Tag Archives: search engine optimization

Upgraded Penguin and Your Site

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that there has been a stir on the web, a shift in the rankings and maybe you’ve received an email or two from Google describing in vague terms that your site may, or may not, have bad backlinks. It’s the latest iteration of an algorithm update to help cleanse the results pages, and you can further more refer to it as Penguin 2.0 – or webspam filter number 2.

penguin2First things first, if you’ve received notice either directly into your webmaster tools account or via your web site manager that you suddenly have been put on notice, right off the bat, don’t panic. The thing is, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of websites received the same notificatiosn you did, as Google added a handful of new information to the guidelines as to what constitutes following the guidelines. So first piece of advice, don’t panic, allow your web team to step back and go through your website and it’s backlink profile to see what may be coming up as having run afoul of the algorithm update.

Once that time has been taken to go over the message you’ve received then you can put into place a plan to take care of any issues that are being outlined. In the mean time, what you can do as a site owner to help your own cause, is to go over your pages and its content. Give your main landing pages a thorough run through, make sure you take the time to read your content with an open view and try to imagine what your target user would see. A quick and simple test, read your content out loud to yourself, if it doesn’t sound right, chances are you need to clarify your message. The content you have on your site has to be clear and consistent across all of your pages in order to be viewed as an authority in your market. The higher the quality of your content, the easier it will be for the search engines to determine what your market is. It sounds like we’re a broken record sometimes, especially to our long term clients when we ask them over and over again to refine their content, but high quality unique content is your number one key element that is required for online success.

Once you’ve taken care of your on site performance, you need to make sure that the time is taken to examine your off site strategy. There are a handful of steps that you’re in control of as a site owner, and once you follow the below steps the rest is in the hands of the algorithm and the Google machine. If you’ve been notified that you have bad backlinks coming to your site, then first things first, you need to get your hands on that list. You can generate your inbound links list, all of the backlinks that Google has picked up at any rate, via your webmaster tools account. You might have a handful of backlinks, or you could have thousands. Once you’ve generated that list, you either need to take the time to go through it to determine what looks like spam and what fits your market. If you don’t have the time to go through your list, or your list is in the thousands, there are link audit services which can help speed your process along; if you have a dedicated web team this should be a non-issue. One of the last steps you have available to you as a site owner is to request that a link to your site be removed, the unfortunate side of this request is you have no way to force a link removal. But once you’ve requested it, if it hasn’t been removed you can use the link disavow tool through your webmaster tools account to tell Google to ignore the backlink pointing to your site. Once you’ve followed these basic steps you can submit your site for a reconsideration with the search engines, and then you have the hardest task of all. You need to be patient and wait.

Back Link Traps and How To Avoid Them

linkfishLet’s face it, sometimes regardless of how much you may want to hire an SEO agency to help you with your site you just cannot come up with the necessary budgetary needs. It happens, it’s happened to people who’ve called us for help and it will continue to happen so long as the internet exists. I’ve written extensively about the power of high quality content that you create with the intent of engaging your audience and make the desired conversions. As time intensive as it is to properly create content on your site, working to build a proper back link profile is even more time intensive, and has to be done more carefully than crafting your content.

Building up a relevant back link profile is one of the best things that you can do help increase your visibility in the ranking pages. The downside for you if you need to do it yourself though, is the time required to properly build that profile. One of the first points you need to realize about building links to your site or content, is that regardless of what you may read, the search engines know when you’re building links and so long as you keep two major points in mind, they’ll work for you and not against you. The first thing you need to keep in mind is the relevance of the link you’re working to gain – is the site you’re pitching relevant to you and your niche? It doesn’t matter if they can hook you up with thousands of back links if they’re not relevant to your site, it’ll look to the search engines like you’re trying to cheat your way to the top with spammer tactics – a big negative mark in their books. The other major consideration you need to keep in mind once you’ve determined the relevance of the site, is you need to be mindful of the site owner and if they provide backlinks to other site owners who approach them – and what those links may be. It’s a case of guilty by association in this case, and even if you’ve done everything perfect, all of your work on sticking to the rules can be thrown in the trash if you’re not careful with who you ask to provide you with a link profile.

The second most important issue regarding building your own back link profile that you need to keep in mind is the cost associated. You need to understand that even if you’re doing the work yourself to build your links, your time is valuable and if you’re working on your online profile, you’re not selling your product or services. In other words, don’t mess around with your site or your business, it’s what pays your bills and keeps food on your table. To understand that your time is valuable is important, because it keeps the emails and phone calls offering to sell you links in perspective – if you value your time at $200 per hour for example, and it takes you a few days to curate back links properly, how can someone who doesn’t know you, or your business, come along with 10,000 back links for only $50? Staying away from link sellers is one of the most important steps you can keep in your mind, as all it takes is one link in the wrong place to sink your site. If you can’t afford to hire an agency to do it right, make sure you take the time to do it right and stay away from the seemingly easy solutions, because if it seems too good to be true, then it most likely is.

Most Common Website Mistakes

When you’re building that fancy new website for your business, there are always a handful of problems that you can run into. Sometimes it’s because of being unfamiliar with the way the web works, and sometimes it has to do with trying too hard. No matter what the issue is boiled down to, it can always be remedied, but here are some of the most common mistakes new site owners tend to make.

WebsitegoalsYou’ve built yourself a singing, dancing website that can identify exactly what what your visitors are after with just a couple of mouse clicks. But that kind of technology comes at a cost, and if your site takes a long time to load (longer than 10 seconds) it’s most likely that you’re actually losing out on more visitors than you engage. Some of the easiest ways to avoid long loading times are to avoid the use of fancy ui elements based on Flash and don’t use images or animations where text will suffice. This is even more important with the recent growth in the mobile market, where internet connections are slower than what you experience with a pc. If you’ve already built your site and it’s incorporated some of these elements already, before you run off and completely tear your site apart, check it’s loading time first. If your load times are good, then your real need to redesign is based more so on the search engines side of the equation, flash and animations aren’t indexable by the spiders so the sooner you can step away from graphical designs that may be hiding your content, the better.

With the billion or so members on Facebook alone, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that business owners would forget that it’s a major part of the internet. And yet, it’s still a common enough occurrence to find out that a new client has nothing in the way of a social media offering, let alone reaching out to their customers or clients using those channels. There is a growing trend as of late with the search engines which is starting to take into account your social engagement level. While they still aren’t as important as a strong back link profile, social signals are increasingly becoming a sign of trust that lends legitimacy to your website. Flexing your social media muscle requires more than testing the placement of your social share buttons on your site, you need to generate content that demands to be shared, and engage in regular interaction with your target audience. It’s a simple enough issue to work around however, and it really just takes the time to understand your audience to make it work for you.

One of the most common mistakes that we’ve seen the last while with new clients especially, is the heightened focus and awareness of search engine optimization. Carefully crafting your content and your pages with or without outside help is not always a bad thing, as it shows that you understand that it’s important, but it becomes a problem when you only focus on the search engines. I found a great two point synopsis of what you should be considering when you’re creating pages and content for your site: if your keyword is in the title of your article, and it’s what the article is about, you’re well on your way. To make it even plainer, stop worrying about what the search engines see and think about your customers. It doesn’t matter if you can rank in the top spot if your content and delivery is crap, it’s your visitors that make you profitable. Craft your site and pages for your visitors, and the algorithms will do the rest.

More Penguins On The Way

Seems like the ever growing web is going to experience some growing pains again over the next little while, with the inclusion of Penguin version 2.0. Googles head of the webspam team over at Google came out with a few points about what the successor to one of the largest updates for search has in store for site owners across the web.

SadPenguinFrom his video blog that was posted, Cutts had this to say as a short description of the coming upgrade: “This one is more comprehensive, we expect it to go a little bit deeper and have more of an impact than the original Penguin.” So in short, if you were affected by the first update and still haven’t been able to self determine what you may have done to wrong the algorithm, chances are this may further sink you in the search results. But, putting all of the doom and gloom aside, upgrades to the search algorithm are widely accepted as a good thing, but there will always be winners and losers when there are any changes, regardless of how big or small. We’ve always extolled the virtues of having quality content in order to sell yourself on the search engines, and if the video blog post was any indication, strong content will be even more important as the update approaches.

Contrary to what some in the search engine optimization space may think, Google doesn’t hate those of us in the space that optimize websites to help a quality site improve it’s positions. What they do hate, are the black hat users and the spam sites which seek to circumvent the algorithm and cheat their way to the top, very different methods than any quality SEO will leverage to help improve your site. It seems that there are new methods to maintaining control over your site and opening improved channels of communication so you can help discover what your issues may be so you can correct them. Cutts also spoke to reassure site owners who are following the guidelines: “If you’re already producing high quality content when you do SEO, you won’t have to worry. If you’ve been hanging out at black hat SEO forums, you may have a more eventful summer in store”.

Be Wary Of SEO Tricks

If you own a website for your business, then the chances are pretty good that either you’ve been contacted by someone who offers to perform SEO for your site, or you’ve realized (hopefully) that the web is the way to go and optimization is another tool in your kit you need to leverage. There is an ongoing problem within the SEO world, however, it is slowly being rooted out and the agencies or people who don’t know really what they are doing are slowly falling to the bottom of the heap.

websiteupgradeThe chief issue with search engine optimization is that very deep down, at it’s very core, it’s a free service that can be used to help improve your website. The caveat to this though, is that just like every other product and service out there, you get what you pay for. So if someone comes along and offers to sell you full service for only $200, don’t be surprised if you find yourself sinking in the results page. Buying the cheapest SEO on the market is like using a rock you find on the ground to hammer together your new roof on your house, it might work in the beginning, but in the end you’re just going to end up hurting yourself and likely not getting the work done properly in the first place.

Freely available information is the culprit in this regard, it only takes an internet connection to learn “everything” about search engine optimization. The problem with information being available though is that sometimes it’s just not the right kind of advice or information you want to follow. As an example, it wouldn’t take long to Google up the steps to be able to rebuild a basic lawnmower engine, but you wouldn’t be able to even begin to parlay that into rebuilding a jet engine. Both of them power machines in order to provide a service, but are immensely different. The readily available information regarding SEO is most often the type of tactics you don’t want to leverage when trying to have your site listed. A lot of culprits that we see when having someone contact us for help are old tricks which the search engines didn’t much worry about at the time, but the algorithms are much smarter now than they ever used to be, so as a result, you need to be better as well. Over used keywords is one of the biggest culprits where lost ranks are concerned that we see, and even from a user experience stand point, spammy text just looks wrong. If you’ve created your content, or had someone work on your content for you, make sure to give it a very careful read once completed. Read it out loud to yourself, because if it sounds strange when you read it, chances are the search engines will pick up on that and you’re not going to be too thrilled with the results.

Unfortunately, a method which I still see to this day when we have people calling us is the use of hidden text on their site, and they can’t understand why they’re not visible in the results pages. It used to be that unscrupulous SEOs would hide text on the page by matching it with the background color of the page, so the text technically exists on the page, it just isn’t visible unless you select the text with your mouse or view the source code of the page. The search engines decided a number of years ago that this was a method in poor taste used to rank a website, and as such devalues any site using such a method. The list of old tactics to rank a website are incredibly simple to find, and as a general rule of thumb if the person working on your site talks about the tricks that they use, make sure you take the time to look into their methods. They may just be setting you up to sink like a stone.

Online Marketing – You Can’t Do It Alone

There is occasionally a great discussion to be had on the topic of search engine optimization, and this passed week was no different. There was a discussion started about how SEO isn’t the same game as when it all started some 15+ years ago, and all I could really chime in on that note with would be – of course it has.

babystepIn the beginning, search engine optimization wasn’t comprised of more than a handful of tactics really, as the web hadn’t really started it’s cycle of rapid evolution that we see today. The tactics to rank in the beginning weren’t even that difficult to pick up on, a few links from sites, some keyword spammy content and a decently built site and you could push it up the search results in fairly short order. To be fair, those base elements of the SEO world really haven’t change all that much, it’s just the importance of each factor has changed over time, and continues to change. Your content is your most important factor on your site, it always has been and likely always will be, as it determines your message to the search engines. You need to tell the spiders who you are and what you do, in such a way that your message is heard loud and clear. Your site architecture and design is important as well, but it’s as much from a user interaction stand point as it is a search metric these days, as the spiders are pretty good at discovering your site and it’s pages with even a rudimentary navigation setup.

Being an SEO company we’re often met some criticisms when we’re engaging a new client, as it is unfortunately likely that they have been burned by someone calling themselves an SEO, especially in the last couple of years. And the optimization world has changed so much in the last 5 years or so, especially when you start throwing in the rapidly expanding social web and the signals that tie them all together. Having a responsive web design which can detect whether your visitor is on a PC, tablet or even a cell phone these days is also a contributing factor to the marketing decision as you can immediately turn down a highly qualified visitor just by making your site unfriendly to a mobile audience. Search engines measure your value to the results pages on so many additional metrics now, that it’s important to keep them all in balance with your brand image in mind. It is understandably difficult as a business owner to let loose the reins a little and allow a company like Freshtraffic to do what we do best, but your increased online presence is our job. All of the points I’ve mentioned that affect your marketing online are all the important factors we weigh and measure to ensure you’ve exceeded the recommendations for the search engines. Because increased traffic, means increased conversions, which means more business for you and your employees, and we’re in business to bring you business.

Beginners Rules For The Web

There are a great deal of rules that determine how to conduct yourself and your business online, and make no mistake, the rules for SEO are some of the least flexible of the bunch. Due to the nature of the web being so flexible as a whole, it’s common to see new Search Experts crop up and whither away in a very short time. There are a lot of myths, misconceptions, and just plain bad advice out there online about search engine optimization, and with that in mind allow me to offer just a little bit of insight.

bounce-rateFor all you internet beginners out there, you need to realize that just because you can find a template and put it online, it doesn’t mean you’ve optimized a site for search, let alone basic web use. You need to start with the basics of building and designing a website, clean coding with a navigation menu that is simple to use and crawl-able by bots. One of the more simple methods we use to get across to a new client when we tell them they need a new website, is when we show them the output of a basic spider and it returns a blank page regarding their website. If you don’t make it visible, don’t expect it to rank, regardless of how much time and effort you spend on optimizing it.

One of the necessary components to being able to rank online is by having quality content on your pages. Well written and keyword rich for both the search engines and for your visitors which come to your site, you need to be able to quickly and clearly deliver your message and call to action. This is where some of the time intensive processes come into play, because our goal as SEO’s is to deliver visitors to your site primarily, if you’re unable to convert those visitors however it’s irrelevant how much traffic you get. Your call to action needs to be obvious on your landing pages so that when someone arrives at your site, they know precisely what you want them to do. If you’re into selling merchandise, make your sales or features prominent for example, with contrasting text or images so it stands out to your viewer. You only have around 3-5 seconds to get your message across to the user, so you need to do it quick and clean.

The one last thing you need to remember as a new denizen of the web, is that just because there is the world at your fingertips and the code can do wild and incredible things, doesn’t mean you should use it. The more complicated you make your site, the more you invite something to go wrong, whether it’s with search or with conversions, and when things go wrong online it can be a game stopper for a business. Keep your site simple, and keep your message simple, and you will begin converting your new visitors almost as fast as they’re coming in.

The SEO That Isn’t

We get some fairly interesting calls at times here regarding optimization, and every now and then it can make us shake our heads here in the office. We’ve had some site owners contact us for help, detailing to us how they responded to an online ad to help improve their position for as little as $25 – and when we take a look at their history we find thousands of links pointed at their site that have nothing to do with their market. One of the interesting calls we’ve received involved a business who had questions about their on page optimization strategy. They wanted to make sure that they had done everything correctly, and wanted us to check the site over before it went live – note that there is no site yet, the url lands on a generic coming soon page. Once I went about describing how we handle all aspects of the online marketing strategy, I was told one of the strangest things, the site wasn’t online as of yet, but they already had their off site marketing setup with thousands of links pointed at the address. I just succinctly advised them to check into the Google and Bing best practices guides and follow them to the letter – what I didn’t include was that they needed all the help they could get if they were already pushing links at a non-existent site.

Web DesignWe won’t even get started about the calls from agencies offering to help us with our SEO strategy – we usually follow their first sentence with “Do you know what we do?” and from there they excuse themselves from the call.

It’s a wonder sometimes that anyone out there could possibly trust someone who sells themselves as an SEO, and it gets even harder at times when we come along with our skills and services and people balk at the idea of our contractual cost. There are thousands of pages and sites out there who are ready and willing to sell you an optimization package for the low price of only $150, but what will that really get you? In our experience it will get you a basic Adwords account with a single running ad (see you’re on page one for your terms!), a report which was generated by a free online tool that checks for basic website design, and a few hundred, or thousand links pointing to your site that have little or nothing to do with your marketplace. In return you’ll end up with a very temporary rise in placement, followed with a crash back down, hopefully not further than you were previously.

Search engine optimization isn’t the type of game you get into with the search engines where you can just saunter your way to the top and cement yourself there. It’s a constant battle uphill to get you to your desired position, and an even longer one to keep you there. Because you see, when you finally reach the top of your market, and you have no where left to go, remember where you came from and realize, everyone is going to try and catch you. Just a funny side note I just saw, Bing comes up as a misspelled word, while Google does not. Guess there is still some work for them to do there.

On Site Optimization – Covering Your Basics

There is a huge list of the things to do, and the things you don’t do when you’re working on online marketing. As an example, you don’t send out thousands of spam emails everyday just to try and get your web address out there, it’s a good way to quickly make a terrible name for your business. I’ve written a number of blogs about the steps to follow in order to meet the quality guidelines that the search engines advise you on. I have also written about what not to do to your website, as there are many mistakes that you can make to run on the wrong side of search, some of which can be entirely accidental.

seoEvery time we get a phone call from someone asking about our SEO services it is a unique conversation and experience. Every person and website needs a different approach when it comes to improving their presence and conversions. We’ve had the occasional conversation with someone on the phone for example who has no need of our long term organic services once we’ve learned their goal. Sometimes it has been a problem of cost with a small or very new business, and there have even been times where we can’t accept someone as a client due to already having one in their niche market. That is one of the points which we don’t waver on here at Freshtraffic, we will only take on a single client per niche, because otherwise we would end up working against ourselves. We have a long list of clients who have been with us for a few years, all of whom retain our services because we’re the best in town.

Due to the way that we operate ourselves here, we have a handful of requirements which if they are unable to be met, can make our job difficult, or depending on the severity, impossible. As an example, we require either the FTP access of the CMS access to be able to process on site changes in order to make sure you’ve got the basics covered on your site. Very brief example would be if you sell widgets, and all of your content talks about cogs and widgets working together, we would need to help you recreate your content so you become more relevant to your market and target audience. All of the changes that we come up with are brought to you, and together we decide on the best course of implementation. Once we have the basics covered and your content tweaked, then we start to watch your traffic flow and your conversions. Based on how visitors conduct themselves on your site, we can begin to determine where your problem areas may lie, and then take the steps to correct those issues as well as continually working on your sites message and delivery.

Building up your website to make sure you’re capturing and retaining your visitors attention is only the beginning of your online branding journey. After all of the on site work is completed, we begin the long process of off site work, and from there your rise to the top.

Delivering the SEO Goods

When you’ve taken the time and put the cost out to have a website built for your business there are a ton of variables to consider and decisions to be made. I’ve covered a number of those multiple times through our blog, but as I looked back over some of the material I’d written I realized I hadn’t really made clear a certain point, the point of how important the time factor is.

leaderI’ve discussed a number of times how important it is to trust in your online campaigns and realize that web traffic doesn’t just magically appear over night. It is a process to get your site listed legitimately in organic search without trying to find or exploit a viral niche, and it takes time for the bots to properly scour your content and make a decision at that point where you should list. Those few points are deliverables that are the responsibility of your in house SEO or your contracted SEO agency. A very major deliverable on your end as a client however, is a matter of time as well, as in the longer you take to deliver the harder our life gets as search engine optimization experts.

As an example, if you’re working your way into a competitive market and your SEO is asking for content, it’s extremely important that you do not sit on your hands for this. You need to get that content created and delivered as soon as absolutely possible so we can dig into it and make sure it fits in with the rest of the scope of your campaign. The longer you sit on a request for content, the longer and more difficult our job will become, especially in highly competitive niche markets, and what makes our job harder takes longer for your site to climb the ranks. The point of being on the ball when asked for new or updated content is only the tip of the iceberg, though it goes without saying that you should also make sure that your other contract obligations are upheld in a timely manner. The search engines throw out hundreds of optimization tweaks within a year, and it would be an utter loss to both of our businesses if a request goes unfulfilled. Here at Fresh we’re constantly watching your site, for any crawl errors from Webmaster tools for example, and we always make a point of monitoring the news just in case something slips into the algorithm late in the day. We do everything we can to make sure that you’re ranking as high as possible based on your current website and it’s content, just make sure that you deliver on what we need when we ask for it. Lost time can never be found again, and a day on the internet is a year on the street.