Last week Google released information about another algorithm change that will have an effect on their search results. Their algorithm is an intricate set of instructions and functions that helps Google determine how certain sites should rank in the SERPs, or search engine results pages. Precisely how the Google algorithms work is highly confidential but every once in a while we’ll catch a glimmer of insight into what Google is looking for from us.
The current algorithm update is focused on the freshness of content on the web – it’s being referred to as the “Freshness Update”. Google wants to gear their search results toward the most relevant AND up to date information available. This is not a new initiative for Google, but simply an improvement to their ongoing efforts. Google reports that the percentage of effected queries has doubled, meaning that 35% of searches will now see fresher results.
So, what does this mean for you?
For those of you who are clients of Astonish Results, you’ve heard over and over again how important and beneficial it is to be involved in blogging and social media. Our nagging is being reinforced by this Google algorithm update. Keeping up with your blogging and social media efforts is the easiest way to continuously send updated content to the web. So log into your onsite blog and make sure you’re giving Google what they want – fresh and exciting content!
Bringing it back to the basics, the search engines are looking to provide searchers with the best experience possible. So whether you are trying to keep up with Google’s algorithm updates or are looking for best practice tips from Bing’s webmaster guidelines, it’s important to make the needs of searchers a priority. If you’re providing searchers with up to date, useful information then you have a solid platform to build off of.Continue Reading »
When optimizing your website for the search engines, a good starting point is to work with a basic recipe. You want to optimize your content with good keywords, follow the webmaster guidelines established by the search engines, format your content and links so they can be easily crawled by the search spiders, and implement an integrated strategy including blogging and social media that will help catapult your site toward the top of the search results.
It’s Halloween, so I want to have a little fun today. Some furry friends are going to help me tell the story of a basic SEO strategy. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I have!
Find and optimize your content with long tail keywords that will help you emphasize your specialized focus.
Your content should be user friendly. You need to avoid the use of ghostly tactics such as hidden text.
You want to be sure your site uses the proper keyword linking strategies so the search spiders will deem your content worth a high ranking in the search engines.
Make sure you read up on and are compliant with webmaster guidelines to avoid being penalized.
Implement an integrated strategy with blogging, social media and linking that will help your keyword strength and web presence bloom.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!Continue Reading »
There’s no way around it – Google is the head honcho of the search engine world. If we want our websites to show up in the search results (and stay there) we need to acknowledge Google’s webmaster guidelines. While we may not follow these guidelines to the T, it’s clear that following Google’s suggested best practices will mean a healthier life-cycle for our sites.
Google breaks down their guidelines into three main sections: Design and Content Guidelines, Technical Guidelines, and Quality Guidelines. Let’s take a look at what Google wants from each category.
Design and Content Guidelines
- Easy to Navigate
- Provide useful, relevant content
- Keep the number of links on each page to a reasonable number
- Include appropriate keywords in your content
- Test your site to be sure it displays correctly in different browsers.
- Optimize your site speed and performance
- Regularly monitor your site’s performance
- Allow search spiders to crawl your sites without session IDs
- Don’t try to trick your users or the web with cloaking (presenting different content to the search engines than you users).
- Avoid tricks to improve search rankings.
- Don’t take part in link schemes
Specific Quality Guidelines
- Avoid hidden text and links
- Don’t use cloaking
- Don’t create multiple pages or sub-domains with duplicate content
- Don’t fill your content with irrelevant keywords
Overall, Google wants websites to provide unique, useful and relevant information on sites that are easy to use – the end goal being happy searchers. This was verified with their recent Panda update which focused on increasing the exposure of sites with quality content. As we always say here at Astonish Results, quality content is king.Continue Reading »
Every industry has its own language – the Internet Marketing world is no different. For those of us who work in the industry, it can be so easy to get swept up in the jargon that we forget not everyone uses these terms on a daily basis. At Astonish Results, we’re constantly communicating with clients who do not have backgrounds in Internet Marketing, so it’s important that we stay away from the lingo we’ve become accustomed to and speak in plain English.
My goal for this post is to translate some of the terms we throw around most often into basic English. Here we go…
The practice of marketing products or services over the internet. It is also referred to as online marketing, web marketing, or digital marketing. Internet marketing includes websites, email marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and social media.
Search Engine Optimization – The practice of helping a website show up in the search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Search engine optimization is an internet marketing strategy that analyzes web searches – from determining how the search engines are ranking websites in the search results to figuring out what people are searching for and what specific terms (or keywords) are being used.
Search Engine Marketing – also known as Paid Search – is the practice of increasing a website’s exposure through paid search tactics such as PPC (pay per click). In a very general overview, SEM involves paying to have a search result appear when a search is done for a certain keyword term. If someone clicks on your ad, you pay an agreed upon price. The goals are in line with those of an SEO strategy, but SEO involves organic results and SEM involves paid results.
Link building is the practice of getting other websites to link to your site in order to boost rankings in the search engines. Having a relevant, quality website link to your site is like getting a vote. If the search engines see that other websites want to share your information and promote your website, then they are more likely to deem your site worthy of a higher search ranking.
When we refer to search spiders, or web crawlers, we’re referring to the computer program that can browse the web to find search results. The search engines use search spiders to come up with a quick, up-to-date, organized list of what’s available on the web so the search engine can then determine how relevant the content is – this turns into the search results you see on Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
We all know about plagiarism and the negative consequences associated with it – providing unique content for your website and blog will keep you out of trouble. The search engines love fresh, honest, helpful content – doing so will make your site seem more useful. Every page on your website and every blog post should say something different. You cannot copy content from your website and post it on your blog – the search engines will recognize this as duplicate content and you could be punished. The best way to stay in the search engines’ good graces is to create unique content every time you write.
Search volume is the number of times a certain term is typed into the search engines on a monthly basis. When we decide which keywords should be used in your SEO strategy, we are comparing the search volume for hundreds of terms to determine which are the best fit. In addition to the search volume, we need to look at a term’s search competition before we decide to select it as one of your keywords.
A term’s search competition lets us know how many other sites are trying to be found for the term. If we find that a term has a search competition of 100% then we know it will be very difficult to rank for that keyword because a lot of other sites are also trying to rank for it. We want to find a term that has a high search volume and a low search competition when we are selecting your keywords.
There is much more internet jargon that we use on a daily basis, this was a peak at the topics we reference most often. What are some of the Internet Marketing terms you hear on a regular basis? Let us know if there are any terms you need clarification on and we can feature them in a future post!Continue Reading »
Fear has a lot to do with the unknown. SEO is still a relatively new development in the marketing industry, so it stands to reason that many companies are hesitant to dig into it. I’ve outlined five of the top reasons companies fear search engine optimization in hope that eventually we can quell these fears. The more you learn about SEO, the less intimidating it will become and the easier it will be to implement a solid optimization strategy.
Fearing SEO or being intimidated by all of the work required of a successful strategy is no reason to steer clear of this proven marketing tactic. According to G.I. Joe, knowing is half the battle – so start your education today. If you can grasp the fundamentals of SEO, then you are one step ahead of the pack. If you don’t have the time to implement an SEO campaign on your own, team up with a consultant but be sure to stay away from the false “quick results” scams out there. Then prepare yourself for some hard work and eventually you’ll see some astonishing results!Continue Reading »
Writing content for the web is much like cooking – you have to use the right balance of ingredients in order to get the desired result. When it comes to search engine optimization, you need to find the right keywords and then use them appropriately throughout your content. There is a definite skill involved with finding the right measurement of keywords in your web content – if you use too few you won’t be recognized but if you use too many to the point of saturation your content can be perceived as spammy. Utilizing the proper portions is key.
Much like testing out new recipes and tweaking old favorites, there is no singular technique to creating the perfect SEO strategy. The search engines alter their algorithms on a regular basis, so it’s important to be willing to experiment with various methods. Now, while it’s important to try new practices there are definitely some aspects of search engine optimization that are go-to’s. It’s vitally important to determine a set of keywords and incorporate them naturally into your content. This is where things can start to get tricky – it is so important that you use your keywords appropriately. Think of keywords as an ingredient, if you use too much the whole recipe will be thrown off.
While we cannot say for sure exactly how many keywords should be used on each page of your site, it has been determined that overloading a website with keywords is a bad practice. Keyword stuffing has been identified as an unethical misuse of the web and it can even get your site penalized. Keyword stuffing can be defined as the act of over-filling your website’s pages with keywords by creating lists or paragraphs of terms or unnecessarily repeating terms throughout the content. The search engines want to promote a positive and useful user experience, keyword stuffing detracts from that.
Keyword overkill can also result from hidden text – for example: hiding terms by putting them in a white font on a white background, including text behind an image, or setting the font size to 0. Just because the standard user cannot see the hidden text doesn’t mean the search engines can’t. When the search engines find hidden text, they are likely to deem the website as untrustworthy because it is offering a different experience to users than the search engines. Such a discovery can mean reductions for your website’s rankings.
There are many facets that must be incorporated into your online marketing strategy, but a major key to remember is keeping a balance. Any reasonable talented chef understands that you need to use a properly portioned mix of ingredients – the same is true for search engine optimization.Continue Reading »
Few things in life are strictly black and white, but in the SEO (search engine optimization) world it is important to be able to identify and understand the difference between White Hat and Black Hat strategies. In the simplest sense, the two can be described as follows:
White Hat SEO – Ethical SEO tactics in which you follow the guidelines established by the search engines for long term stability and success.
Black Hat SEO – Unethical SEO tactics in which you try to trick the search engines in order to gain quick results.
While the search engines still have a lot of work ahead of them, they strive to keep search results as genuine and helpful as possible for searchers. To accomplish this goal, the search engines, with Google leading the pack, have established usability guidelines for websites to follow. By following these webmaster guidelines, you can ensure that your website will remain in the good graces of the search engines and have the ability to grow in strength (and improve search rankings) on a long term scale.
White Hat SEO tactics revolve around following the webmaster guidelines. White Hat is all about playing by the rules in order to garner long term stability for a website. White Hat SEO takes a great deal of work and creativity – it is definitely a challenge – but the hard is what makes it great. By taking the time to invest the proper, and approved, SEO strategies in your online campaigns, you will see a payoff in the end. White Hat tactics won’t get your site to rank immediately, but in the end you will have a website that is built with good content, clean linking, and the ability to bring you traffic, leads and funds into the future. At Astonish Results, we pride ourselves on employing and advising only White Hat SEO campaigns. We do our best to educate clients on SEO best practices so they don’t get falsely lured into the short term charms of Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO is a strategy for getting short term results. Through Black Hat tactics such as keyword stuffing and link farming you can get your site high rankings quickly, but you can generally anticipate that a Black Hat site will be banned or penalized once the search engines catch on to the unethical behavior. Websites that utilize Black Hat strategies are generally looking for a quick fix or to turn a quick profit. Companies who are trying to develop a long term web presence will only hurt their reputation if they participate in Black Hat SEO. We understand that Black Hat SEO can be tempting, primarily because it will work – for a short period of time. However, if you want to be considered a legit source on the web, you need to follow the rules.
Here are some of the major Black Hat SEO strategies you should be sure to avoid on your website:
Keyword stuffing: Loading a page with a bunch of keywords and nothing else. You need to spread keywords throughout your content to avoid being penalized by the search engines.
Hidden text: Displaying text or links so that they are invisible to the reader but available for the search spiders to crawl. This can be done by putting white font on a white background. If it appears that your website is trying to deceive the search engines with hidden text or links, the site could be removed from the search results.
Doorway Pages/Cloaking: Pages that are built for the search engines to crawl, and not for humans to see. They are hidden pages that are built with the intention of tricking the search engines into thinking a site has more content than it actually does in order to rank higher in the search results.
Overall, if you want your business and its web presence to be considered legit, you should steer clear of Black Hat SEO strategies. They are simply not worth the risk of having your website either temporarily or even permanently removed from the search results. Stick with White Hat SEO practices and you’ll be in the pink.Continue Reading »
Duplicate content refers to content on websites that is either the same or very similar across multiple pages. Search engines, like Google, are constantly battling black hat tactics such as malicious duplicate content. I specifically refer to “malicious” duplicate content because you are bound to come across some sites that have repeated content with the intent of helping viewers – like printer-friendly pages. The practices Google is working against include sites that will intentionally duplicate content in an attempt to fool the search engines in order to gain more search traffic. You do not want to be mistaken for one of these sites.
Right off the bat I will address the issue of plagiarism – it is illegal, write your own unique content. You cannot take content from other websites and use it for your own. Be original, and make your own statements instead of leaning on the words of others.
Now, while the issues behind duplicate content stem far beyond plagiarism, the basic principles remain the same. Google wants users to have the most productive search experience possible. If you do a search and the top results are all the same, the amount of fresh, helpful information you can gather is limited – this is exactly what the search engines don’t want to happen. To avoid sludgy search results, Google filters out content they consider spam.
To avoid getting caught in Google’s filters you can follow these suggested practices:
- Use 301 Redirects – If you have changed up your website, you need to use 301 redirects to send/link the old page to the new page. This way, when someone searches they will receive the most updated content and you won’t be penalized by Google for having more than one of the same page.
- Block pages you don’t wish to be indexed – If you have duplicate pages for a specific purpose, such as printer-friendly pages, you can include specialized coding within your site or meta tags that let the search engines know they don’t have to index that page. This way you are deciding which page to display and which to hide, instead of Google deciding that on its own.
- Keep boilerplate repetition to a minimum – Boilerplate text refers to standard text, such as copyright content. Instead of including the same boilerplate text on multiple pages, include some teaser text and link to a single page that includes all of the required details.
- Avoid similar content – If you have more than one page of content that is very similar, try to combine them into one page. Now, at Astonish Results our clients are insurance agencies so if they have separate pages for Garage Liability and Garage Keepers Liability, we will recommend they be consolidated onto a singular page. If the content will be essentially the same on two pages, it makes sense to pull them together to avoid both viewer confusion as well as Google duplication penalties.
There are many more techniques you can use to prove your worth to Google, but overall your site will thrive if you keep things simple and unique. At Astonish Results, we provide all of our clients with focused, unique content that utilizes a list of keywords tailored toward the insurance lines on which they concentrate. We also advise on nothing less than one of a kind blog posts – you cannot use the same post on your off-site blog that you did on-site. Both Google and your potential customers will be thankful when you drop duplicate content and instead shower them with fresh, fierce, unique thoughts.
There are many nuances when it comes to duplicate content, and it can sometimes be difficult to determine if you are utilizing best practices. Let us know if you have any questions or thoughts on this topic.Continue Reading »
It is becoming ever apparent that Google is striving to improve the user experience on the web through a focus on page speed (how long it takes a page to load). They’ve recently launched a new tool in Google Analytics that will allow you to track a sample of page views in relation to page loading speed. Google has factored page speed into their search engine algorithm on a small scale already, but this new tool suggests that they will be placing more weight on this issue moving forward.
Being able to track your load speed will help open several doors in terms of analyzing data related to your website:
• It will allow you to determine a concrete correlation between load speed and conversion rates.
• You can identify which landing pages have the slowest loading times – thereby pinpointing areas for improvement.
• You can determine if there is a trend between load speed and either types of visitors or geographic locations.
• You’ll be able to establish whether factors such as browser, operating system or screen resolution affect your analytics metrics.
What site speed means to SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, so having a website that allows viewers to browse pages quickly is definitely an optimizer. Google ran some tests to determine whether speed matters and found that by making people wait mere milliseconds longer than usual for a page to load caused them to conduct fewer searches. With this in mind, you want to make sure your company’s website is loading at an efficient pace. Think about it, if viewers have proven that they will abandon a search if the load speed is less than speedy, that means your site has less of a chance for conversions.
Tips for Improving Site Speed
Now that you know how important site speed is, here are some tips for improving the speed of your website:
• Have your web developer simplify the CSS code listed on your live site (remove any excess coding)
• Avoid excessive page redirects
• Use a caching system
• Utilize CSS in place of images for effects such as buttons or gradients when possible
The suggestions can become increasingly technical, but overall you want to make sure your website isn’t wasting juice trying to load unnecessary site elements. Keep it simple. Not only will simplicity allow your pages to load faster, but having a simplified site will make it easier for visitors to navigate through your pages. You always need to be thinking about the customer and how to make their experience on your website as seamless as possible.
Being able to track loading speed from start to finish is another win for both Google and the SEO world! At Astonish Results we run all of our sites off a state of the art platform and we are always looking for ways to keep up with the latest and greatest developer trends. We are all about making our clients’ sites run as efficiently as possible, so we are excited about the roll-out of this new Google tool!Continue Reading »
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”
The internet didn’t exist yet when Jimmy Dugan, Tom Hank’s character in “A League of Their Own”, said the quote above but the meaning is easily transferable to today’s internet marketing efforts.
Running a successful internet marketing campaign is a challenge. I’ve often referred to internet marketing as a puzzle that needs to be pieced together. Only with each individual piece fitting together snuggly will you have a completed picture in the end. Search engine optimization (SEO) is an excellent starting point for any website. SEO can be defined as the process of increasing the visibility of a site within the search engines.
If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.
Not everyone has the time to devote to search engine optimization. However, having a web presence is becoming more and more vital to the growth of businesses and employing SEO techniques will help to set your organization apart from the competition.
Times are changing, marketing strategies are evolving, and more than ever your website will be a driving force behind your business’s profitability. The internet is now so readily available that you will lose out by not having a web presence. Take that a step further – you will lose out if you’re on the web and people still can’t find you. Implementing even a simple SEO approach on your website will be beneficial.
Recently I was doing some product research and wanted to find a specific company online. They had an advantage, or so I thought, because I had their name, address and phone number already. That should’ve been a done deal for them. I searched for their name in Google – unfortunately that yielded no results for them. I then searched for their name along with the town they are located – still nothing. I finally found their website by plugging in their company name and full address. This attempt was only fruitful because their address was mentioned on one page of the site. Their company name was virtually undetectable save their logo on the homepage. So, unless someone had this company’s complete book of information, their site would not show up in the search engines. I’d like to say this is an extreme case, but it is all too common. If people who want to find you can’t, how do you expect people who don’t know you exist to find you?
By not participating in an SEO campaign, you could be harming your business’s chances for growth. If you can’t put in the time yourself, outsource – it’s worth it. At Astonish Results we help hundreds of clients who admit that they either don’t have the time or knowledge to develop a successful internet marketing campaign. We do the hard work for them on the web, so they can do their own hard work in the insurance industry.
The hard…is what makes it great.
Now, let’s say you do have a decent website. You’ve written unique content for your pages, you’ve focused on specific keywords, and now searchers (ideally customers) can find you. Talk about a competitive advantage! The act of optimizing your website for the search engines will allow you and your company to be found online, and ultimately that will allow your sales potential to expand.
It’s not easy, but you need to set your company apart through a blend of optimized marketing efforts. Be proactive. Visit the websites of your competitors, similar organizations and related blogs to see how they are presenting themselves. Then set yourself apart. Focus on an area that others may not be, or put a fresh spin on an old topic. Sure, that’s easier said than done in most situations, but that’s the point. If it were easy, everyone would do it. By exerting the effort to implement SEO, either yourself or through an outsourced marketing agency, you will eventually reap the rewards – your website will produce top search results!
So, if you’re not already working on it – get out there and starting implementing an SEO strategy on your site! The blood, sweat, and tears will pay off in the end.Continue Reading »