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 #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.