Friday, February 23, 2018

Avoid an SEO Disaster During a Website Redesign

How to Avoid SEO Disaster During a Website Redesign

Redesigning a website or migrating to a new CMS takes a lot of planning and hard work.
It can also be disastrous if you don’t take the proper SEO precautions.
When done right, the process should be mostly painless.
When done wrong, a redesign can be disastrous.
We all know the incredible importance of organic search.
If you lose a majority of your rankings and traffic, you’ll see fewer leads and less sales.
This post will help you avoid such a fate.
Here are some specific steps you can take before migration, during launch, and post-launch to mitigate risk and avoid SEO disaster when redesigning your website.

Before Migration

Goals & Project Plan

There are likely some pretty compelling reasons why you are embarking on a website redesign. Those could be tied to:
  • Business use-cases.
  • User experience improvements.
  • Marketing initiatives.
  • SEO improvements.
A key aspect of ensuring the project will be a success is setting appropriate goals.
Now is the time to make sure you have a baseline or benchmark to compare to after launch and a plan taking you from start to finish in the process.
Most web projects follow a specific plan or agile methodology. This plan is typically managed by the project owner whether they are in an account service, project management, product, IT, or an aligned role.
Having SEO steps lined out, timing, a checklist, and the quality control plan in front of everyone can allow for ensuring the SEO is represented at each step and taken into consideration.

Content & Information Architecture

Context of the website subject matter overall, and sub-topic themes, are critical to SEO success.
This is built through the specific content on the site and how that content is organized.
Changes to the information architecture, sitemap, and overall content plan in the redesign is key and something SEO needs to be involved in and help drive.
You want to make sure that important pages are not omitted from the site going forward if they carry SEO value and that the overall message and theme of sections of the site are not diluted by the design.
Start with current sitemap and work with your team on requirements for the new sitemap as this will be your guide the rest of the steps in the redesign process for SEO.
You can use a crawling tool (e.g., Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl) to find all pages of your website.

On-page Optimization

Digging deeper to a page level, the relevance of content to the intent of the searcher is important to maintain.
When you know what context and overall architecture is changing (or remaining the same), you can work to protect or proactively optimize at the page level for the specific elements that help with relevance – URL, page title, meta description, body copy, alt text, etc.
How deep the changes are to architecture and sitemap overall will dictate how much you need to focus on relevancy of content at a depth level to ensure you don’t lose subject matter content on the site.
You want to optimize your staging site or code-base that will be launched and not wait until post-launch to make these updates.


There’s a basic user experience case to be made for ensuring that you map out 301 redirects for all pages that are getting new URLs and those that are going away in the redesigned site. We never want to serve up a 404 error page to a user if we can avoid it.
The search engines are OK with 404s if we are hoping to have content removed from the index. However, we probably don’t want that to happen either unless we intend for it to.
Any link equity we have will be lost if the pages being linked to result in a 404 error.
It is important to ensure that all pages that have links pointing to them (at the very least) are properly redirected if we don’t have control over ensuring that the links are updated to the new destination page URL.
If you have a large website, this could very well be the most time intensive and important part of the redesign process.
Use the crawl that you did earlier for your sitemap planning to determine all URLs that need to be redirected.
You can also gain a lot of insight from Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools as to which pages the search engines crawl on an ongoing basis to make sure you don’t miss any redirects.
When you have all redirects mapped out, ensure that they are implemented at the server level or in a site plug-in and are ready to go for launch.
Failure to plan for redirects is something that I’ve seen far too many times over the years.
I have been asked to come in and do rescue work after a redesign launches that either overlooked the process as a whole or didn’t consider the impact that redirects could have.
It is difficult to do this work after launch as the damage has often been done with search engines and users getting 404 errors.
Even when we can do some forensics to find the old site URLs and implement redirects, we have lost precious time meaning that we’ll have to take the short-term hit and hope to get back the relevancy and authority status that we had with the old website.


At launch time, you’ll want to follow along with the go-live checklist and perform any possible quality control checks of the work you have done to date on the staging site.
Don’t give the go-ahead for launch if any of your on-page work or redirects are not in place or tested.
It is much easier to slightly delay launch than to undo damage later or have to roll back to the old website.


Check Redirects

Your first step is to go back to your redirect file, old sitemap, and old site crawl to test and ensure that all old site URLs perform 301 redirects to new site URLs as you outlined.
This is where you can catch any stray 404s and implement additional redirects quickly.
You can start by spot-checking URLs and then go deeper as time permits to work through as many old site URLs possible.

Dev-to-Live Audit

Beyond the redirects, you want to make sure that all pages and specific on-page optimization carried over from the dev site to the live site.
If your website has a lot of dynamic content, this can prove important as sometimes databases and tables get missed in migration.
For example, if you optimized all title tags on the staging site but the database they are in didn’t go live at launch, you might find missing or default duplicate titles on every page or on product pages, etc.

Code & Performance Validation

Don’t assume that the live website will perform the same as the staging site did. Run the homepage and key pages through the mobile-friendly testing tool to ensure the site achieves passing grades.
Additionally, run the page speed tools to find any areas that need to be optimized on the new website. The difference in servers, hosting, and other loads on the production site can cause hiccups that you wouldn’t have found on the staging website.
Also, don’t forget about any schema markup you have on the site.
Using validation tools to ensure proper implementation here are helpful in case anything changed between the old, staging, and live sites and how the search engines render them.

Submit XML Sitemaps

When you are satisfied with your redirects working properly and the implementation of SEO on the live site, it is time to submit the XML sitemap. Ensure that the dynamic sitemap includes the desired full set of destination URLs. If you are using a static sitemap, generate a new one now, audit it, and submit it.
Note that you want to be sure that your XML sitemap file(s) are pristine. You want to have zero URLs that result in a 404 error and ensure all URLs are the destination URLs versus redirects or pages that canonical to another version.


It feels good to be done with the hard work involved in SEO for the relaunch and the migration overall. It is important to shift your mindset to a monitoring phase.
For the next 1-2 months, you need to monitor Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to watch for reported 404 errors, crawl errors, and any HTML on-page issues detected. Tackle these quickly.

Ongoing SEO

Remember that SEO is not a one-time thing.
Once the dust has settled and the monitoring phase is in motion, you can go back to your original plan and goals and measure the performance of the new site.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Google to Move Many More Sites to Mobile-First Index Very Soon

Google to Move Many More Sites to Mobile-First Index Very Soon

Google’s Gary Illyes has confirmed that a significant number of sites will be migrated to the mobile-first index in the next month and a half.
Illyes announced Google’s upcoming plans for the mobile-first index while on stage at Pubcon in Austin, Texas.
The last official word we heard from Google regarding mobile-first indexing was this past summer, when Google’s John Mueller mentioned it was being rolled out to individual sites that are ready for it.
Since then, we have published a help article with Google’s advice on getting ready for the mobile-first index.
The company initially planned to have all sites migrated to the mobile-first index by early 2018, but it doesn’t look like that goal is going to be met. Moreover, Google has said it will not tell us when migration to the mobile-first index is complete.
However, following Illyes’ keynote at Pubcon, we have learned that the new index may never be fully rolled out to all sites.
Currently only a small number of sites have been added to the mobile-first index, and it’s not expected to have an impact on traffic.
Savvy site owners can check to see if their site has been added to the mobile-first index by checking server logs and see what is crawling the site most often. If Googlebot mobile is doing most of the crawling, chances are you’re on the mobile-first index.
Without manually checking server logs there is no other way to determine if your site has been migrated to the new index, as Google is not notifying webmasters individually. If you’re “ready” for mobile-first indexing, then perhaps your site will be selected in the coming weeks.


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

SEO for All Things Crypto

SEO for All Things Crypto

SEO for companies that launch an ICO, run crypto investment funds, or engage in any other business activities related to digital currency and all things crypto is a little different from the traditional approach.
Many of those sites are short-lived, high-trafficked, and saturated. There are a few important tasks that those websites need to master.
The most important tasks are competitor and keyword research.
Regardless of whether you are trying to bring an organic traffic or acquire it through paid campaigns, you have to be precise in your PPC and organic SEO.
How do you make things happen without blowing your budget?
As different as it is, you still need to make sure that your ICO or cryptocurrency-related site is a finely-tuned vehicle that brings quality traffic and gains trust in the eyes of the search engines.
This means you need to do all of the essential on-page and off-page optimizations, just like every other website owner. Then take the following steps:

Carefully Study Your Competitors

You can hire an agency – or you can do it on your own using an SEO platform like SE Ranking.
For instance, SE Ranking’s competitor research offers an extended database to get a full picture of the crypto market.
As a matter of fact, we’ve researched the entire niche and updated our U.S. and U.K. keyword database to better accommodate ICO and cryptocurrency-related businesses.
The data we provide is the most accurate and up to date, especially when it comes to search volume, keyword competition data, etc.
This gives endless possibilities to research competitors in terms of knowing all about their organic traffic from Google, and keywords and ads for AdWords traffic.
Competitors ICO
Need more data?
We can create a custom database based on your needs so you can beat your competitors all the way through on the different levels – from a specific location to a specific keyword.
This data is collected specifically for you, available only to you, and what’s most important is relevant specifically for your niche – ICO and cryptocurrency.

Pick up the Most Converting Keywords

Being in the cryptocurrency market, you want to rank high for queries like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Dash, and so forth.
Better yet – you want to rank among the top 10! It’s like running into a gold mine! You or your agency can do this project using tools like keyword research tool.
Keywords ICO
We’ve collected a huge keyword database: 1.6 million just for the “Bitcoin”, 900k Ethereum-related and millions of keywords for other cryptocurrencies.
Using this pool of data you can find low-competition keywords and adjust your paid and organic campaign accordingly.
This will be cheaper and more efficient than to bid on the highly competitive keywords that everyone is bidding on.
Also, you can get dozens of ideas for your PPC campaigns and content strategy. No one besides Google knows better what queries people are using to search for crypto-related info.
Discover proper keywords among the search engine suggestions as they come from how people actually search. This means you can get the keywords based on the search volume/popularity.
Search suggestions ICO

Group and Distribute Keywords like Google Wants to See It

Once all of your keywords are compiled into a long list it’s time to figure out the best way to use them in different variations.
Search engine marketing can turn into a money-blowing machine if data is scattered and keywords are not distributed correctly.
Keyword grouping is essential.
This tedious job could be done manually or using tools like keyword grouper.
Keyword grouper collects and separates your keywords into different clusters (or groups) and then distributes them among different pages, just the way Google wants to see it.
Get things done fast, properly, while making Google love you. Bingo!
Grouping ICO
Don’t forget about those long-tail keywords we were talking about earlier.
If you optimize your crypto-related content for long-tails and use keyword grouping to cluster it for the most converting variations, the effect might overcome your wildest expectations.
The keyword group related to your niche such as crypto are usually more powerful than just a keyword and thus yields better results in terms of bringing quality traffic.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Google Just Made it Easier to Mute Unwanted Ads

Google is finally listening to the countless complaints of its users regarding intrusive ads. The search giant now has a new and improved ad-muting feature to make those unwanted ads go away.
The “Mute This Ad” feature is not exactly new and has been around for quite a while now. Introduced in 2012, the feature allows users to remove ads from specific overly enthusiastic advertisers from YouTube, Gmail, Maps and Search as long as you are signed into your Google account. However, the search giant is about to make the feature more responsive to your wishes.
The “Mute This Ad” tool will now work with any device that is logged on to a Google account. For instance, if you decided to mute a particular ad via your laptop, it will stay muted even when you log onto your Google account using a different device such as a smartphone.
Furthermore, you’ll start to notice the “Mute This Ad” feature pop up in more places than before. The company announced that the option will appear in more apps and websites outside of Google.
Image result for google mute this ad
Of course, Google knows that we’ve been blocking or ignoring ads since ads were invented. In fact, a 2017 adblock report by PageFair revealed a not-so-surprising trend—people have been blocking ads more and more. In 2016, 11 percent of global internet users blocked ads, a 30 percent rise from the previous year. At the moment, there are 615 million devices worldwide that have installed various adblocking software.
Ads work if people care enough to watch them. Otherwise, it’s all pointless. And Google users have been particularly helpful in weaning out which ads work and which do not. In fact, the company received feedback from more than five billion users on why they decided to block specific ads.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Google Image Search removes View Image button and Search by Image feature

After making a deal with Getty Images, Google has revamped some of their image search features and user experience

Google has removed the View Image button and the Search by Image feature when viewing an individual image within Google Image Search. Google announced this change on Twitter, saying:
Today we’re launching some changes on Google Images to help connect users and useful websites. This will include removing the View Image button. The Visit button remains, so users can see images in the context of the webpages they’re on.
The Search by Image button is also being removed. Reverse image search *still works* through the way most people use it, from the search bar of Google Images.
This seems to be in direct response to the concession Google made with Getty Images a few days ago around helping reduce copyright infringement through the popular search engine.
Here is how the feature looked before the change:

Here is what it will look like when this fully rolls out:

Also, notice how the “copyright” disclaimer is more visible within the search results.



Friday, February 16, 2018

Google Announces Two Major Changes to Image Search

Google Announces Two Major Changes to Image Search
Google officially announced major changes to how image search functions. The announcement was made on Twitter by Danny Sullivan’s Twitter alias, @searchliaison.  There are two changes. The first change is to remove Google’s “view image” button. The second change is to remove the “search by image” button. The impact to web publishers is expected to be positive and web publishers greeted the news on Twitter with applause. Google search  users reacted negatively.
Google's Informal Announcement on Twitter 
Google informally announced the change on Twitter instead of via a formal blog post. Was it because Google was forced to make the change and are unhappy about it?

Google Forced to Remove the View Image Button

Many web publishers disliked the view image button for a long list of reasons. But perhaps the most important reason is that many publishers felt that Google’s view image button helped content thieves steal their images. In fact, Google may have been forced to remove the view image button as part of a settlement of a legal complaint by stock photography company, Getty Images.
In a press release Getty Images announced a “partnership” with Google.  According to the announcement, Google is licensing images from Getty Images.
“This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,” said Dawn Airey, CEO, Getty Images. “We will licence our market leading content to Google, working closely with them to improve attribution of our contributors’ work and thereby growing the ecosystem.”
Google’s official line on Twitter acknowledges that the changes were forced on Google through the settlement, which  might explain why Google chose to announce this informally through Twitter instead of through a typically cheerful blog post.  Here is the text of the official tweet:
“For those asking, yes, these changes came about in part due to our settlement with Getty Images this week (see also ). They are designed to strike a balance between serving user needs and publisher concerns, both stakeholders we value.”

Google Image Search Accused of Encouraging Piracy

In April 2016 Getty Images filed a complaint against Google with the European Commission, alleging that Google’s image search was aiding the theft and piracy of copyrighted content.
“Getty Images’ complaint focuses specifically on changes made in 2013 to Google Images, the image search functionality of Google, which has not only impacted Getty Images’ image licensing business, but content creators around the world
These changes have… allowed Google to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend. This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates.”

Publishers React Positively to Removal of View Image Button

Web publishers on WebmasterWorld reacted positively to the news as word of the announcement trickled out.  Here are typical reactions:
“Certainly good news IMO.”
“The button was there this morning when I checked. But now its gone. This seems positive.”
Publishers also reacted positively on Twitter:

Will this Move Benefit Web Publishers?

At this point it is uncertain how this will impact web publishers. It is anticipated that the removal of the view image button may encourage visits from users who are viewing the images.  This should have a positive impact on publishers, especially stock photography businesses that rely on the purchase of copyrighted images.

Search by Image Function Also Removed

Tucked away in the announcement of the view image button was a second announcement via Twitter that the search by image function was also being removed.  Here is a screenshot of Google’s official tweet:
The impact of this specific change is likely to slow down the discovery of images for image content piracy. Although as Danny Sullivan noted above, the full functionality is not entirely gone. Web publishers may welcome this change as well because it may slow down image theft by making it harder to discover new content.

Takeaways and Summary of Changes to Image Search

The full impact to web publishers remains to be seen. It is anticipated that the changes will ultimately be positive for publishers. How far this will go to reduce image theft and piracy is unknown.
Google could have been the good guys in this story if they had heeded web publisher concerns about content piracy. Instead it took legal action to force Google into making this move. The involuntary aspect may account for the less than enthusiastic nature of the announcement and Google’s choice to to informally announce it via Twitter.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

7 Video Marketing Tips for Your Small Business

You see a page loaded with text, you ignore. But you if see a video on a web page, you tend to pause and take notice.
Videos have their own charm and a way of attracting human brains. So how could marketers resist the power of this wonderful engagement hook?
If you are looking for quick and effective ways to increase the performance of your video marketing efforts you are on the right page. Video is the most convenient type of content to consume by your audience regardless of the vertical. Anybody from a stay at home mom to a CEO watches a product video before actually making the purchase.
So regardless if you are a small business owner or an individual looking to build a personal brand, read on and you can take away a handful of highly actionable tips that will step up the quality and effectiveness of your videos.

Tip #1 Tell a story

A great marker should be a great creator. Marketing means being creative and thinking outside the box, yet we often seem to forget that and get caught up in the technical aspects of it such as reports, metrics and all kind of different tools that are supposed to increase the ROI.
But at the very foundation of a solid video campaign is nothing more than a good storyline. Remember that at the other end of your campaign will be a human being who needs to relate to your story and that’s what your focus should be on.
As per this presentation which is based on YouTube’s studies, 70% of the effectiveness of your campaign will depend on how good is the story behind your video. That’s how important this very first step is and if you get it wrong, you will have a flimsy foundation to build your campaign on. It doesn’t matter if you shoot in 4K, have the best videographer and the video editor or if you laser target your audience. It all comes down to the story.
The storyline will have to be somehow dependent on your brand and there are no specific guidelines, but generally speaking, videos that are either funny or emotional (or both) tend to perform better.
So definitely put the majority of your time and efforts into building a solid script before you actually start shot the video.

Tip #2 Show rather than tell

The whole purpose of the video is to actually show your viewers who you are, what you can do and how your service or product works. If a picture is worth a thousand words a video should worth a million.
Get as specific and as explicit as you can with your video. Be totally transparent and let your audience see what it is that you will provide them. Don’t just have someone in a suit behind a desk talking for 2 minutes straight about your company profile. Nobody is interested in that. Instead, show them what you can do for them.
Zappos, which is one of the biggest retailers specialized in skiing equipment has increased conversion with as much as 25% just by adding demo videos to each of their product. So if you’re selling a physical product that’s a great way to boost sales.

If you’re selling services or digital products, you can include B-rolls of your team while working at your headquarters or while hosting an event for your clients. Anything that adds credibility to you as a business will work. Customer testimonials are also a great way to building trust.

Tip #3 Focus on video quality

Nobody wants to launch their campaign with an average looking video, right? Yeah, I know that we have all these fancy cameras nowadays which can shoot in 4K, can color correct and so on and so forth and are not that expensive to buy. Heck, even a high-end smartphone can produce amazing looking videos.
But, if your video requires a lot of camera movement, and different type of shots which you are not comfortable filming yourself, then, by all means, hire a videographer. According to this study over here, the quality of your video will greatly influence the way people perceive your brand.
To be more specific, 62% of the consumers will have a negative perception of a brand that published a poor quality video. So definitely make sure the video quality is spot on, otherwise, your campaign will actually hurt your brand instead of promoting it.
For most businesses, the easiest, less expensive and most convenient thing to do is to shoot a green screen video and then outsource everything to a video editing company. This way you can add any backdrop later on in the video editing stage, there will probably be no camera movement which eliminates the shaky footage issue and you can literally shoot these videos anywhere. No need to worry about what’s in the background anymore.
This is especially important if there’s a lot of post-production work needed. You will be better off by having someone else do it for you while you spend time on actually creating more content for your business.

Tip #4 Target a platform

One mistake that we’ve seen many businesses do is to simply take the same video and throw it on all social media platforms. While that will probably get you some results, it is definitely not the optimal way of handling it.
And it’s not just us saying that. Mark McMaster said in the same presentation cited above that 44% of the campaigns they analyzed were not optimized for the platform they run on. And when we say platform we pretty much refer to just YouTube and Facebook as these two giants take up 86% of all online video view (not taking into account Instagram views which runs through Facebook ads too).
YouTube works like a search engine and people go to YouTube to get answers to specific questions, watch how-to videos, product reviews, and tutorials and so on and so forth. The content they want to watch is informational or educational most of the times. So if you plan on running your campaign on YouTube keep that in mind and make your videos more informational and maybe a little bit less funny.
Facebook, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. There is no intent based. The majority of people go on Facebook so simply distract themselves from work and just to chill. They connect with their friends, and they enjoy watching funny videos or pictures. And that’s what you need to keep in mind if you’re targeting Facebook.
So if the goal of your campaign is to laser target women looking to buy mascara products for example, then YouTube is great for that. But if you want to go after a broad audience, such as women interested in the beauty industry, because you want them to know about your company or your product, that’s what Facebook is great for.
Yes, filming and editing two videos instead of just one will probably cost twice as much, but if you set up your campaign right, the ROI will be better in the end.

Tip #5 Keep it short

When we are online our attention span is just 3 to 5 seconds. That’s it! So you literally have just a few seconds to grab people’s attention before they are gone. No time for fluff. Your video needs to be short and to the point.
The opening scenes should be intriguing, super funny or even shocking (if that works or your brand), and keep the viewer watching.
There are no specific guidelines in terms of how long a video should be exactly, but generally speaking, YouTube videos used for commercial/advertising purposes should not surpass the 2-minute mark. On Facebook, you’re looking at 60 to 90 seconds tops. Obviously, if you plan on running your video through Instagram as well, you’ll need to keep it under 60 seconds – the maximum duration allowed by the platform.
Using a snappy, fast-paced video editing style is a quick and effective trick to help you keep the duration down. On top of that, this type of videos tends to get more views and perform better overall.

Tip #6 Use copy pull-outs

Given the fact the 85% of all Facebook videos are played with no sound, getting your message “heard” becomes an issue, if you are relying on audio. Of course, you can always use CC or subtitles, but that’s so last year.
What you can do instead is to add catchy and highly animated copy pull-outs. The purpose of these is to get your message across in an engaging way even when there’s no sound.
As opposed to subtitles, copy pull-outs will not be a full transcript of your video. Instead, copy pull-outs will be just summary of the voice-over, a bunch of keywords that are enough to make the viewer understand what the video is about if there’s no audio playing. And when they turn on the audio, the text overlays should complement the audio message nicely.
There are plenty of video editing tools which allow you to add copy pull-outs, but one that really stands out from the crowd is Adobe After Effects. So if you want to get your feet wet with video editing you should definitely give it a try. It looks a bit intimidating at first but you’ll get used to it quickly.

Tip #7 Optimize for all screens

Since 51% of all video views are coming from mobile devices now, you want to make sure your videos are easy to watch regardless of the device. There are a few tricks you can easily implement right away in order to do that.
First and foremost, use big and bold, easy to read text. There’s nothing more annoying than struggling to read small text. In fact, we know this from this study over here that the typography in general and font size, in particular, has a great impact on web pages bounce rate. In kind of works the same way for videos as well.
Mobile Videos Stats
If you are doing a product review make sure to include plenty of close-up shots. The basics of cinematography or filmmaking teach us that a combination of wide, medium and tight shots works best for keeping the viewer’s interest and attention on the subject.
The same principle applies to small screens, but including more tight, close-up shots of your product (especially of the features that are more important) will be beneficial. You can easily handle this in the video editing stage provided that you have plenty of close-up footage.
Lastly but not least don’t use those cinematic bars you see at the top and at the end of the video. These work great on big screens, but on mobile take away precious space and don’t really being any added value to the video.


And that’s pretty much all there is to it. Just make sure to get the storyline right, have something funny or emotional that will click with the viewers and be totally transparent and honest with them.
Avoid the standard sales pitch and try to add value to your brand with your videos. Remember to make the video really snappy and catchy right from the beginning, keep it short and you should be good.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Don't Skip These 5 Super Simple SEO Strategies

5 Super Simple SEO Strategies You May Have Forgotten

We’ve all heard the false claim for years now: SEO is dead.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
What is dead are the quick fixes and shortcuts that defined SEO strategies in the beginning.
This post is not about how to get those back – far from it actually.
Honestly, you will probably have to spend some time to optimize your site properly.
But you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science or machine learning to do it.

Don’t Forget These Basic SEO Strategies

It can be easy to get caught up in the latest SEO trends – mobile first, optimizing for featured snippets, using structured data – but you can’t take your eye off the ball.
This list has some of the most important SEO basics that anyone can apply to help their site rank better in the search engine results (SERPs), many of which I bet you skip.

1. Be Empathetic

User experience (UX) is not just an SEO tactic — it’s essential to the core of SEO.
A search engine’s number one function is to serve up the best possible answer to a user’s question. Every single ranking factor (including the remaining points in this article) boils down to user experience.
If you don’t invest time in a website that resonates, your site takes too long to load, or you don’t answer the right question, the users will leave. And that’s not going to reflect well on your site.
Start with the user. Put yourself in their shoes and create a site that’s functional.
Ask yourself:
Each of the basic SEO best practices stems from the value of a functional website.

2. Want Links? Build Relationships

Google weighs links so heavily because they’re still the cleanest way to measure whether you’re relevant to anyone other than yourself.
In the old days, it was easy to set link building on autopilot and watch the rankings roll in. But again, Google is smart and is looking for genuine authority to enhance UX. They will not be fooled by your spammy links.
Not only is it more important than ever for links to your website to be of quality, it’s a time consuming and often overwhelming mountain to climb.
Try taking a break from the “Hey I saw you wrote about this thing that I also wrote about so maybe you’d like to link to me” tactic.
Go offline and explore building links based on genuine connections – join an organization that will list you as a member or start a co-marketing campaign with a related business – form relationships and the links will come.

3. Words Matter, a Lot

This concept ties back to the first point on user experience, but it’s important enough to have its own spotlight. I’m not talking about picking the right keyword (which we’ll get to in a bit).
But slight adjustments in the actual language you choose can be the difference between a 10 percent click-through rate and 60 percent — which in turn (you guessed it), impacts your SEO.
Take time selecting the right language and organizing it in an impactful way and you will have a much better chance of engaging and converting an audience. Research shows that people respond more strongly to language that mirrors their own.
Plus, brushing up on how to make your headlines sexier and your calls to action more persuasive will help you stand out in the SERPs.
Don’t make the mistake of relying solely on a strong technical foundation — pull out your writer’s cap and get creative.
The old Upworthy trick of writing the same sentence or headline out multiple ways can be an effective way to push you past your perceived creative limitations.

4. Make a Checklist & Check It Twice

I’m sure you wouldn’t think twice about whether you should use a checklist while conducting a complete technical website audit. But it’s easy to get complacent when whipping together a quick blog or landing page. And since attention to detail is not a common strength amongst, well, humans; that’s a recipe for things to get missed.
Keep a checklist on hand so that when content brilliance strikes, you don’t leave out the basics. Create a note, build detailed task templates in your project manager, whatever will help you stick to it.
Don’t waste a solid piece of content by forgetting to add an H1. You will be the proverbial tree in the woods and no one will ever find the fruit of your hard work.
Here are some basic blog and site page structure musts that I keep on my checklist:
  • Use the keyword in the URL, title, introduction, and conclusion.
  • But don’t stuff the keyword (try for less than 5).
  • Keep the title less than 65 characters.
  • Include a mix of internal and external links (at least 2-3).
  • Label the image alt-text according to the topic.
  • Include the keyword in the meta description to improve CTR (keep under 250 words).
  • Follow blog formatting style with heading tags and short paragraphs.
  • Optimize for action (social sharing, conversion, next steps).
When using an on-page checklist, however, don’t forget about super simple SEO strategy number one: our friend, UX.
Oftentimes, starting with the checklist can actually hurt you. You get so focused on the technical requirements that your content starts sounding more like keyword-stuffed robot vomit circa 2005.
Think about the user, make an experience that will be valuable to them, and then go back to confirm you’ve covered the basics.

5. Create A Pillar Keyword Strategy

Stop trying to do a little bit of everything and instead get really good at one thing. This is a good life lesson but also happens to apply to your website’s keyword strategy.
For example, say you own a social scheduling software platform. You shouldn’t try to rank for every keyword that anyone ever searched somehow relating to “social” and “media.”
Start with a niche that makes you special (hopefully it has some juicy long-tail keywords to go along with it) and become the go-to source for that one thing.
Let’s run a scenario sticking with that social media software platform. Imagine you read an article, like this one from Lincoln Murphy, that illustrated the value of customer success as a marketing tactic.
So you decide that you will create a keyword strategy for your website that’s centered around helping your customers be more successful with their social media posts that they are scheduling through your platform – in turn, helping them reach their desired outcome from your tool.
Maybe you also notice that people have been using the word “aesthetic” a lot in reference to social posts.
You do some digging and find that there has been a steady upward trend over the past five years in searches related to “instagram aesthetic” (which, by the way, is internet-speak for the visual appeal of your Instagram feed – don’t get me started on the odd grammar choices Gen Z’s make).
You research a little further and see that the keyword also has a healthy 2,400/month search volume and pretty low competition – jackpot!
Don’t waste opportunities like this with a one-and-done. This is not the time to create a perfectly-optimized site page, put a bow on top, and go out for margaritas.
Instead, create a focused, deep-reaching strategy around that topic. Create multiple pieces of content that answer every possible question that people could have about Instagram aesthetics.
Be the go-to resource for that category and link everything back to your optimized primary page.
Some people call this a pillar content strategy, HubSpot has coined the term “topic clusters.” Whatever you call it, the idea is that there is strength in numbers when you have a focus.
A pillar keyword strategy establishes you as an authority on something, creates a strong internal linking structure within your website, and bonus, it makes your life easier.
Here are just a few ways that you could start to build upon the topic of “Instagram aesthetics:”
  • 3 Key Reasons to Create an Aesthetic Instagram Page for Your Brand
  • How to Have an Aesthetic Instagram Account Hipsters Kill For
  • 51 Aesthetic Instagram Accounts to Inspire You
  • How to Take Aesthetic Pictures for Your Instagram Feed
  • Here’s Why Aesthetic Instagram Accounts Sell More Products
  • How to Make Your Restaurant More Aesthetic for Instagram
  • 7 Stores Designed Entirely for Instagram Aesthetics
  • The Top 5 Aesthetic Mistakes You Can Make on Your Instagram Account
You get the picture.
You could pretty easily come up with 247 different topics on this one niche category alone that are relevant to buyers of a social media platform.
In this crazy world, in which 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day, you’ll have a much easier time of building your website authority by defining some focus areas.

Focus on the End User

The simple truth is that everything in this list doesn’t matter without bullet number one: focusing on optimizing for the people who are using your website.
While there are fundamental best practices that you can apply to help the robot-based search engines along toward that end, Google, Bing, and other search engines are all still just trying to mimic a user’s intent.
If your SEO strategies are founded on an understanding of what’s best for the user and not a quick fix, you will set yourself up for long-term success. But this space is always evolving.
There is always something new to learn and test. This list could have been 10,000 words or more and still would not come close to scratching the surface.
It all boils back to the SEO fundamentals, which we should never forget.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

6 Social Media Tactics You Need to Forget About

6 Outdated Social Media Tactics That Need to Die

If one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then many social media managers must be crazy.
Are you practicing social media with the same cookie cutter tactics that have been used since Mark Zuckerberg moved into his Harvard dorm room?
Social media cookie cutter tactics
Despite seeing no measurable gains or attributable success from their social media campaigns, many social media managers keep running them in the same way.
While in some cases the cause may be laziness, in most instances I suspect it’s just ignorance of any other way, or blind faith in “best practices” that have no basis in verified data.
OK, I’ll be a little more helpful than that.
Before you can start investing your time in strategies and tactics that do actually produce results, you need to stop wasting time on those that don’t.
So here are six that you can halt immediately.

1. Only Posting Links

Way too many brand social media accounts have links to their own content as most or even all of their posts.
Now, you absolutely should not be shy about sharing links to your own content. You created it, you’re justifiably proud of it (I hope), and your followers ought to be people who are interested in it.
But if your social accounts are mostly, or (yikes!) all links to your own content, your followers will lose interest, and may even begin to unfollow you.
No one (intentionally) signs up for advertising.

What to Do Instead

  • Balance your owned-content links with posts of general interest and helpfulness to your audience, including shares of content from other good, non-competitive resources. Your goal should be for people to think of your social account as helpful, not just promotional.
  • Mix in posts that don’t link out anywhere, but are useful and helpful all by themselves. For example, you could post short tips, or useful insights. Or get a conversation started relevant to your business and your audience. That last tip is especially important for Facebook, where the news feed algorithm now strongly favors posts more likely to create “meaningful interactions” among your followers.

2. Jumping from Follow to Pitch

You come across someone on a social network who looks interesting. Some of your friends are already connected with the person. So you hit “follow.” Almost immediately, your inbox goes “ding.”
Jumping from Follow to Pitch Example
There’s the windup and…the pitch!
What’s wrong here?
Sending an automated pitch message or email immediately after someone follows you comes off as cold, impersonal, and makes the follower feel like she or he is nothing but a prospect to you.
What would you think of a new neighbor you invited over to a dinner party if as soon as he came through the door he started handing out his business cards to all your guests. What are your guests likely to think of the neighbor?
That’s exactly how most people feel when they get a pitch message from you immediately after they’ve followed you.

What to Do Instead

  • Use social for what it does best: building relationships, not direct selling.
  • Put newer followers on a list to get real engagement from you before you even think of sending a direct message. Go through this list and like some posts each day. Better yet, add meaningful comments where you can.
  • Your goal should be to turn cold followers into (potentially) warm prospects, so that when it does come time to try a more direct pitch, you don’t come across as a rude stranger.

3. Mass Following to Gain Followers

An all-too-common practice, especially on Twitter and Instagram, is mass following huge numbers of accounts.
Because a lot of accounts will follow back anyone who follows them, thus helping the mass-follower to pump up their follower count and “social proof.”
Accounts that do this are easy to spot. They typically have an almost equal ratio of followers-to-following, and/or despite having tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, minimal engagement-per-post.
Ratio of Twitter followers to following
What’s wrong with doing this tactic (since it obviously “works”)?
At least two things:
  • Social media users are more wary theses days of following fake- or low-value-appearing accounts. Many are probably savvy that a near-equal ratio of followers-to-following is a tip off that the account didn’t follow them because of genuine interest.
  • Your feed will be virtually useless to you. Because you mass-followed people with little-to-no regard for their actual value, your feed will be full of junk, or at least a lot of posts that mean little to you. I suspect most people who mass follow spend little time in their feeds, which is another reason they aren’t worth following.

What to Do Instead

Read my Search Engine Journal post 9 Proven Tips to Get More Social Media Followers. Done!
In that post I provide methods that not only help you grow your following, but ensure it will be a valuable following, one that will help build your business and reputation.

4. Using Auto-Engagement Bots

Auto-engagement bots are programs that automatically like or reshare posts of accounts you follow.
Similar to the auto-following tactic described above, the aim here is to fake interest in order to raise your visibility and esteem with your followers, and in hopes of getting engagement back from them.
Engagement bots on social media
As with auto-followers, accounts using auto-engagement bots are not hard to spot.
I have one guy who follows me on Instagram whose account likes my photos within seconds after I post them, no matter when. I can post at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, and boom! there’s that like. I seriously doubt he’s sitting up 24/7 just waiting for my next vacation photo.
Here are the primary reasons this needs to die:
  • As mentioned above, it’s easily detectable. As social media users become more savvy to and wary of such tricks, they’ll spot them more frequently, thus lowering the credibility and reputation of your brand.
  • It ruins your own feed. Many social networks use engagement signals as part of the algorithm that determines what you see in your feed. If you engage with everything, the algo has nothing to go on.
  • You miss the opportunities that come from actually looking at the posts in your feed and participating in valuable conversations that actually help build your influence and opportunities.

What to Do Instead

  • Engage for real. Yes, this takes time. It means you have to be in your feed regularly, taking the time to read interesting posts, liking and sharing those that are truly worthwhile, and commenting where you can add something useful.
  • If you find it hard to find or justify that time, ask yourself why you are on social media in the first place, and what you hope to gain from it. If the primary benefit is the reputation, influence, and relationships you’ll get, do you really think engagement-botting will gain you those?
  • Craft ways you can be more efficient at finding posts worth engaging. On Twitter, build lists of the most valuable people you follow and prioritize that feed for engagement.

5. Obeying “Best Times to Post” Studies

Let me say immediately that there is nothing wrong with wanting to post at times when the most people following you are most likely to be online (and thus more likely to see your post).
The problem with “best times to posts” studies is simple: they are based on averages. That is, they typically look at a large number of users and then conclude that the hour in which the largest number of them are active on the network is the ideal time for all users.
The most fundamental flaw with such an analysis is the assumption that your following is “average.”
Now, of course, only “above average” people would follow you, but that’s not what I mean here!
My point is that there is no guarantee that an average figured across a large number of diverse users matches your particular audience.
The results of these studies typically fall into a classic bell curve. The peak of the curve is the hours when the largest number of people in the sample group are on the network at the same time. However, there are still a lot of people in both the head and tail of that curve, and it’s quite possible that your audience’s peak times occur somewhere in those regions.
Typical bell curve
Since the study wasn’t conducted using your unique audience, you can’t be sure that the best times recommended are really your best times.

What to Do Instead

  • Check if your social media platforms or tools show when your audience is online.
    • Facebook Insights shows this for Pages.
    • Followerwonk and other tools show most active hours for your Twitter followers.
    • Many social media posting and scheduling tools will show stats for what days of the week and/or hours your followers are most active.
  • Run your own tests. Warning: getting accurate insights this way is labor intensive! Schedule posts on a network for different times and on different days of the week. Do this for a while, and you may begin to see patterns of when your posts get more engagement.
Finally, the following is just my theory, and I haven’t tested it, but it makes sense to me. Because more and more networks have feeds controlled by algorithms that decide which posts get seen when, it may not matter so much when you post (at least for time of day).
While it’s still true (mostly) on Twitter that a tweet goes out to your entire following at the time you post it, and quickly loses visibility after that (unless it gets significant engagement), on many other networks, your post is only seeded out to a small subset of your following at the time it is posted. Then the algorithm begins to decide whether or not it has value to other people in your network, and trickles it out to them over time.
If I’m right about this theory, then my recommendation would be to post on those networks during the earliest part of the day when more of your followers begin to come online. (Again, you can easily see this for a Facebook page in Insights). That way the post has a better chance of picking up momentum (i.e., good initial engagement) that will get it shown to more people as the day goes forward.

6. Not Optimizing Your Content for Sharing

Many experienced content creators have learned how to optimize their content for SEO, but far fewer think about optimizing for social sharing.
Posting on Mark Schaefer’s blog, Steve Rayson revealed data that showed in many verticals, social sharing has declined as the amount of available content has risen. That means your content competes on a roulette wheel with far fewer winning slots (shares) than there used to be.
Do not leave social sharing to chance
The good news is that making your site content easy to share, more likely to be shared, and better-looking when it is shared is a lot easier than search engine optimizing the same content.

What to Do

  • Figure out on which networks your audience is most active and only show sharing buttons for those networks.
  • Use the power of limited choice. Scientific studies show that too many options cause brain fatigue, and subjects are less likely to make any choice at all. Keep your sharing buttons to a minimum. I’d suggest three-to-four at the most.
  • Place your social share buttons at the top of your content. That might seem counterintuitive. Won’t people most want to share something after they’ve read it? The hard truth is that most people share content without reading all of it. A study by social sharing button vendor AddThis showed that making social buttons prominent was the most important factor, but having them at the top makes them easiest to find for anyone ready to share.
  • Use click-to-tweet pullouts, significant quotes from your post that users can tweet out with one click. There are plugins for most blogging software to help you create these.
  • Use Open Graph tagging. Open Graph tags allow you to specify and control what shares of your content will look like, including the share text, the URL, and the shared image. OG tags are recognized by most major social networks. Without them, shares of your content might not be how you’d want them represented in social feeds.
What other social media practices do you see that make you hope you’ll see their obituary soon? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!


Monday, February 12, 2018

This SEO tool keeps your site one step ahead of the competition

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has flourished into a hot topic amongst marketers and web developers aiming to promote their brands on the web. And, as more companies take their content online, competition to be on that first page of a Google search is growing.
There are ways to improve your standing, such as using popular keywords, but climbing to the top of the search rankings necessitates a two-fold approach: improving your site's searchability while keeping tabs on your competition. SE Ranking is an all-in-one SEO platform that lets you do both, and lifetime plans are on sale for $49.99 in the Boing Boing Store.
SE Ranking offers all the standard SEO tools, such as keyword position tracking and competitor research, while also including unique features like page changes monitoring and SEO ROI forecasts. With SE Ranking, you can learn which keywords your competitors are using in their ads and examine their budget, traffic, and the number of clicks their ads receive so that you can keep tabs on their performance.