be a Richard when I say things like this; I just feel like most of us are only paying lip service when we talk about valuing people, time, and hard work. We offer euphemisms like, “you can’t get something for nothing,” but when it comes down to it, we’ve all come to expect a lot of things for “free.” About online content and services, a lot of us consider our use of Google Maps, for example, to be free. But it’s not, we pay for the service by turning over our personal information, GPS location data, search history, etc., with all of that data being used to target advertising more accurately.

I want you to stop and think about this for a second, almost every service that’s “free” on a connected device is primarily a tool for selling us more stuff later down the road. I’m not saying this business model is new; I’m merely stating we’re in advertising overdrive since the transition to the digital era, and I’m not sure if it’s sustainable. When I talk to clients about the “New Silicon Valley,” I’m mainly expressing a shift towards the market share first, advertising next, business models that are sweeping through the region, and it’s all based on the perception that we’re getting content and/or services for free.

Over the last decade, a lot of companies have gone public without presenting a legitimate monetization strategy to investors; solely presenting market share numbers for users in the key, but never really profitable, demographic known as Millenials. Each of these businesses ultimately landed on the same business path to profitability – advertising. And with so many companies relying on advertising dollars to keep their metaphorical ships from sinking, I’m not surprised that the emergence of native browser, ad-blockers gave Silicon Valley quite the scare. 

The True Cost of Content

Dollar Bills

The whisper of the idea that companies are going to be forced to live in a world where ads won’t reach the screens of potential consumers sent chills down the spine of Silicon Valley.  If advertising revenue models went away, a lot of your favorite Silicon Valley darlings would plummet back down to earth as if their unicorn wings had been clipped, forcing them to sell their products and services for a hefty fee (Facebook would cost ~$168 year). This situation could be the ultimate demise of the companies, as no one really buys content or services anymore, as a matter of fact, no one really buys anything. I’m not even sure if it’s okay for me to admit that I miss the days when I handed over money and received something tangible in return.

“Between radio, television, print, online, and subscription services, how many advertising dollars are there to go around?”

I’m no Saint when it comes to using advertising as a part of a business model, especially when I’m subsidizing this blog with advertisements (is you see something you like, be sure to click on it), but there is no way there are enough advertising dollars for all of us to survive. It’s not as if producing content can ever be free, regardless of its medium, someone had to pay for it in some way. In the case of this blog, my time was spent writing this; time I could have spent growing other parts of the business, managing employees, or making sales calls.

Not only is my time worth some monetary value (I won’t mention my hourly rate), but not performing other activities in place of this blog also carries its own theoretical loss of value by choosing this activity over another. Unless this blog goes viral, the pennies on the dollar I’ll generate from advertising revenue will never be enough to make up for the cost of creating this content. And it’s for this reason; I would remind all content creators that advertising revenue is supposed to be a subsidy, not a core revenue stream (Google Search being the exception to the rule).

Great Services, Equals Great Profits

Profit Margin

In the midst of the “New Silicon Valley,” we can’t lose sight of the real problem; companies have yet to position their content and services in a manner that validates its monetary value on its merit. A situation that is especially sad when you consider the number of people that helped to create said content and services that go un/underpaid. At some point, the cost of content and services will have to garner enough revenue to sustain the businesses that produce it, leading back to an era when we didn’t consider “software a service.”

“There it is. I don’t believe software is a service –”

I’ve been dancing around calling it out this entire article, but now all the cards are on the table, so I can go hard to close this thing out.

I’m not old enough to call myself “old school” when it comes to service. I wasn’t around for the heydays of personalized service, or have the money to enjoy the convenience of a personal shopper, but one thing I do know is that service usually involves humans. Not software and a touchscreen, but actual human interactions. While software and automation provide vital costs savings to many businesses, they are also diminishing their ability to differentiate themselves from one another. Long term, this is going to be a problem. The only businesses that seem to be flourishing in the digital era, other than a handful of software companies, are those that generate profits through quality service.

In my heart, I believe there only a handful of companies producing content or software that is so unique that you can call them a service, and as the fear of failure looms for the rest of those companies that opted to play the “long game” with profits, they will find their backs against the wall in the coming years. You should start asking yourself, what’s the maximum your willing to pay for Netflix, Spotify, or any other media service? In the next decade, all those companies will have to figure out what that number is if they hope to survive.