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 -  www.artbyera.com
  • 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!) - www.actonfamilychiropractic.com
  • Or an ecommerce website for a college friend in Canada starting a new business - www.strongbarsnutrition.com
  • Or fixing a Squarespace mess for an architect (not on Squarespace anymore!) - www.jeffreyklum.com
  • Or just helping the local Rotary out a little bit - www.rotarywestmichigan.org
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...

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jon Stewart Leaving The Daily Show

It may be a sad commentary about the state of today's "News Networks", but as an information junkie, the only "News" I have trusted for years is The Daily Show. Sad to hear that Jon Stewart is leaving after 17 years, hope the torch gets passed on to somebody that does just as good (if not better!) job! Thank you Jon for many years of smiles, and keeping the "News" networks in line...
Jon Stewart's Big Announcement 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bye Bye Radio Shack!

And another retail chain bites the dust. Radio Shack is just another example of not changing with the times - everything about the place was just wrong:

  • overpriced crap
  • uneducated staff - pushing "service plans" & "add-ons" you just didn't need or want
  • known as a "parts" store, yet never seemed to have what you needed in stock
  • no focus as to what the store was supposed to be

Look at your business, website, your marketing plan, are you making any of these mistakes?

RadioShack Files For Bankruptcy   > And there it is; the death knell we all knew would ring out eventually. RadioShack has officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Quick tip - Free photo storage


Quick tip of the day - make sure to store or backup your photos online.
Back story: I have a couple of friends who unfortunately had house fires. No harm done to any people or pets, but their homes were a total write-off. Luckily they were fully insured, so they were able to get back up and running. BUT the one thing they could not get back were their pictures...
One of them actually had a backup hard-drive, thinking that would be the "safe" way to backup their precious memories. Problem is the backup hard-drive was also destroyed in the fire...
So do yourself a favor, if you backup nothing else, backup your pictures somewhere "off-site" or in the cloud. There are several services available, and quite a few "free" choices.
I personally use Flickr:
  • it is free
  • gives you up to 1TB (1000 GB's) of free storage
  • integrates with iPhoto
  • integrates with iOS, and can be set to automatically upload photos from your iPhone
  • you can set "privacy" settings so nobody sees your photos, unless you specifically share them
  • a nice app and web portal that let's me have access to every photo from any device
  • allows video storage as well (up to 3 minutes in length each)
There are other choices - but the sheer size of the free storage space, and the integrations with my Apple eco-system make this a no brainer for me!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Work Around For iOS "Family Sharing" and iTunes "Music Sharing"

One of the frustrations with Apple's new "Family Sharing" of iOS apps, is that you can't share your iTunes collection with family members. This is a pain, but there is a work around, if you are willing to use Google Play Music.
But first - how it used to work. In my family we have 3 iPhones, and before "Family Sharing" I just tied everything into my Apple ID, which meant every app AND every song in my iTunes collection was shared. However, there were some issues with my sons iTunes gift cards and one shared account, so we moved him to a "Family Sharing" account. Solved the issue of gift card balances, and we can still share most apps, BUT we can no longer share our iTunes collections (why? I don't know... probably licensing issues...)
Solution -
  • I created a "family" Gmail account, and connected it to Google Play Music.
  • Next, I downloaded the Google Play "Music Manager" to my Mac, and uploaded my music library to Google Play. Google allows you to store up to 20,000 songs in their "Play Cloud"
  • Next my son downloaded the "Google Play" app for his iPhone, connected it using our "family Gmail" address, and voila, he has access to my iTunes library again
One nice side benefit to this, Google Play music has weekly "specials" (free albums, discounted albums, etc.) that are sometimes pretty killer, and it is fairly easy now to get these and add them to my iTunes library. I'm not a huge fan of the "Google Play" apps themselves (there is no desktop app, and the iPhone app is a bit confusing), but at least we can share a music library again, and unlike Apples "iTunes Match" service which sets me back $25/year, the Google Play system is free.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stuff I use: 1Password

I get asked all the time about the apps I use day-to-day, so periodically, I am going to write about my favorite apps, and why they made it into my "must have" apps!

This week it is 1Password by AgileBits this is truly one of my must-have apps, and is installed on every device I own (including my old EVO Android)

In this day and age, when it seems daily we hear of more "hacked accounts" in the news, it isn't a question of if you need better password security, it is a must! Yet this seems to be the one thing that people hedge their bets on and just don't do...

If you are one of those who haven't stepped into the world of more-secure passwords, check out 1Password.

Strengths:

  • It works on almost every major device (originally made for Macs and iOS, but available now for PC and Android as well)
  • Easy to use from your browser
  • It creates and stores super-secure passwords (think 5-50 characters of gobledy-gook)
  • Can store other info securely as well (credit card info, secure notes, etc.)
  • Syncs your passwords easily between devices (I use the Dropbox sync option)
  • You just have to remember one password to unlock your passwords (hence the name.)
I have been using this app since January 2008, and use it several times a day, everyday. I have hundreds of passwords created, and stored in 1Password, and it is just second nature now to open every secure website with my 1Password Extension in my browser. On my iPad and iPhone, the built in 1Password browser makes it seamless to surf password protected websites as well.

Now there are alternatives - Apple has it's "built-in" keychain, but it only works on Apple devices, and only on your own iCloud account. I actually "share" my main 1Password account with my wife, so that passwords for "shared" websites like banking websites and utilities can be synced. If your needs are simple, and you only have Apple devices (now and in the future....) look into it, it comes with your machine.

There are other similar apps like LastPass and Dashlane - I have no experience with them, but they may also be worth a look.

 I started using 1Password over 6 years ago, and have never wanted or needed to look at any alternatives, highly recommended!



Saturday, January 3, 2015

Looking Back At 2014 - The Year Of The Hacker!

At this time of year traditionally people look back on the year that was, and make resolutions for the year to be. I will jump on this bandwagon, starting with a look back at what I feel was the most important internet story of 2014 - Internet Security (or the lack of...)
2014 was the year of hacks, here are some of the highlights:
  • The Bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox filed for bankruptcy after $460 million was apparently stolen by hackers due to "weaknesses in their system"
  • Retail stores were hacked including:
    • Staples
    • Home Depot
    • Michaels
    • Jimmy John's
  • Banks were hacked
    • JPMorgan Chase, info stolen for 83 million accounts
  • Healthcare was hacked
    • Community Health Systems which operates 206 hospitals in 29 states had 4.5 million people's personal data stolen
  • Apple "photos" was hacked, 500 private celebrity pictures stolen and later posted on the internet
  • It was the year of "Heartbleed" and "Shellshock" and an Internet Explorer bug, that left every version since Internet Explorer 6 open to hack
  • and of course the Sony hack
And that is just a partial list... This is scary, the companies getting hacked are some of the biggest, and supposedly "most secure" websites on the internet.

So for 2015 I am going all in on encouraging "Internet Security Best Practices"

What you can do to stay (somewhat) secure
  • Start with secure passwords, don't use the same password anywhere twice on the internet
    • I can't recommend highly enough a program like 1Password. Yes it will cost you a few bucks up front, but the ability to have secure, easy to access passwords on all your devices is more than worth it. This is one of the first apps I install on every new device.
  • Use "2-factor verification" on all your email accounts. Gmail has it, Apple has it, use it. Makes it very difficult for a hacker to ever access your emails.
  • And remember that nothing is really private on the internet!
    • That text you sent, is saved on a server somewhere, and can be recalled at any time
    • that email you thought was private, can be used against you in a court case one day
    • Your Facebook/Pinterest/LinkedIn posts, even with privacy settings, they can be seen by others
    • even your phone calls are easily intercepted and recorded these days...
Be smart, take the time to make your data, your business, your identity secure. Those hacks I listed are going to costs those companies millions, but you and I we can't afford to have our businesses or identities stolen away from us.

And on that negative note, I actually look forward to 2015! I think that great things are going to happen this year! Business is booming, I'm busier than ever (and no longer a one person operation!) and I look forward to talking at you very soon!