Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #4

SEO Tip 4

Over the years, there have been a lot of fancy SEO tools emerging in the marketplace. As part of the effort to make SEO more accessible to non-developers, the first principle is disappearing in the shuffle – keyword management. The core premise of SEO involves making sure the links that appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) are closely related to the words that users type in the search bar, and for that to happen, multiple data points have to converge. As it so happens, all these data points rely on keyword associations.

Keywords are a bit complicated, as most people only understand them from a single perspective. Searchers view them as the words entered into the search bar. Advertisers see them as words that trigger ads. Lastly, developers view them as copy on a website. So which one are they? They’re all of the above, and the synchronization of all of these elements is what produces real SEO results, so I can’t overstate how important it is that you manage your keywords at all times.

Think Like a Customer

Online Purchase

The best advice I ever received from a fellow SEO expert was, “think like a customer and everything else will follow.” Much to his credit, he understood something I didn’t know about internet users, they don’t know the rules of running queries, and keeping that in mind can make all the difference. Typical users input broadly-worded terms as if they are infants learning a language through word association, entering things like, “running shoes,” or “Selma Hayek,” hoping the search engine rewards them by presenting the appropriate object in the same way a parent does when their child learns the word “bottle.”

In contrast to those actions, search engines perform best when users ask proper questions that start with who, what, when, where, and how. Imagine how much better those queries results would be with context like, “Where can I buy running shoes,” or “who do I need to eliminate to date Selma Hayek?” Details like this are essential to consider when working on SEO from the advertising or web development perspectives because we’ll never be able to control the words users enter into search bars.

To give this part of the post some context, we want you to know the top search terms of 2019 through April (https://ahrefs.com/blog/top-google-searches/). You should take note of the quantity, context, and specificity of the words on this list. Most of the world’s queries are singular, service oriented, and brand specific. If your company is on that list, you can probably skip the next section as most of your traffic flows to your website organically, but As for the rest of us, we have to take the intermediate step of paid advertising.

Be the Advertiser

Person pointing to chart

Once you get a clear idea of how people search for things on the internet, you’ll be better equipped to create keywords for your advertising campaigns. Keywords for advertisers serve as the link between what terms online users enter in the search bar, and the products and services a company offers. Precisely picking which words and associations to use is a skill set in and of itself, and we don’t have time to cover that in this post.

If you have ever set up a search advertising campaign through Google, Yahoo, or Bing, you’re probably aware the keywords associated with an ad are manually entered, and it’s entirely up to the advertisers to play the word association game all on their own. If you have the right mindset, one where you’re thinking like your potential customers, then selecting which words to use as triggers for your advertisements comes a bit more naturally than those who are still struggling to remove industry buzzwords from their vocabulary.

Even when you’ve figured out the best words to trigger your ads, you’ll still have to connect the last data point before your website’s SEO really starts to take off. Because most advertisements are designed to be visually appealing, and they don’t include much text, search engines have to gauge the effectiveness of your advertising keywords by how visitors behave when they reach your website. If your ads aren’t producing clicks, or leading visitors to pages that contain any of the keywords associated with the ad, search engines will punish you by lowering the chances your ads appear.

Keywords Count

The easiest way to make sure your ads continue to appear when users enter matching terms in a search bar, and maybe even make it to the 1st page, is by making sure the landing page contains the keywords in the web page’s text. The web page needs to include the words in repetition, and in such a way where it seems natural and doesn’t give search engines the impression you’re “keyword stuffing.” Because the focus of modern websites is often visual, much like advertising, this process sounds a lot easier than it is.

In an earlier post, we warned everybody about the overuse of pictures when designing a website, and this is the moment that advice comes full circle. In that post we noted that search engines couldn’t decipher the content of images, so to figure out what a page is about, they count the number of times words appear on a page and assign those as keywords. Even if you’ve had great success with aligning your keywords up to this point, without matching the actual words on the page to the user’s previous associations, not only will all of your hard work unravel, it will reverse course.

If a search engine observes negative behaviors when users land on a page, like hitting the back button or quickly closing the browser window, search engines determine the final destination was not useful for a particular set of keywords. The search engine responds by lowering the page’s relevance score, making it even tougher for your ads, and website, to appear in association with those keywords. Considering the brutality of the punishment for delivering irrelevant content, I’m always surprised how many businesses don’t know their keywords or haven’t taken any steps to figure them out.

An Easy Fix

We’re pretty far along in our sequence of SEO tips, and if you’re still able to execute this advice on your own, good for you. If you’re not in that boat, but your business heavily relies on internet traffic, it’s time to reach out to an expert. RTR Digital provides a variety of SEO related services, and you can have someone contact you by filling out a short form located here.

Top Ten Tips: SEO Edition #6

SEO Tip 6

Good things come to those that wait, a great Heinz slogan for ketchup, but a horrible mantra for SEO. While patience is a virtue, if you’re employing it in relation to SEO rankings, you might want to re-think your course of action. Google, Yahoo, and Bing regularly crawl the entire internet looking for more content, and most website owners seem content with waiting their turn, but there is a faster way to get your website noticed then a periodic site crawl. It’s time to introduce you to webmaster tools.

Webmaster Tools

Every major search engine company provides a set of tools to assist owners in managing the performance of their websites. Of course, Google’s is the most robust because they offer more tools than any other provider, but there are others out there that are worth your time. You can find these tools with a quick online search, or you can click the link in this sentence to navigate to Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex’s respective pages.

To be honest, when you get there it probably won’t be what you’re at all expecting. All of the SEO tips (#10,#9,#8,#7) leading up to this point have been reasonably achievable for novices, but webmaster tools are usually the ”make or break” mark for the do-it-yourself crowd. That’s okay because the page is genuinely designed for developers. Even signing into webmaster tools requires a developer account, so you know you’re officially moving up to the next level when you get to this step.

Google Search Console

Once you’re logged in, there will be lots of menus and options available. If you’ve made it this far, don’t get distracted, find the area of the tools that enable you to request a crawling of your website. In Google’s Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console), which I’m sure is the one most readers are concerned about, that would be the ”URL Inspection” tool, but requesting a search engine crawl a website is only one-third of the process of correctly indexing your site.

So What’s Next?

Before clicking around and instructing Google’s crawler to its job, like it’s a college student amid their first internship, you’ll want to have a robot.txt and sitemap file ready for upload. By now, you’re probably starting to notice the amount of work required to manage your site’s SEO is beginning to add up to a lot of hours. And this is as good of a time as any to think about reaching out to a professional for help because, spoiler alert, things are about to get a bit trickier.

Next Exit

Let’s start with the sitemap, a file with a function precisely as it reads, providing a text version of the site layout, so search engines know what to expect when they visit. Developers often create these files because they require some text encoding to assure the proper format. After crawling a site, the search engine reconciles what the sitemap said should be there, versus what it found.

The robots.txt file is complimentary to the sitemap mentioned above. This file provides a set of instructions to the search engine, telling it what it can, or can’t, crawl. This file is especially important for those using WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and other site building applications because there are a lot of menu pages that are a part of the interface, but aren’t relevant to search engines. In some cases, it may even be a security risk for those pages to appear in results.

Last Chance to Tap Out

If you’re still reading this, and more importantly, awaiting our next post in the series, it means you’re all in. You’re also halfway home, as there are only five more posts left before you’ve completed all ten tips.  If you’re just waiting for the link to contact us, so we can do the heavy lifting for you, it’s right here.

RTR Digital’s has expertise in advanced SEO and digital solutions, and everyone is entitled to a complimentary SEO evaluation after they’ve filled out the contact form.

If you have any questions or comments related to this post, feel free to leave them in the appropriate section of this page.

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.

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.