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.

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.