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 #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.