Author Archives: Nick Gerdzhikov

Long gone are the days of the yellow pages and your potential customers are now using search to find local services. If you own bricks and mortar business, or the location of your institution is important for your customers, you need to invest in your local search visibility. 

Understanding Local Search

Search engines are getting better and better in serving local type searches. For example, if you stand in downtown Houston Texas and search for a “dentist” from your smartphone, you are likely to see results for dentists located across the street from you. Search engines now deliver more and more local and personalized results and are getting better and better in anticipating the actual needs and intent of the searchers in relation to their location.

In order for you to improve your local search visibility, you can ensure that your business is listed in relevant local directories and databases from which search engines draw information. Here are a few specific things you can do:

Set Up a Google My Business Listing­ 

Provide Google with as much information about your business as you can.

Set Up a Bing Places Listing 

Provide Bing with as much information about your business.

Local Directories

Submit your site to local directories and listings mentioning your exact name, phone, and address! 

These are the local citations of your business. Ensure that you have your business name, phone, and address on each page of your site.­ As a general rule, you can place them in the footer of your site so this important information appears on each page. In essence, optimizing your site for local search is the process of ensuring that search engines have as much information about your local business as possible and can verify it from multiple local resources.

Factors Which Affect Local Search

There are three important factors which influence listings on local search results:

Relevance 

How relevant is the search query to what your business offers? To improve your relevance your need to provide the search engines with as much information as possible about your business.

Distance

Local searches are by definition geographical. When listing your business consider how locals search for your it, maybe you need to list your business with the specific name of your neighborhood.

Prominence

How well known is your business on the web? To boost your prominence try to list your business in as many links, reviews, articles, blogs, and local directories as possible.

It all comes down to putting out a lot of relevant information about your business, defining your exact location so engines know your distance to searchers, and building your brand awareness in the local community.

Optimizing Google My Business

By listing your business on Google My Business (formerly Google + Local or Google Places) you help your business appear in the local search results. Once you create your account you will be asked about your business name and address. If Google already has a listing of your business you will be able to claim it. When you create/optimize your Google My Business listing it is important that you avoid using keywords in the name of your business. Note that it is very important that you have consistency in your citations:­ your name, phone, and address must appear identical in all places on the web!

Once you are done with your My Business account you will be asked to create a Google + account. You will need to go through a verification process. Here you can provide more information about your exact location, hours of operation, delivery, etc. You can also add photos of your business. Provide as much information as possible, as this information may appear on search results as your business card. So showcase your business products/services in the best possible way.

Managing Citations

It is also very important that you have accurate information about your business on the web, placed on as many quality sites as possible. Because inaccurate citations can confuse both your customers and search engines, you need to have identical listings of your name, address, and phone online. If you already have some citations you can check their status with tools like Moz Local. The tool will provide you with information about the presence and accuracy of your citations online. Once you are done improving your existing citations you can find new opportunities for listing your business with Whitespark Local Citations Finder. The tool will allow you to search and manage all your local citations in one place, as well as find amazing popular citation sources. Having a large number of citations on quality websites and directories is essential for establishing your prominence in the local community and to search engines.

How To Get More Reviews For Your Business

Positive online reviews can be a great asset to your business. Reviews are a great way to build your online reputation and boost your popularity among customers and search engines. Reviews can be found on local review sites, blogs, and search engines. In general, users can provide reviews of your business in three ways:

On-Site Reviews 

Web Site customers can leave reviews on your site or other relevant sites. Since you cannot control the reviews on third party sites, it is a good idea to provide customers with the opportunity to leave reviews right on your product/service pages.

Email

You can ask customers to leave reviews after they have completed a purchase.

Offline

You can ask customers for their experience during your communication with them over offline channels, like personal contact or phone calls.

To get more reviews simply ask your customers! Additionally, you should make it easy for them to submit reviews on your own site. Collecting reviews is a great way to build references for your business, which in turn makes it easier for both people and search engines to find you online.

Optimizing Your Site For Local Search

By improving some elements on your site you can gain better exposure on local search. For a start, you need to follow the guidelines for Content Optimization and Organization and Technical SEO. As mentioned previously your contact information (Name, Address, Phone) are very important for your local SEO. Here are some specific guidelines you need to consider:

  • Use local microdata from Schema.org to mark up your contact information and all elements specific to your type of business.
  • Include your business information in the footer of all pages of your site. Generally, users expect to find it on the bottom right corner.
  • Make it easier for visitors to get in touch with you by phone, email, contact forms, and social media widgets.
  • Provide driving directions and a map.
  • Optimize your site for mobile users.

Conclusion

Improving your local search visibility may be challenging but it can be very rewarding, as well, as it can bring a lot of customers to your doorsteps. In order to rank well in local search results, you need to understand how engines try to anticipate the need and intent of users and position your site as the most relevant and prominent result in the local community. However, as local SEO is a continuous and often complex process, never hesitate to get a consultation and make sure you are on the right track. 

 

Through content optimization, you can better communicate to search engines the relevance of pages on your site to certain topics. Simply put, content optimization is the practice of improving both text and media elements of your site. By mapping keywords to specific text and media elements, you can both improve your users’ experience and boost your ranking on SERPs. One important thing to remember when optimizing your content is that search engines now look beyond specific target keywords on your site, they consider the whole semantic cloud of keywords and topics which are included on your site. But before we dive into the nuts and bolts let us first examine some aspects of how to select your site domain name.

Selecting Your Domain Name

If you are optimizing an existing site you may have little choice over the site domain name, but if you are starting from scratch there is one thing worth mentioning. Focus on your brand name in your domain name. Do not select a domain name for SEO purposes. Meaning, do not select a domain name based on the keywords you are planning to target! Google has released updates who target this type of behavior and we advise against it. Selecting a domain name for SEO purposes is both useless and risky.

Optimizing Your URLs

A URL is a human-readable text that was designed to replace the numbers (IP addresses) that computers use to communicate with servers. They also identify the file structure on the given website. URLs appear in multiple important locations such as search results, browsers, and cross-domain links. The URL of a page is
​considered to be a ranking factor used by search engines, so you should aim to include target keywords where possible, separated by hyphens. Remember that if you are changing an existing URL, you should
use a 301 redirect to transfer the authority and rankings associated with the old URL to the new one.
Best SEO Practice for URLs:

● Use hyphens to separate words.

They should not use underscores, spaces or any other characters. Not all web applications accurately interpret separators like underscore “_,” plus “+,” or space “%20,” so use the hyphen “­” character to separate words in a URL.

● Shorter is better.

While a descriptive URL is important, minimizing the length and trailing slashes will make your URLs easier to copy and paste (into emails, blog posts, text messages, etc) and will be fully visible in the search results. A common rule of thumb is to keep URLs less than 115 characters.

● Avoid parameters.

If they need to be used the number of parameters should be limited to two or fewer.

● Employ Empathy.

Place yourself in the mind of a user and look at your URL. If you can easily and accurately predict the content you’d expect to find on the page, your URLs are appropriately descriptive. You don’t need to spell out every last detail in the URL, but a rough idea is a good starting point.

● Keyword use is important (but overuse is dangerous).

If your page is targeting a specific term or phrase, make sure to include it in the URL. However, don’t go overboard by trying to stuff in multiple keywords for SEO purposes ­ overuse will result in less usable URLs and can trip spam filters.

● Go static.

The best URLs are human readable without lots of parameters, numbers, and symbols. Using technologies like mod_rewrite for Apache and ISAPI_rewrite for Microsoft, you can easily transform dynamic URLs into a more readable static version. Even single dynamic parameters in a URL can result in lower overall ranking and indexing. Note: You must have a unique URL for each page of your site!

The Importance of Page Titles

Page titles are one of the most important elements which communicate relevance to the search engines. Well optimized page titles should include a relevant target keyword at the beginning followed by a brand name. Including the brand name in your titles also helps lift your brand authority. Here is an example of an optimal formula you can use when writing your page titles:
Primary Keyword Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
Additionally, page titles are also important because they communicate the value of the search result to users. You should also consider the emotional impact page titles have on users since they appear on SERPs, and have an effect on the click­through rate, Remember to keep your page titles short and very descriptive. Search engines will truncate your page titles if they are too long! As a rule, try to keep your titles under 60 characters. Additionally, it is very important for you to have a unique title tag for all your pages! Writing Effective Meta Descriptions Including targeted keywords in meta descriptions might not help much in terms of search rankings as it used to a couple of years ago. However, adding targeted keywords and their variations in your meta description can assure users that the information on the result is relevant to their search. Writing your meta descriptions creatively and including call­to­action in them will improve the click-through rate of your page in search results. Additionally, meta descriptions compete for attention with paid search ads in SERPs, for this reason, it is recommended that you include a good call to action (CTA).
As with titles, keep your meta descriptions short and simple. Optimally meta descriptions should be around 140 characters long.

Optimizing Page Headings

Headings and subheadings visually communicate how the information is organized on your page! Like humans, search engines want to understand the logical and thematic relationships within your content. Headings and subheadings help both people and search engines understand what is in each section of your text.
Here is how heading and subheadings look in your HTML:
<h1>Heading 1</h1>
<h2>Heading 2</h2>
<h3>Heading 3</h3>
<h4>Heading 4</h4>
<h5>Heading 5</h5>
<h6>Heading 6</h6>
Tips for optimizing your page headings:
● Less is better, try not to overuse page headings! Limit each page to one H1 & couple of H2s, then use H3s.
● Limit length and avoid words that aren’t relevant to the page’s content.
● Include exact target keyword within heading tags (H1), but use variations afterwards to avoid obvious repetition and keyword stuffing.
● Include target phrases toward the front of heading tags for best performance.
● Include support content after heading tags; each heading should precede a body of
relevant content.
● Place heading tags in order. H1 should appear first, then the H2, H3, etc.

Examples

Targeted keyword: “SEO Guide”
Poor H1 Heading: ” … ” (you don’t have one on your page), or “Read these cool SEO Suggestion to find out more about SEO.” The targeted keyword is not included keyword stuffing because the word SEO is used twice Better H1 Heading:
“Free SEO Guide” The targeted keyword is included unfortunately this heading is not very descriptive
Best H1 Heading:
“Top SEO Guide by Leading Experts” This heading has the targeted keyword and is very descriptive to users. Well optimized and targeted page headings are very effective in communicating the value
of your content and its structure to both humans and engines.

Optimizing Your Images

Though search engines are generally very effective in analyzing text elements, they have a difficult time analyzing images. When engines look at pages of your site they cannot perceive images like humans do, in that regard engines are a lot like blind people. In order for engines to understand what images might be about they look at:
● Image file names and alternative (ALT) text;
● The text surrounding the image;
● Links pointing to the image;
Optimizing your images for SEO is important because of search engines now return “blended” results to queries.

For example, a search for “athletic shoes” can return images, videos, and text.

File names and ALT tags

Having your target keywords in the file names and alt tags of any images that are central to the content of the page can have a positive effect on your page’s rankings, so consider having highly relevant images on your pages with well-written file names and alt tags. Additionally, ensure that your images are surrounded by appropriate text. There are several elements that can be optimized to help your images rank highly in search engine image search and blended results. Choose the target keywords that you think are descriptive of the content or the image itself. The purpose of image alt text is primarily to describe the image if it either doesn’t load or the user is visually impaired and using a screen reader, so stuffing unrelated phrases into your image elements could be detrimental to the accessibility of your site.

Alt Text

An image’s alt text is one of the strongest signals to search engines with regards to what the image is about, so it’s crucial to include your target keywords here. In addition to helping an image appear in image search, there is some evidence that the presence of targeted images helps the page itself rank in regular search results.
The alt attribute is written in HTML as follow:
<img src=”folder/filename.jpg” alt=”Your target keywords amongst other descriptive text” />
Bad: alt=”Boots”
Better: alt=”Mid­Calf Lace­Up Boots”
Best: alt=”Women’s Mid­Calf Lace­Up Boots”
Avoid alt=”Boots Shoes Sandals Pumps Heels Wedges Sneakers Loafers Clogs Slippers Mules Waffle Stompers”
Here is what the full image code would look like:
<img src=”../images/womens­mid­calf­lace­up­boots.jpg” width=”100′′ height=”100′′ alt=” women’s mid­calf lace­up boots” />
SEO best practices for Alt text
● Say as much as you can about the specific image. Your description should be useful and information­rich.
● Avoid keyword stuffing, which can result in negative user experience and be perceived as spam
● Keep the description short and to the point. There is no defined character limit but it’s a product description, not a novel so try to keep it under 100 characters (4 – 5 words)
● Use alt=”” for images that aren’t meaningful like decorations or bullet points.
● Use alt text for logos that are descriptive of the business or organization

Image File Name

Using target keywords in your image’s file name with keywords separated by hyphens can also be effective. That is to say, your file name should look something like your­target­keywords.jpg before you upload it to your site or server. You also want your image file­name to accurately describe the image. Using solid file­naming conventions throughout your site will help engines understand more about your description. Using the same boot example above, a non­SEO friendly way to name “Women’s Mid­Calf Lace­Up Boots” would be:
image/0016B.jpg. No one will find your image unless they’re searching directly for “0016B”.  Though categorizing each file name by SKU might be easier for your developer, it’s not doing any favors for your
SEO.
An SEO ­friendly way to name the same image would be womens­mid­calf­lace­up­boots.jpg
SEO best practices for file­naming:
1. Use appropriate keywords BUT avoid keyword stuffing
2. Separate out words using a dash (­) or an underscore (_)
3. Never leave spaces in between words or they’ll end up looking like this women%27s%20mid%20calf%20lace&up%20boots.jpg Some content management systems rename files to include a unique number or string in order to make sure that the file name is unique, so check your images after they’ve been uploaded. If your file names are rewritten, it could be worth working with your development team to configure your site to preserve descriptive naming. Nearby Text Text on the page that is close to the image can have an effect on how well an image ranks for a given key phrase.  If the image is part of an article, it should be highly relevant and use the target keywords and related phrases throughout.
More specifically, image captions are closely associated so employing keywords here is highly advisable.

Anchor Text

As with web search, the anchor text used will be associated with the target URL, so ensure that you use your target keywords if you create text links to your images. File Size and Format It’s advisable to use images of a reasonable size, as small images are often too low quality for the user, and large images are slow to load.  As a general rule, create images of at least 300pixels in either dimension and lower than a megabyte in file size. There are obvious exceptions here, such as thumbnails, large infographics, or intentionally high-resolution images. SEO Best Practices for image file size:
● Smaller is always better, as long as you aren’t losing image quality. Larger images with better resolution might be ranked a little better than smaller and lower resolution images.
● Do not let your browser resize the image for you.
● Always use an editing program to resize your image.
● In addition, use commonly accepted file formats such as JPG, GIF, or PNG.
● Images compressed for right dimensions and for file sizes.
● Base 64 encoding for images avoided. Image XML Sitemap To increase the changes all your images will be properly indexed, you can add them to your site’s XML sitemap or create a separate image sitemap for them if you want to keep things organized. The only data that is required is the image  URL, but you can also add the caption, title, and geo­location of the image (where it was taken) to your sitemap. We will further explore sitemaps in the next chapter.
Read Google’s guidelines on images in your XML sitemap. We recommend using the image’s alt­text as the title in your sitemap, and to keep the caption the same as on your site.
Optimizing Videos
Like with images, search engines are having a hard time understanding the quality and relevance of video content, because they cannot watch it, and comprehend it as humans do. Because of this engines look at textual and markup elements to determine what the video is all about.
Here are some best practices to consider when optimizing your video content.
● Produce videos which are interesting and add value to your users’ experience.
● Describe the video contents with a paragraph next to it. This also helps people decide whether they want to watch it.
● Have a catchy and enticing title.
● Use a keyword in your video title.
● Transcribe your videos.  This is helpful for both blind people who use text to speech browsers and engines.
● Markup your videos with microformats. We will discuss the microformats in the next section.
● Use video hosting providers like youtube and vimeo.
● Avoid placing more than one video per page of your site. There are obvious exceptions to this when more videos will really enhance the experience of your users.
● Include relevant tags in your video description.
Additionally, you should also use a video sitemap file. XML Sitemaps are files using special syntax that map all your pages and content on your site. Video sitemaps inform engines about the category, title, description, running time, and intended audience for each video contained on your site. For more information refer to the Google Webmasters guide on Creating Video Sitemaps.

The Advantage of Using Microformats

Microformats provide syntax with which you can identify very specific attributes. You can augment the code of content elements like food recipes, videos, photos, events, reviews, etc., and help engines gain a much deeper semantic understanding​  of what this content is all about. Schema.org offers a tremendous variety of microformats you can use and as a general rule, you should augment as many content elements of your pages as possible.
Google calls enhanced search listings “rich snippets,” which benefit websites by standing out more, which may drive more traffic. Though using semantic markup will not give you a ranking boost directly, if click-through improves, rankings may also improve, as search engines want to reward sites that attract clicks.
Rich Snippet Benefits The main benefit is that it extends the number of things that you’re able to describe to the search engines using structured data markup. The chief SEO benefit of providing such markup is increased visibility in the SERPs when search engines generate rich snippets for a product in the search results. Semantic markup is still highly under­utilized, so it’s a great opportunity to explore its use to have a competitive advantage over other pages in search. Here is how the augmented content looks like on SERPs.
Having optimized quality, and relevant content on your site must be the most important aspect of your SEO efforts. Additionally, once you have everything in place you need to measure the effectiveness of your content. Have good analytics software in place and track:
● What is your most popular content?
● What is your least popular content, where do visitors drop off your site the most (bounce rate)
● Are your visitors engaged, which content is shared and linked to the most.
● Is the content you produce producing the business results you are after.
Traditionally, links have been very important for SEO. When search engines crawl the web they are trying to determine the authority of different sites. To do this engines look at how sites are connected to one another through links. The logic is that the most authoritative sites on the web will be the most popular and will be linked to the most. We can thus think of links as votes of trust on the web, and the more links you have pointing to your site the better! However, it is important to note that not all links are the same. Quality is more important than quantity.

What is a quality link?

When search engines look at sites which link to you, they access the link quality. To do this engines look at how relevant links are to the content on the page they point to. For example, if you run a car dealership and have auto services linking to you this would be considered normal. If you, however, ask your friend to link to you from his food blog this link would probably be given less value because it is not relevant to your industry.

Another indicator of the quality is freshness. Engines expect that your site will be getting a steady number of links over time. If a lot of sites linked to you two years ago and you have no links since then your content may be considered old and out of date, for which reason engines will not rank you well. So how do you get people to link to your site?

Types of Internal Links

Earning links from sites you do not control is challenging, but before we dive into how you can conduct external link building let us first look into what you have full control over, your internal linking. As mentioned previously internal links help search engines determine what is the structure of your site, and what you believe is the most important and valuable content. Internal links fall into two categories:

● Navigation Links ­

These are part of the framework of your site. They are used to guide users to what they are looking for. Engines look at your navigation to determine the hierarchy of your content and how flat/deep your site architecture is.

● Contextual Links ­

These are links located within the text on one page pointing toward another page. Engines will analyze the internal contextual links to determine topical relevance by looking at the anchor text you used for your links.

By carefully planning your navigational and contextual links and the appropriate anchor text you can efficiently signal to both users and engines the importance and hierarchy of your site content.

How to Build External Links

Building quality links to your site is a significant factor that determines your search engine visibility. Attracting links to your site may be difficult because you have no control over other people’s sites but here are few strategies you can use to improve your chances.

  • Submit your site to directories­ avoid spammy directories, look for the those which have an editorial process in place, or in other words, there is a human that checks what you submit.
  • Have great content by producing quality content on your site you can attract an audience to it because it has value.
  • Do outreach -­ use social media channels to get the word out about your great content.

You have to be careful when you build your external links. Avoid link buying schemes and shortcuts because this can get your site penalized by the engines. Focus on earning links with great content, yes it takes time but in the end, it is well worth the effort.

Finding Link-Building Opportunities

Link-­building is an ongoing process. In order for you to improve your SERPs rankings, you need to constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities. Here are a few effective strategies:

  • Look at the backlinks of your competitors and other sites which rank well for your target keywords. By using tools like MOZ Link Explorer and Majestic Site Explorer you can analyze the external links of other sites. With this method, you can discover additional directories you can submit your site to, or blog authors writing about your industry.
  • Do guest blogging. By offering other sites to produce content for their blogs you get exposure to their audience and a link.
  • Become a thought leader produce high-quality educational content that fills the gaps for your target audience, this will help you build yourself as an authoritative source of information and help you build relationships with other members of your industry hence links.

As mentioned before, when building your external links consider quality over quantity, so focus on the high authority link opportunities.

Tracking Your Link-Building Progress

Once you start pursuing the link-­building opportunities you have identified you need to track your progress. In order for you to organize your outreach and link building efforts, we recommend tools like the Raven Tools Link Manager.

Once you attract links you need to track whether the links you are attracting have a positive effect on your site authority. To do this you can use tools like MOZ Open Site Explorer and Majestic Site Explorer on your site and track changes in domain/page authority over time.

Though link-­building can take a lot of time and efforts it is well worth it in the long run. By focusing your strategy on developing quality and relevant links from authoritative sources you improve your site popularity and rankings. To be successful in your long term SEO objectives you must avoid shortcuts and spammy links and should instead focus on the value you are delivering through your content.

 

So you have invested a lot of time and resources in your site SEO, now it is time to measure whether your efforts and money were worth it. By now you should understand that results in SEO take time, and that apart from specific metrics you can look at, good SEO should be judged against your overall business objectives.

Why Measuring SEO Performance is Important?

Since SEO is one of many digital marketing channels you will probably use, it is very important that you do measure your SEO performance. This will allow you to carefully plan how you allocate your future marketing budget in order to direct your resources to what works best for your specific business.

Some Tools You Can Use To Measure Performance

The most obvious step in measuring your SEO and other channels performance is to have a good analytics solution installed on your site. Here are some of the most popular analytics solutions:

  • Google Analytics: free with a Google account.
  • Webtrends Analytics
  • Adobe Analytics

It is important that you properly configure your web analytics to track goals and business objectives. Also, you need to establish SEO objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). Monthly organic search traffic is one example of SEO KPIs. Another example might be non­branded keyword searches.

Furthermore, you can measure how your search engine ranking change in relation to your SEO activities by using tools like Moz Rank Tracker and Ahrefs Rank Tracker.

Analyzing Keyword Performance

Since keywords are the foundation of your SEO efforts you need to be tracking how your target keywords are performing. Tracking keyword performance used to be very easy as this data used to be available in your analytics software. Unfortunately recently Google stopped passing any keyword data to organic traffic referrals. This means that you only see “Not Provided” in your analytics software organic traffic referrals. Analyzing the performance of keywords is a challenging task, and it requires that we look at multiple tools and sources of information and try to anticipate the actual performance of keywords.

​Unfortunately, it is not an exact science!

To analyze the performance of your pages in relation to the target keywords you may:

  • Look at which landing pages have the most organic traffic referral in the context of the keywords for which they are ranking.
  • Link your Google Analytics with Google Search Console. This will allow you to view some limited query reports data. This includes data on the number of impressions, average rank positions, clicks, and click-through rate. Keep in mind that this method offers relative accuracy!

Analyzing Link Performance

Since links can be considered votes of trust on the internet you need to track the performance and effect of your link ­building and outreach effort. To do this you need to track the effect your efforts have over your domain name and pages authority. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools out there to help you out. Here are a few of the most popular:

To track the performance of your efforts you need to pay attention to the number and quality of backlinks you get, as well as how your domain name and page name authority change over time.

You can even automate the monitoring process by using tools like the MOZ Campaign Tracking function. Additionally, you can look at your Google and Bing Webmaster Tools backlinks reports. When using all those tools it is important to identify any low quality and unwanted links because they can hurt your rankings, and may even result in a penalty.

What to do with unwanted links?

If you do find unwanted backlinks coming from low quality/spammy sites there are a few things you can do:

  • Request the site owners to take those links down.
  • Disavow those URLs through the search engines webmaster tools. To do that follow the instructions from Google and Bing.
  • You can hire a professional agency to remove bad links and help you recover from penalties like Google Panda and Penguin.

There are hundreds if not thousands of SEO tools which can help you measure the performance of your efforts. The bottom line is to always consider these results in relation to your business objectives. In other words, look for ways to check how your SEO and other marketing channels drive revenue.

SEO is an ongoing process, you need to measure the results, learn from them and take action based on what you have learned, then repeat the process!

 

How to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Searches in 3 Easy Steps

Wherever you look today mobile devices are an essential part of people’s lives. Together with the use of mobile devices, mobile search has also seen tremendous growth. Today almost half of all searches globally are done through a mobile device. Mobile is set to be the new leader and to be competitive you must ensure that your website offers mobile users a good experience!

Understanding Mobile Users

It is important to understand that users behavior on mobile devices is unique and it generally falls into two categories:

  1. Focused Search

Mobile users are usually on the go and most often look for things like locations, working hours, and phone numbers. Because mobile users are on the go, they require this information fast. The last thing you need when you are looking for a place on a mobile device is to drill through layers of menu items and content, accessibility is thus extremely important.

  1. Casual Browsing

In contrast, mobile usage may be relaxed. People often casually browse their mobile devices in their leisure time, often at home during the boring parts of movies or during commercials.

To accommodate both of those behavior types you need to ensure that your site offers a mobile-friendly user interface, good internal search functionality, swipeable photos, and filters.

Developing Mobile-Friendly Content

The most important aspect of developing a mobile-friendly site is the technical configuration you choose to deliver your content to mobile users. Here are the three types of configuration:

1. Responsive Web Design

This is a very common configuration because it allows you to build one site, serving the same content from the same URL to both desktop and mobile users. Through CSS queries, sites with responsive design automatically change how the content is rendered in order for it to be properly displayed on the screen size of the device. Here is an example of how this same page rearranges itself for smaller screens. It is important to note that Google has expressed a preference for responsive websites.

2. Dynamic Device Detection

This option is preferable when you want to alter the mobile experience. Sometimes you may need to do that to match the different behavior and intent people have when browsing on mobile devices. With this option, your web server identifies users who are on a mobile device and dynamically serves appropriate content. This option can give you a lot of flexibility but the downside is that you need to maintain more content and pages.

3. Separate Site

With this option, you set up a separate site on which you serve content to mobile users. With this option, your server detects users from mobile devices and serves them a different URL. Usually, these are located on subdomains like m.domainname.com. The advantage of this configuration is that you have the ultimate flexibility to tailor the experience of your mobile users. The disadvantage is that with this option you will need a lot more resources to maintain an additional site.

From an SEO perspective, no matter which option you choose you must signal your configuration to search engines. To do this follow the guidelines offered by Google.

Optimizing Your Site Speed

To help mobile users have good experience on your site you need to provide the fastest possible performance. Here are a few techniques you can use to achieve this:

● Use Smaller Image Files

Lower the size of your image files as much as possible.

● Use Minified Code

Keep a clean code and compress your CSS files to reduce their size.

● Use Cashing

You can check your site speed performance and identify speed issues using the free Google Pagespeed Insights tool.

Offering a good user experience to your mobile visitors is essential for the success of your SEO objectives. It is important to understand the behavior of your mobile users and produce content that matches their expectations while at the same time deliver it with the fastest speed possible.

 

Technical SEO: what is it and why you need it
By improving different technical elements of your site you can help search engines better find, crawl, and index your site.

How Search Engines Read the Code Behind Your Page

Search engines cannot interpret the content of web pages the same way we do. Take this page for example. To you, it is a page containing different visual elements like logos, photos, etc. To an engine it looks like this:

When search engines look at web pages they look at the page HTML code (Hypertext Markup Language). This same code tells your browser where to download all the images from, how things are laid out, what fonts and colors to display etc. The HTML of pages also refer to and load the style sheets (CSS) which are extra instruction for the visual representation of the content.

Keeping a clean and error-free HTML pages help browsers display your pages correctly and help search engines understand the structure of your page.

Why You Should Use XML Sitemap

Much like humans, search engines visit links to find new content. Unlike humans though, engines click on every link they can find. The easiest thing to do to ensure that your content is indexed is to link to it.

Another way to help engines find your content is through XML Sitemaps. A sitemap is a listing of your pages’ content in a format that engines can read through.  You can learn more about sitemaps and how to generate them on sitemaps.org. Once you create your sitemaps you submit them directly to the search engines through “webmaster tools”.

Why You Should Use Meta Robots

Linking and using sitemaps is a great way to tell search engines about the location and changes of your content, however, when there are pages which you do not want to be indexed you can use meta robots. Think of members-only pages you might have or test pages of your site which you might want to hide from being indexed and show on SERPs. To do this you can set rules for search engines in what is called robots.txt file. This file is added to the main root folder of your site. Creating a robots.txt file can be a little technical but you can learn more by visiting the robotstxt.org.

Dealing With Duplicate Content

In theory, all pages on the internet should have their unique URL, in practice however pages often can be reached through slight variations in their URL. This results in duplicate URLs (content) in the search engines index. Having duplicate content on your site is very dangerous because search engines like humans prefer unique content. Duplicate content can cause engines to penalize your site which can really hurt your organic traffic!

Using Canonical URLs

One way to resolve duplicate content issues is to use the Rel Canonical Meta Tag. You add this tag to the code of your duplicate pages telling search engines which is the primary URL to access your content. You can also clarify to search engines how you use URL parameters directly in webmaster tools.

Using Redirects

Duplicate content issues may also arise when you move content around your site. For example, you may move content from URL A to URL B but both URL A and B can exist in a search engine index. This may cause search engines to send traffic to the wrong page (URL A). To avoid this it is important to use redirects. Here are three of the most important redirects and when to use them:

  • 302 Temporary Redirect ­ use it only for short term content move. It tells search engines that the pages are not available now but will be back shortly.
  • 301 Permanent Redirect ­ use when you are moving your content permanently. It tells search engines that it should take everything it knew about the old URL and apply it to this new one. To rank high on SERPs you must ensure that engines see unique URLs and know the exact location of your content.

Use of JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX

You can use technologies like JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX to enhance the user experience on your site. Unfortunately, these technologies may cause problems for search engines. The crawlers are consistently becoming more advanced and are getting better all the time, but traditionally they have struggled with these technologies and it is advisable to use them carefully. You can still have this type of elements on your site but as a general rule avoid using JavaScript, Flash, and AJAX for your important page elements and content. Site navigation is one example, even the best site architecture in the world can be undermined by navigational elements that are inaccessible to search engines.

Flash

Flash is great for making websites look pretty but a bad choice from an SEO point of view. When reading Flash content, search engines have a very difficult time associating specific parts of content with the correct spot in the file. Flash can add a lot of value to a website, but it should be used sparingly. Flash can be implemented in a way that really adds to a website’s user experience, but you should never make a site entirely in Flash (or any significant portion).  With the advent and increasing support of HTML5, there are increasingly fewer reasons to use Flash as HTML5 can accomplish most anything you would want to do with Flash. See all those amazing examples of HTML5 sites.

AJAX

AJAX is an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. It is a great technology from a user point of view as it reduces load time and increases site speed by only requesting content when users request it. However, AJAX may cause issues as it requires the search engine to “click” or request the content before it can be read. Refer to the Google Guide to AJAX crawling for webmasters and developers for a detailed list of things you can do to help Google and other Search Engines crawl and index your content.

Server Side Factors You Must Consider

The hosting and management of your web server can have a tremendous effect on your SERPs ranking. Engines want to provide a good experience to their users so they want to send them to sites that are reliable and have a fast load speed. You need to make sure that you are serving pages quickly and have minimized your server downtime.

The location of your server can have an effect on speed. If most of your users are located half a world away from your server location they may find that your pages are loading slowly. For this reason, you must ensure that your web server is located in the geographical region of the majority of your visitors. If your business is global and you expect traffic from around the world, consider a hosting solution which can distribute a request for your pages to a global network of servers.

Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tool

Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools let you see what search engines know about your site, whether there had any problems while indexing your pages, as well as other important information. These tools are very useful because they let you provide the engines with directions like uploading sitemaps and setting geo-targeting for your sites. Here are some specific benefits of creating and actively managing webmaster accounts:

  • See potential issues that search engines have detected on your site
  • See metrics of your organic traffic
  • Make optimizations and provide the engines with information to better understand your site

Google Search Console

Go to google.com/webmaters/tools and sign in/create a google account.  When you log in you will be able to add websites you can manage. You will need to verify to Google that you are the webmaster of the site you want to add.

Once you verify your site you will access the dashboard with all the areas of webmaster tools. Detailed tutorials on how to use Google Search Console are available on the Google Search Console YouTube Channel.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Go to bing.com/toolbox/webmaster. Much like Google Webmaster Tools, you can find out what information Bing has about your site, and you can provide instructions. Visit the Bing Webmaster Tools Help & How­To Center for training and resources.

Keeping a clean code and visible to the engine’s content must be a fundamental part of your SEO efforts. Hopefully, this guide provided you with a technical overview of what you must consider when building and optimizing your websites.

 

Keyword research is the first and fundamental step of search engine optimization and almost any digital marketing effort. Knowing the keywords that lead users to your website could be a powerful weapon, if you succeed in recognizing them.

What are keywords?

Before you can optimize your website you need to know what you are optimizing it for. Keywords are the words that users type into search engines when they are looking for something. It is through keywords that searchers communicate their intent to engines in search queries.

User Search Queries and Intent

Understanding what keywords your prospects and target customers use is essential for both good SEO and marketing research.  Learning what your target customers are looking for, what kind of language they use, and how they communicate their intent will help you plan what content, services and products you should produce. This ultimately leads to more traffic to your site and is essential for achieving your business objectives! While the algorithms that search engines use to determine intent are a closely guarded secret, it is important for us as marketers to understand that search queries generally fall into three categories.

­Transactional Queries

Users communicate intent they are looking for a transaction, they want to DO something, like buy a car or get a date.  These types of queries are often targeted with PPC campaigns(e.g. keywords like “Cheap”, “Affordable”, “Discount”).

Informational Queries

Users communicate they are looking for information, they want to LEARN something, like the name of a movie or what is the closest star (by the way it is Proxima Centauri). Through these queries, searchers learn about the authoritative sources of information and who they can trust. Informational keywords are often with the highest importance for SEO.

­Navigational Queries

Users communicate they want to find a place, they want to GO somewhere online, like someone’s blog or email provider. These queries are similar to brand keywords, they show how your brand is authoritative and therefore they are most often targeted through content marketing.

Understanding the actual intent behind your searchers’ queries is fundamental for an effective SEO strategy. Once you know how your target users communicate their intent you can optimize your content to match it. This process is called keywords research but before we explore tools you can use to conduct research, let us first look into some keyword characteristics.

How to Select the Right Keywords

To rank high on search engine result pages (SERPs) it is important that you select and target the right keywords. Think of it this way, if you target keywords which nobody uses in search queries you will be found by the same group ­ nobody! There are generally three characteristics you must consider when you search for keywords. Look for:

­Relevance

Does this keyword accurately reflect what you offer? It is pointless to use keywords which do not accurately represent your products, services, and content. If searchers do not find what they are looking for when they land on your pages, they will be quick to hit the “back” button.

­Search Volume

What is the number of searches per month/year on this particular keyword? High search volume indicates a potential for organic traffic, it means people are searching for this term.

­Competition

How difficult is it going to be to rank for this keyword? It might be hard to rank for a keyword with high competition even if they are relevant to your business and with high search volume.

Types of Keywords

In addition to these important characteristics you must also understand that keywords generally fall into three types:

Branded Keywords

They are very specific and relevant to your company or its unique products/services (e.g. “Nike”). The amount of traffic on these keywords is a strong indicator of how authoritative your brand name is.

Generic Keywords

Those keywords have much broader reach (e.g. “Shoes”). These keywords encompass many subtopics and are thus with high traffic and competition. Generic keywords are with low-level searcher awareness, in other words, the users’ intent is not clear yet! Generally, these keywords have very high competition and therefore it is not cost effective to target them.

Long­-tail Keywords

Those­ are longer and more specific keywords (e.g. “buy Nike running shoes size 8””). The users’ intent is clear, they are ready to convert/buy. These keywords are characterized by low competition, and though they tend to have lower search volume, they tend to be the most important for your SEO because of the clarity of the user intent. Research suggests that more than %70 of all searches are for long-­tail keywords. Additionally, long-­tail keywords have a better conversion rate than generic and branded terms. This makes sense as people tend to use longer and more specific search queries when they have narrowed their choices and are ready to commit.

When conducting keyword research it is important that you not only create a list of potential keywords, but a targeted mix of branded, organic, and long­-tail keywords. Over time and with proper analytics you must track which keywords are driving the most traffic and conversions for your specific business.

Keyword Research Sources

When researching keywords it is important that you get to understand the language of your users. There are many tools that can help you conduct proper keyword research. There are both free and paid tools, all with different functionality. Here are some popular tools which we find easy to use:

­Google Adwords

Google Adwords Keyword Planner is free with an Adwords account and though it is designed for PPC, it lets you see all three attributes.­

Google Trends

Google Trends is free, lets you see seasonality of keyword usage.­

Ahrefs

Ahrefs 9offers a paid keyword research tool but is among the best currently available. It allows you to discover thousands of keywords, to see what your competitors are ranking for, and to explore suitable content.

Ubersuggest

Another free resource, great for keyword ideas and suggestions since it scrapes the Google autosuggest function.

­Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool

While Moz’s tool is paid, it is great for competitive analysis.

­Google Related Searches

Of course, Google is­ free. Just experiment with search queries on google and google trends and look for what suggestions come out.

You may also use internal data from your analytics software (e.g. Google Analytics), and search query data available in your Google Webmaster Tools. To better understand the language of your users you can tap into channels they may be using. For example, you can read forums which they use to discuss and learn about similar products/services. Regardless of the tools and methods you prefer, always keep in mind the types of keywords characteristics we discussed above. Think of all this in context of the intent of your searchers and you will form a solid foundation for your site content optimization.

Understanding Keywords Mapping

Once you have done thorough research you can proceed to plan your keyword mapping. Plane simple, this means creating a plan assigning keywords you want to target to specific pages of your site. You need to align your content to match your keyword plan. To do this we strongly recommend the use of a spreadsheet which can serve as a future reference on which pages are optimized for which keywords. It also helps keep things organized! To start you need to list all pages of your site and the keywords you want to target. Doing this will help you better understand your site structure. Once you are done with the list you need to:

  • Look for duplicate pages and content you might have. Since search engines want to see unique information on each page, be careful to avoid duplicate content!
  • Look at your keywords and find the most appropriate keyword for each page you have. You may need to create new pages if you do not have suitable existing pages for all your targeted keywords! This is a great opportunity to think of new and exciting content you can have on your site.

Your keyword research and mapping is not a single event. Based on your pages performance and analytics data you need to revisit your plan and update it if needed. In a year time, people may change the keywords they use to communicate their intent, or you may discover that you have misunderstood their intent in your initial research. 

 

What is quality and relevant content?

The most important determinant of the quality of your content is its uniqueness. Like people, search engines want to see unique information. Imagine if the opposite was true, the internet would be full of irrelevant information that can be found in multiple locations. What a terrible place this would be! Since search engines strive to deliver value to their users, they penalize the use of duplicate content. In order to rank high on SERPs, you need to have original content that adds value to your users. Furthermore, you must base your content on solid keyword research: you must know how your users communicate their intent and what information they are looking for. You must build your content around the keywords and language they use. When you think of your site content, think of value. How does your content add value to your users and your community? People and search engines alike will reward you based on how much you contribute.