Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Is Duplicate Content Bad for SEO?

I have had a few discussions with clients about "duplicate content" and does it affect a websites search rankings? 

One thing to be clear about - duplicate content is all over the internet, and all over most websites:

  • look at the footer info on almost every website, it will be the same on every page. 
  • If you sell a product, it may have a different page for each size or color, but the basic desciption will never change
Google knows this, you will not get penalized for having duplicate content like this. However, some people have pointed out that this means there are no real issues with duplicate content, in fact pointing to an article by Barry Swartz of "Search Engine Land" (a great website btw) that states "Duplicate Content Won’t Hurt You, Unless It Is Spammy"

Be careful how you read this - duplicate content is still an important consideration. 

From the last sentence in the above article:
  • "It is more about Google knowing which page they should rank and which page they should not.
  • Meaning you have to label one set of content as the "canonical" version so Google knows basically to ignore the other content...
The title of "unless it is spammy" is very misleading because it is not totally true...

Some reading material from trusted sources (and a little more up to date then the referenced material above):
And if you read a more recent article by Barry Swartz (the author above) he states "But I guess in this case, to help with rankings, you may, as a publisher, want to use the rel=canonical tag to help Google know which is your primary page."
  • In other words duplicate content is important for SEO, according to the same author a year later... and nothing to do with "spammy content" at all...
Last, but definitely not least:  
  • Google recently clarified this a bit (John Mueller of Google in October 2015,) 
  • a good breakdown which was just updated 2 weeks ago can be found here, including the video John Mueller made.
  • and it comes down to
    • "The reality in 2016 is that if Google classifies your duplicate content as THIN content, or BOILER-PLATE content, then you DO have a severe problem that violates Google’s website performance recommendations and this ‘violation’ will need  to be ‘cleaned’ up."
Translation - Duplicate content bad...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

SEO Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of questions I received from a new client today, mostly regarding SEO, that I thought I would share.
  1. How do you select what keywords to code in ?
    • We aren't going to "code in" keywords - we want text on the website that people will be searching for. Have to think as if you are a prospective customer searching for a business like yours - what would they type into the Google search box? Obvious phrases are stuff like "your product or service" words like "your location" etc. The more times "search phrases" appear on your website (naturally, can't "keyword stuff") the better chance they will be picked up in searches
  2. Can we code in the name of a local competitor as well?
    • Again - we aren't "hiding text" in the code (with the exception of describing pictures - we need to provide a hidden "title" and "ALT" text that describes what is in the picture)
  3. You said SEO is not a one time fix. What is the ongoing process after this?
    • there are basically 2 pieces to SEO - 
      1. On page website fixes so that the search engines like Google can find and properly index your website 
      2. and ongoing promotion and new content. Generally people don't "find" your website first - they go there to get more information about your company once they already know about it (so a website is really a "brochure" about your company) They are going to "find" you through other channels, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, your blog, etc. The more content you keep adding to the internet, the more places Google has to index your information, and the more that regular people can "share" as well (Like, link to, etc.)
  4. Will you need any of my login information such as go daddy or to link my facebook, twitter, linkedin etc. 
    • If you are going to host your website yourself, I will need the login information for that, so i can upload the files.
  5. I have a Google plus page that I have no idea how to use. Can you help me with that? Does it really matter?
    • Yes I can, and yes it does. Don't think of Google+ like it is Facebook, it's not. Think of it as a central place that Google has access to all your info - your address, (Google Maps) links to all your social channels, links to basically anything you put on the web. Google+ is very important for SEO and search results.
  6. I talked to another SEO guy previous and he stated a blog would really help my SEO. If  so, I'd like to add that. 
    • No problem! I recommend them as well.
  7. I would also like an employment application linked to my site. Any ideas?
    • Easily done - we can either have them download a pdf, or have them fill out a form on the website, or both.
  8. After an amount of time will I appear on the first page of results?
    • Tricky question -first of all, nobody can guarantee first page results, and if they do, RUN! (Insert scam warning here...) But it depends - first page for what search phrase? Your company name? You should always be on the first page for that. But which search terms would you like to rank for? Need to build content on your website that contains those phrases, AND keep building content in your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. for those search phrases as well. That's how you get better rankings.
  9. Is there anything I can do to help this along Example: go to my site several times a day.
    • Traffic does help - however, Google is tracking "unique visits" more than just the same person returning over and over... AND time on site is important - if you keep returning, and just "bounce" quickly off the website, you are actually not helping...
  10. Sometimes I come up on Google maps in the top ten results, sometimes I dont. Why is this?
    • A lot of reasons (mostly covered above) Which search term? You said your Google+ page is incomplete, etc. But one thing I haven't mentioned, search results are different for everybody, and which device you use. Desktop results are different from mobile results. And Google stores "cookies" in your browser and uses your past searches to influence future ones... Geography also matters, where are you searching from? Google will always try to pull up the closest results first.
  11. It is my understanding the more links you have the better. Is this Correct? I have read you can put hidden links in a period or exclamation point, is this true? 
    • Quality inbound links matter - a review from a respected website, a link from your chamber of commerce, etc. Think of them as "votes" for your website.
    • Proper link structure on your website is also important - can Google crawl it easily?
    • Google takes a very dim view of "spam" and "hidden" links - this was a trick that "black hat" SEO's were doing a few years ago, and Google now punishes websites that create bad links, or allow low quality inbound links. Stay far away!
  12. Would it make a difference if certain words are bold, capital, itlized, etc.
    • It does to a degree. But it really comes down to making your website easy for a human to read - nice bold headlines, bullet points, etc. We will code headlines on your pages as to which are the most important, so Google knows which ones you want to highlight on each page (geekery here, we will be using "h" tags, I will explain some other time) 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Google "Mobile Friendly" update

The Google Mobile-Friendly Test
Okay - for anybody looking to get the straight scoop on the  Google "Mobile search algorithm update" - just go to the source - Google's FAQ page This is a great FAQ about how the update may affect your website and search rankings. 

And do yourself a little favor - if you get unsolicted "SEO reviews" of your website, take them with a huge grain of salt... there are a ton of SEO scams out there!

Monday, March 23, 2015

New websites rolling out!

I have been very busy working on a a bunch of new websites for customers, and each has had it's own neat challenges and previous issues to overcome.
  • Whether it is a Wordpress website somebody else built that was hacked (IF you are going to use Wordpress, pay attention to plugin updates, and stay away from "free" plugins...), and I rebuilt -
  • Or one that was built by Hibu (What a SEO mess they made!) and now properly built (Look! No weird URL's or links to Hibu! No ongoing payments for what amounts to nothing!) -
  • Or an ecommerce website for a college friend in Canada starting a new business -
  • Or fixing a Squarespace mess for an architect (not on Squarespace anymore!) -
  • Or just helping the local Rotary out a little bit -
It has been busy! And that's not even all the builds in the last few weeks, and more to come!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The 4 "On-site" SEO Priorities (As I see them)

Search Engine OptimizationMy last post about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies, led to several discussions with various clients and potential clients. Most of the discussion and questions revolved around what are the SEO priorities they should be focused on, so I broke it down to 4 basic things.

The 4 "On-site" SEO Priorities (As I see them)
  1. Have the Content people are looking for - and make it quality content. Basically comes down to, how are people searching for the products/services you offer? 
    • Does your website (and all your other web content like social accounts) have the key phrases and words people actually use in their searches?
    • How often do the important keywords appear? Are they in your headings, in bullet points, in page titles, etc. Google actually "indexes" HOW the words appear, and gives them a "priority" or "ranking" depending on how important they appear to be on your website.
    • Do you have "quality pages" (ie enough words - 250 is the target minimum) - Google can't really "see" pictures, they need words to index
    • Also is it truly "Quality Content" - is it interesting? Does it contain the info people are looking for?
    • Most websites I run into really suffer because the content has not been optimized for quality or for keywords
  2. Make sure the content can be indexed by the search engines properly.
    • this is where all the meta, and schema , and behind the scenes coding junk comes in, but it is important
      • Can Google crawl your site easily?
      • Are your Meta titles and descriptions done properly?
      • What are your "tagged" headings on each page? (h1, h2, h3, etc.) Do they contain the important keywords and phrases you are trying to capture?
      • Have you used schema markup, so the search engines can easily identify your company info and product info?
  3. Have content people will visit repeatedly - Simply put, websites that have higher traffic, will always rank higher than lower traffic websites. To combat this, you create content that people will visit repeatedly, 
    • this can include:
      • "blogs" and "news" feeds
      • photo galleries
      • "downloadables" like white papers, case studies, catalogs, manuals, infographics, etc.
    • If people find the content worthwhile, they will return to the website. They will also "share" this content with others (this is where the share buttons like a "Facebook Like" button comes in)
    •  BUT people won't return for (or "share") low quality, uninteresting content
      • and if you are never adding new or interesting content, why would anybody return to our website?
  4. We are looking for "links" - the internet is a "popularity" contest, and if people like your content and link to it, you appear higher in search results
    • some of this you  do yourself - local citations, posting to social media, promoting the content you create, etc.
    • but what we really want is other websites and people linking to us - so what are we producing that gets others to like and link to us?
    • The only qualification is we only want "good links" (authoritative links) not low quality "spam links" that can actually hurt the websites ranking (hence the need for things like the "disavow tool")
To me, this is the basic list. Yes Google has somewhere around 200 ranking factors (nobody knows the exact number), but it comes down to have good content, make it easy for search engines to identify and index, and make content that you and others want to visit and share. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Beware the "SEO Expert"

Working with two new clients this week who recently had their websites built by "SEO Experts"...
Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
It's funny how people can actually say this to a client with a straight face, and then you look at the websites they built, and none of the on-page SEO has been done correctly. Yet these "website design firms" (I use that very loosely in these cases) charged top dollar for this "On-Site SEO work".

Website #1 was built by a large recently renamed "directory" that churns out nice enough looking websites, and promises all kinds of neat results. Too bad looking at the website, the only company benefitting seems to be the directory itself.

The SEO is a mess, and on site issues include:
  • meta titles and descriptions that have nothing to do with the content and are duplicated site wide
  • improper use of heading tags 
  • every photo on the website is a "large file" unoptimized for load speed
  • no ALT tags or titles in the pictures
  • no use of schema markup
  • and the biggest issue - a bunch of links on each page that go back to the directory itself, helping benefit the directory's "search rankings"
Basically this "national directory" ignored all the on-page "SEO 101" practices. Yet they charged a lot for an "SEO optimized website" AND continue to charge a "monthly SEO maintenance fee"

Website #2 was built by a small "local" website design firm - promising that they would give better "hands-on" work then a large firm. Sorry, another fail, all the same issues as above (minus the crazy backlinks)

This is where business owners need to do a little homework. When you hire a company and they promise to "optimize" your website - get it in writing what they are actually going to do. And download this - Google's Official "Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide" If you want to dig deeper then go here as well - Webmaster Guidelines - Best practices to help Google find, crawl, and index your site

On-page SEO is not that difficult - there are simple rules and guidelines to follow. It just amazes me how many website design firms don't follow them, yet claim that they do...