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Kev

5 Huge Warning Signs of a Bad SEO or Digital Marketing Agency

By | Networking Bizz Business advice

Out of my 15-year career, 7 of them were spent at a digital marketing agency.

It’s where I learned to cut my teeth, put a deck together, speak to clients properly (jury is still out on this one), etc.

Were we perfect?

Of course not, but we were honest and approached every engagement with heart and our customers best interest in mind.

I also spent the first part of my SEO career as a private consultant working with smaller businesses and approached it in the same way – with honesty and enthusiasm.

Even when things weren’t going great, I was straight with my clients and told them the good and the bad. Full transparency was key to building and maintaining those relationships.

Out there in the world, however, there are some less than honest folks who are simply looking to take your money.

Below I highlight, based on my interactions with these companies and individuals over the last 15 years, some of the ways to identify and avoid them and ensure you are working with solid SEO professionals.

1. They Ask to Own Your Data/Logins

One of the hallmark signs of an agency/consultant trying to trap you is by starting off the engagement by asking you for full control over your logins, data, and reporting.

Many companies fall for this under the guise of “I just want them to handle it, that’s what I’m paying for, for them to handle everything”, but don’t realize how truly dangerous this can be if things don’t work out between the two companies.

Let’s say you get to the point where you no longer want to work with your agency/consultant, unfortunate yes, but it happens.

What many shady agencies/consultants will do in this situation is to hold your data and logins hostage to keep the contract going.

This can balloon into legal disputes that stretch on for months, even years, and in the worst-case scenario, ends with you needing to create new logins and adding new tracking code to your sites.

I have seen this happen time and time again, especially with smaller businesses.

The lesson here: the beginning of any professional relationship should be built on trust, but it’s a two-way street.

While you are hiring these individuals to “handle everything” from an SEO perspective from you, check their background and get references, if they can’t provide any references then look elsewhere.

2. They Guarantee #1 Rankings/ Top Results

It still boggles my mind that there are SEO professionals out there winning business with the pitch “We guarantee #1 rankings”, but they’re out there and people are hiring them.

Look at this ad that showed up when I Googled “SEO companies”:

Really? First-page rank guaranteed? Tell me your secrets, oh magical wizards of search.

What they aren’t going to tell you is what they are going to get ranked on Page 1.

Any SEO worth their anxiety can get something to rank on Page 1, regardless of if it’s driving quality traffic, revenue, or leads to your site.

This is a common ruse used by less than honest agencies and consultants to get you in the door. Here is how it works:

  • They get you on the phone to discuss your site. This will be done by luring you in with deceptive ads like the above, a free audit that they send you, or a long-winded email about something that just happened with Google which they always position as something you should be worried about because we saw a drop in your site using their proprietary yadda yadda yadda.
  • You get freaked out and give them a shot because you need to fix whatever issues they have explained to you because you probably don’t fully understand all of the ins and outs of organic search and you just want someone to handle it.
  • Work starts. Within a few weeks you see a few keywords jump to Page 1, which fulfills their claim of guaranteeing Page 1 results. You are thrilled. You can’t believe you haven’t worked with these guys before, and you can’t wait for the business to start rolling in.
  • Fast forward a few months and Page 1 rankings continue to come, but no new business does. No new leads. Just rankings.
  • They explain that SEO is a slow burn and that you are seeing new Page 1 results every week and to be patient, but never really getting into the weeds with you to explain everything that’s going on. It’s all good news from them, everything is going great, but you aren’t seeing any return.
  • Ultimately after 6+ months, you start looking into the keywords you are “winning” on and realize they have next to no monthly search volume and are not that relevant to your business. You realize you’ve more than likely been duped, reach out and get canned non-answers, and begin the process of canceling your engagement.

PSA: Google’s algorithm is a giant, floating math equation out in space that is controlled by a machine learning AI that learns our search habits and modifies its results based on those learnings.

The lesson here is that no one can guarantee anything when it comes to Google’s algorithm, not even the algorithm itself. If any of us could, we would be very rich have slightly less anxiety.

3. They Tell Their Story, Not Yours

Speaking of reporting on metrics, another telltale sign of a less than stellar agency/consultant is if their reporting is always telling their story and not yours.

What I mean by that is that they are always highlighting what went right, what they did awesome at, and why you should pay them more at the upcoming renewal.

They never talk about what went wrong, what didn’t work, and the lessons that were learned to make the current campaign so successful, which sometimes is more important than the wins themselves.

Only knowing half of the story is detrimental to your business and your own education. By not being transparent your agency/consultant has done you a large disservice by not allowing you to learn from their mistakes.

Agencies/consultants in this mindset are always afraid to tell you exactly what they are doing because they don’t want to give away their “secret formula” that is making everything work.

The truth is most of the time that formula involves many tests and missteps that allowed the campaign to get to its current state, which is super valuable for everyone involved to know, not just them.

The lesson here is to make sure you are hearing about what didn’t work, as well as what worked. Regardless if you are happy about it or not it’s better to see the entire picture.

4. The Partnership Is Positioned as Transactional

You always be mindful of how an agency/consultant pitches you, as it is very telling of how the relationship will operate.

People who want to help you will tell you they want to help you, people who don’t will tell you how much their service costs and how monthly meetings will be structured. This is the difference between hiring a partner and a vendor.

A partner is going to dig in with you, weather the storm with you when things aren’t going good, and celebrate the wins with you together as a team.

A vendor is going to send you a bill.

If an agency/consultant comes in and spends the hour or two you have given them of your time and only talks about how great they are and doesn’t give any insight into what they can do for you, the relationship probably won’t be that fruitful.

While there is nothing wrong with a brag slide or two, you should always be looking for folks who did research on your brand and provide actionable things they believe you can accomplish together supported by data. Those are the ones who care about your business and while they will still send you a bill every month, you won’t mind paying it so much.

The lesson here is to always seek a partner, not just another vendor.

5. Their Case Studies Are Outdated

Speaking of brag slides, you should always ask what year the projects/results are from. One of the greatest injustices of organic search is how long people use case studies for.

SEO changes every single day and while it’s awesome you really knocked it out of the park for Pets.com back in 2000, that story doesn’t really help me gauge your talent in 2019.

The lesson here is to always dig a little deeper on those wins and when they happened. With SEO changing as much as it does, even a project from a couple of years ago could have no relevance today.

 

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How to Use Trending Topics to Build Links & Boost Traffic

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

More traffic, more links, more conversions – the trifecta of search engine optimization (SEO).

Whether you’re an SEO expert or a website owner looking to increase your presence online, you know that engaging, SEO-friendly content is the key to attracting high-quality links and organic traffic.

However, you may feel like you are fresh out of ideas or even that you are in a “boring” niche that makes it difficult to think up interesting content topics.

Fortunately, by staying tuned into current events and trending topics in your niche, you can easily and creatively develop content that’s clickable, shareable, and linkable.

Here are five ways to use trending topics to attract links and targeted traffic to your website.

1. Keep Up with the Times

The first step in creating content that’s bound to go viral is staying ahead of the trends as much as possible.

By the time you are seeing tons of articles on a given topic, it may be too late to ride the wave.

That’s why you should leverage several tools to stay on top of current events, news stories, pop culture, and more.

That way, as soon as a story breaks, you can start drafting up your own article, review, video, or opinion piece.

The Best Tools for Keeping Up with Trending Topics

Google Trends

Google Trends is a great trending topics tool, as it shows you the top rising searches related to your keyword.

You can also filter your searches by region and date.

Use Google Trends to see what topics are trending in your niche and keep track of any increases in traffic.

Facebook

While most of us use Facebook to stay in touch with friends, share our thoughts, and even follow our favorite brands, it’s no surprise that Facebook is great for recognizing what topics are trending online.

You can check out popular hashtags related to your niche, pop into Facebook groups to see what your audience is talking about, or simply stay tuned into what events are showing up on your Timeline.

You may even want to survey your followers to find out what they are interested in at the moment.

Twitter

Much like Facebook, Twitter is a hub for all that is happening online – from important social issues to celebrity news and everything else in between.

Check out the Trending section to see what’s hot online right now, or visit popular hashtags in your industry. You may also want to follow public figures and your favorite brands to see what is being shared and talked about most.

Reddit

Reddit is underrated, but it can actually be a highly valuable tool, both for finding content and promoting your own.

You can explore “Subreddits” related to current events, technology, politics, and nearly any niche you can imagine.

You can also engage with posts to boost your “karma” so that you will have more opportunities for engagement on your own posts later on.

Reddit can be a great place to find out what’s happening in the world of SEO, business, and beyond.

2. Look Out for Opportunities

Once you are aware of what topics are currently trending in your space, then you can to look out for opportunities to create some truly amazing content.

Doing so goes far beyond simply writing a spinoff of an existing article or even an opinion piece on a current event. Now is the time to think outside the box.

Rather than scouring the web for ideas, the best approach is to start with what you know already – your brand.

If you are honed in on your brand message and what your audience is looking for, recognizing solid content opportunities should be much easier than starting “from scratch”.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking for content opportunities:

  • Is there a “gap” in what’s currently being covered? Is there an angle that other news outlets and websites are missing? Can you offer a fresh take on a current issue?
  • What is my audience interested in at this moment? Is there a pressing issue that needs to be addressed? Sometimes it’s as simple as asking them what they are interested in, and creating content around that.
  • What are your competitors talking about? If your competition is covering a topic, that’s a good indication that you should be too. Just make sure that it is, in fact, relevant to your audience and that your content is original.
  • What has worked in the past? Regardless of what’s trending now, is there a style or format of content that has worked well in the past. Can you replicate your “evergreen” content with a modern twist?
  • What kind of content is most linkable in your niche? This takes a bit of digging, but by searching your key terms, you should be able to find some content pieces that have performed well online. If they have a high number of quality links, see if you can dissect their strategy and format.

I don’t recommend “starting cold” and covering a trending topic without doing a bit of research first.

If you truly understand your audience, you will get a sense of what is of interest to them and how to format your content in an effective way

3. Develop Shareable, Engaging Content

The beauty of creating content around trending topics is that it is relatively low risk with potentially high rewards.

While getting the hang of it may take some trial and error, it involves rather minimal investment.

That being said, there are some tricks for creating content that will attract linksand boost traffic.

Choose the Best Format

While the go-to for content tends to be blog posts, sometimes it’s best to get a bit more creative.

Think long and hard about what format would be most engaging for the content you hope to put out.

Would a short video do the trick? A listicle? A funny cartoon?

The possibilities are nearly endless.

When it comes to trending topics, most times people are looking to get their information as fast as possible.

You want them to know instantly what the content is about, what your main points are, and what actions you want them to take.

The faster they can consume it, the more likely they are to share it.

Aim for a Wider Audience

Most of the time when you are crafting a content marketing piece, especially for links, you will want to tailor it to a unique audience.

However, what matters here is that your content is picked up by a wide range of platforms and is shared at hyperspeed.

By aiming for a wider audience, there’s more potential for it to be shared across the web.

It may not be the most conversion-friendly piece you have put together, but the point is that it:

  • Generates a lot of traffic.
  • Attracts links.

With more shares, the odds are in your favor.

Add Images, Infographics & Videos

Adding images, videos, and more to your content will only up the engagement factor, making it more likely that people will share your content.

This also helps it appeal to people who prefer different kinds of information (video, written, etc.).

Also, by adding other features to your content, you make it easy to repurpose your content for other platforms.

For example, you can share your graphics on Instagram, your video on YouTube, promote an infographic via email, and more. This opens up even more traffic channels.

Optimize for Search

Obviously, if traffic and links are your main objectives, you will want to optimize your content for search engines.

If you aren’t well-versed in SEO yet, you can work with a content marketer or SEO copywriter to make sure that your content follows SEO best practices.

Don’t worry if your website isn’t fully optimized. Your goal here is to create content to market across platforms quickly and obtain links in a shorter period of time. You can always work to optimize your site later on.

Optimize for Sharing

This should be an obvious point but it is often overlooked.

It should be super easy for users to share your content as they wish. This means making the share buttons accessible on your website, including an engaging title and description, and setting a featured image for your post.

You will also want to optimize your content for mobile and even make it available in a variety of formats, if possible. This makes it easy for users to share your content to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

5. Repurpose Across Platforms

Once it’s time to share your content, it’s worth being strategic about what platforms you are going to circulate your content on and how.

Simply sharing a blog post on Facebook won’t do much to get you the traffic and links you are looking for.

If social media management isn’t your forte, again, it may be worth working with a content marketing expert to develop a strategy for your content.

If that’s not quite in the budget, here is a list of ideas to get you started:

  • Turn written content into a slide video with voiceover to share on YouTube.
  • Address the topic via Facebook Live on your business page.
  • Add images from your article on your Instagram Story.
  • Run a campaign to your email list that includes a link to your content.
  • Circulate your content in niche-related Facebook Groups.
  • Connect with influencers in your industry to promote your content for you.
  • Run a Facebook or Instagram ad campaign.
  • Use email outreach to attract links to your video, article, or infographic.
  • Run a competition or promotion with your audience for a prize in exchange for social shares.
  • Contact friends and contacts in your network to share your content.

Keep in mind what platforms you are already active on and which ones your audience is most likely to engage on.

Think creatively about how best to repurpose content into a variety of formats for optimal sharing.

Again, this may take some trial and error, but eventually, you will be able to see which platforms bring in the most traffics and links.

Make a note of this and you will be sure to fine-tune your approach the next time around.

Conclusion

Using trending topics in your content marketing can be a great way to go viral in your content and boost traffic and links to your website.

You must be able to stay on top of the trends, keep your eyes open to opportunities, and then craft content that’s made to engage.

Then, share it like crazy and watch the magic happen!

User-Centric Optimization: 3 Ways to Improve Your Website Experience

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

SEO is multifaceted and each optimization factor is dependent on the others.

You can create first-class content that engages users and that is relevant to their search intent, but if your pages load slowly, your users will never get the chance to read this outstanding content you’re creating for your website.

Users are impatient and they will bounce if they have to wait for more than a few seconds.

Load time vs bounce rate graphic by Think With GoogleData from Think With Google

Can you blame them, though? Think about how frustrated you feel when you have to watch a loading wheel spinning, for what feels like an eternity.

Three different loading wheel icons

This is the mindset we need to have when we approach any performance optimization work because the most meaningful improvements will happen when you approach things from a place of empathy for your users.

Understanding the Different Browsing Conditions of Users

Empathy for users is a great starting point, but we also need to support that with an understanding of how your users are accessing your website.

For example, what devices and browsers are they using to visit your website? What kind of internet connections are they browsing with?

These differences in browsing conditions can have a bigger impact on performance than you might expect.

This is demonstrated by the results from testing JavaScript processing times for the CNN homepage across different devices from WebPageTest.

JavaScript processing times for CNN graph

The iPhone 8, which is a higher-end device with a better CPU, loaded the CNN homepage in 4 seconds compared to the Moto G4 which loaded in 13 seconds.

However, the results were even more dramatic for the Alcatel 1X which loaded the same page in 36 seconds.

Processing times for three different phones

Performance isn’t a ‘one score fits all’ scenario. It can vary drastically depending on each user’s browsing conditions.

The Audience tab in Google Analytics is a great place to start digging around and doing some research into how your users are accessing your website.

For example, you can see the split of the most commonly used devices under Audience > Mobile > Devices.

Google Analytics mobile devices report

That’s just one report of many, so take a closer look in your analytics account to get a better understanding of your users and the factors that could be impacting their experience on your website.

User-Centric Performance Optimization Is the Future

Considering the varying nature of performance depending on the browsing conditions of each individual user, there’s a lot more that marketers can be doing to improve the way we speed up websites.

The future of site speed should be focused on tailoring performance around the user and their particular browsing environment.

Here are three areas that can be optimized to improve how users experience your website:

  • The user’s device
  • The user’s internet connection
  • The user’s journey

1. Optimizing Performance Based on the User’s Device

The key to ensuring that every user has a positive, fast experience on your website is to implement a baseline level of performance that works for the most basic device you’re optimizing for.

Two web development strategies that work around this concept are:

  • Progressive enhancement
  • Graceful degradation

Progressive Enhancement

Progressive enhancement focuses on making the core content of a page accessible, and then progressively adds more technically advanced features on top of the capabilities of the user’s device or browser allow for.

For example, the website might provide clean, accessible content in the HTML first as a priority.

Then if it is detected that the user’s browsing conditions can handle more complex features, some additional CSS visual alterations can be layered on top, and perhaps some more advanced interactivity via JavaScript.

Graceful Degradation

Graceful degradation is basically the opposite of progressive enhancement.

The website will start with the full experience, but will then start falling back to a gradually less complex experience by switching off certain low-importance elements if the user’s device is unable to handle the more advanced features.

These web strategies can be really powerful because if your website loads quickly and performs well even on the most basic device, think about how much faster it will load on higher-end devices.

2. Optimizing Performance Based on the User’s Internet Connection

Internal connection is one of the most inconstant factors of a user’s browsing conditions, especially for those on mobile. As we use our devices on the move, internet connectivity is bound to fluctuate and drop off.

However, it is possible to optimize for different levels of internet connectivity to ensure that users will still have a good experience of your website on a 3G or 2G connection.

Network Information API

The Network Information API provides information on a user’s internet connection status, including the type and strength of their connection.

You can use the Network Information API to detect changes in the user’s internet connection, by using this code example:

Network Information API code example

You can also set instructions for what should happen if the internet connection changes, and how the content on a website should adopt.

As demonstrated at Google I/O 2018, if a user’s connection is 4G you can set a video to be loaded as this connection would be able to handle this rich experience.

However, if a user is browsing on a 2G or 3G connection you can set a static image to be loaded in place of the video so you’re not putting too much strain on the user’s already limited connection.

Google I/O example of swapping a video for an image depending on connection type

In this circumstance, the user doesn’t have the expectation of watching a video or animation and doesn’t know what they’re missing. The important thing is that they’re seeing content quickly.

This contributes to the user’s perception of speed as they’re getting a fast experience rather than having to wait a long time for a non-critical video to load.

3. Optimizing Performance Based on the User’s Journey

One way of prioritizing the most important resources to be loaded as quickly as possible is by the user’s journey.

When a user is on a particular page, where are they most likely to click next? Which links and resources will be needed for that next page in the user’s journey?

Again, this is another method of optimizing what is needed as a priority rather than optimizing every page that a user could potentially land on and every resource they could potentially need.

A fast, seamless journey between pages contributes a great deal to a user’s perception of speed.

Resource Hints

Leaving the browser to load every single resource all at once can be an inefficient process which adds more time for the user as they sit and wait for a page to load.

This is where resource hints can help. Resource hints are instructions that you can give to a browser to help it prioritize what is most important to be loaded first.

Preload

Preload specifies the highest priority resources that impact the current navigation that should be loaded first.

<link rel=”preload” as=”script” href=”example.js”>

Preconnect

Preconnect establishes connections with the server and other origins earlier. This process can take a long time for users with poor connectivity.

<link rel=”preconnect” href=”cdn.example.com”>

Prefetch

Prefetch specifies key links and resources that will be needed as part of the future navigation or for the next step in the user’s journey.

<link rel=”prefetch” href=”example.jpg”>

Guess.js

Guess.js takes resource hints to the next level by automating the process of prefetching important resources and prioritizing the ones that are most likely to be needed next in the user’s journey.

It works by using Google Analytics data to analyze how users navigate your website, using metrics like pageviews, previous page paths, and exits.

It then uses machine learning to model predictions for what the next page is most likely to be in a user’s journey from any given page.

It then prefetches the pages that a user is likely to visit in the next step of their journey through your site. This means that the next page will already have been loaded by the time the user goes to click on it, providing a fast, seamless navigational experience.

How Guess.js works

The optimization methods mentioned in this article will require developer work.

If you liked the look of any of them while reading through, then make sure you sit down with your development agency or engineering team to talk through what will be possible for your website from an implementation perspective.

In Conclusion

We need to stop assuming that everyone is accessing our websites in optimal conditions.

Each user will have their own unique browsing environment. This is why we need to work harder to tailor our performance optimization efforts around our users and the different variables that make up their browsing experience, such as their device and internet connection.

Doing this isn’t easy, however. It certainly isn’t something that an SEO or marketer should try to tackle by themselves.

We need to spend more time talking to developers and learning from them about the latest technologies and methods available for user-centric performance optimization.

11 Awesome Google Analytics Reports for Marketers

By | Networking Bizz news

Google Analytics is the primary measurement platform for millions of websites and digital marketing campaigns.

Along with Google Search Console and other third-party measurement tools and platforms, Google Analytics provides insight into key metrics on your audience, organic search, paid search, social media, and website performance.

While it is a given that Google Analytics is a part of our daily routines for monitoring performance and reporting, we can get into a routine of just going in and getting the stats and using the reports we always have.

Or, for those who only rely on a few key metrics and aren’t well versed in all that Google Analytics has to offer, take a moment to see if any of these 11 reports can help you.

1. Custom Dashboards

How many times do you jump into Google Analytics to find the same report, same stats, or slice of data?

How many times do you have to answer the same question for a stakeholder?

If more than once, then custom dashboards are for you.

You can create custom dashboards from pretty much any data view you can drill down into in Google Analytics. Plus, you can add data and reports in widget format from multiple reports into one page.

This is a big time saver. It can also be scheduled for automatic export and delivery to you or key stakeholders once you have it set up the way you want it.

This is a great starting point before jumping over to Google Data Studio, where you can do even more.

Custom Dashboard

2. Lifetime Value

This report still has the “beta” tag in Google Analytics. However, over time, I’ve found more use for it in sites that have a lot of engagement within the 30-90 day cookie window that Google Analytics can track.

If you have a site that engages users and that they come back to often to make one or more purchases, you can track the value of specific users and factor this in with other aspects of the buyer’s journey that you’re measuring.

Note that when something is in beta, I keep in mind that the report could be updated, enhanced, removed, or that data could change over time, so beware.

Lifetime Value

3. User Explorer

User explorer allows us to drill down into the journeys of specific website visitors.

While we can’t personally identify the user in Google Analytics by default (and be careful if you try to match up data as Google has specific guidelines on this), we see how individual users consumed content and acted within the website over a period of time.

User Explorer

This information isn’t necessarily as powerful as some third-party user recording and heat mapping tools but it provides some aggregation and insight that rolls up revenue data and other standard Google Analytics metrics in a single report.

Being able to see individual user journeys – including the number of sessions, what pages/activities they did during them, and ultimately when they purchase or make a decision – can help with user experience and conversion rate optimization.

It can also help set expectations for marketing activities and how many steps are realistically part of the customer journey.

User Explorer Detail

4. Interests – Affinity Categories

The Interests/Affinity Categories report can be really interesting and helpful across a wide range of uses.

If you don’t see data by default, you have to simply agree to the terms and give Google authorization to show it for your account.

The categories shown may or may not align with what you expect.

You can leverage these categories by:

  • Further drilling down into them to understand behavior.
  • Sharing this data with those running paid search or social media campaigns and writing content targeting specific audiences.
  • Comparing the segments to each other.

Finding opportunities to leverage specific audiences and segments is powerful when tuning your content strategy.

This data provides a lot of options for adding dimensions and slicing and dicing the views. It can be a great starting point for spending some in-depth time looking at:

  • Who your current audience really is.
  • How they convert.
  • Where you should prioritize your efforts across the digital marketing spectrum.

Interest Affinity Categories

5. Benchmarking – Channels

If you’ve ever wondered or been asked about how your website performance compares to others in your industry, the benchmark report is a hidden gem that can help.

You can select some pretty detailed industry verticals and see how your site compares across the different channels in the standard Google Analytics traffic metrics.

This is great data to use to set a baseline and establish goals if you’re struggling to determine how to do so.

It can be a lot more helpful and fun to put some real competitive targets in place rather than looking inward or arbitrarily setting goals that may or may not be realistic.

Benchmarking Channels

6. Users Flow

This report has visually overwhelmed me for a long time. On first glance, it looks busy and hard to decipher.

Give it a moment, though, and use the zoom slider and move around in the page. Also, use the dropdown above the first column to change the dimensions you want to review.

Once you get the hang of it, this page can provide some solid insight in a way that you would have to drill down through level after level in other reports to get the same info.

Seeing how your users navigate through the site in aggregate and the popular paths can lead to further investigation if there are surprises.

You can also see patterns and tendencies in the user journey to help you shape your content to shape changes in the paths over time.

Users Flow

7. Site Content – Landing Pages

While pretty basic, this report is often overlooked.

Knowing the top landing pages for your website can help validate and connect the dots between specific marketing efforts, organic search, viral content, and more.

By using the dimension tools you can also see the source for each page and quickly know what is driving the most traffic to it.

For SEOs, you want to confirm that over time you’re getting a diversified set of landing pages based on your optimization strategy.

Chances are that you aren’t trying to drive all traffic to and through the home page.

You want to have as many landing pages possible as entry points for the most relevant traffic topically to be entering through them respectively.

Site Content Landing Pages

8. Site Search – Search Terms

While most content management systems and ecommerce platforms provide reporting on what terms are being searched through on-site search functions, Google Analytics can help you dig deeper.

With the Google Analytics search terms report, you can see the same terms your web platform likely shows you, but from there you can also apply all of the typical Google Analytics dimensions and see more about the users’ source, behavior, and what they did on the site in a much more extensive and detailed way.

You can then use this data for UX, CRO, and other improvements to make content easier to find and ensure your search is working as intended.

Site Search Search Terms

9. Multi-Channel Funnels – Assisted Conversions

In many, if not most instances, lead submission or ecommerce purchase goal conversions don’t happen on the first visit. Being able to give credit to visits prior to the visit where the conversion happened is powerful.

Google Analytics provides an assisted conversions report to show us how each channel is involved in the journey when not responsible for the actual conversion visit.

In some cases, you’ll see the same channel as the bulk of your last-click conversions. However, being able to give credit where it is due is important.

For example, you may be getting ready to write off a specific channel like social as it isn’t driving any leads or revenue.

However, the assisted conversion report (plus others showing user paths and journeys) may tell you otherwise.

The great part of having revenue tracking set up is that you can see dollar amounts tied to the specific traffic and how much the assists are worth in helping close the deal.

Multi-channel funnels assisted conversions

10. Multi-Channel Funnels – Top Conversion Paths

Going a step further than assisted conversions, we can see aggregated data showing the most popular mixes and orders of channels leading to conversions in the customer journey.

This is again another powerful way to see how the channels work together and what revenue comes from it.

Multi-channel funnels top conversion paths

11. Attribution – Model Comparison Tool

Attribution has been a top concern of digital marketers for a long time.

Google Analytics provides a tool to compare the different models like first-click against the default of last-click. You can even find other models, import them, and create your own to suit your business needs.

Knowing this report exists and how the different models show your data is a great first step that Google Analytics provides for us.

Attribution Model Comparison Tool

Conclusion

Because we’re buried in our busy day-to-day routines, we often don’t go deeper into Google Analytics than we need to.

We tend to grab the data we need, create reports, and answer questions.

Know and use the wide range of reports available to you in Google Analytics. It will help improve your marketing on various channels, UX, and CRO. And it will help connect your content with users to ultimately move them toward conversion points.

11 Ways to Increase User Engagement & Why It Matters for SEO

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

Most SEO professionals know how important user engagement is to their success.

Without searchers coming to our sites and taking action in some way, chances are our place in the SERPs would drop.

Search engines’ main goals include giving the user the best answers to what users are looking for.

When Google determines that your site doesn’t cut the mustard – they’ll replace it in SERPs with one that does give users what they want and need.

What Is User Engagement?

At the most basic level, user engagement is any way in which a visitor to any of your digital properties takes action on that platform as opposed to browsing passively or exiting immediately to find a better source of information.

Types of Engagement

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

CTR offers the entry-level engagement that’s required for further engagement to take place.

CTR requires optimal SEO best practices to show up on the first page of SERPs and gives searchers the content and answers they’re looking for.

Along with decent content, you’ll need to focus on the types of content titles and meta descriptions that encourage users to click through to your site.

You can check this by looking in your Google Search Console account for pages and keywords that have high impressions but low clicks.

Actions From Outside Sources

Not all engagement happens on-site. In fact, come of the most valuable engagement comes from outside sources:

  • Linking to your content.
  • Driving more traffic to your site.
  • Sharing your pieces on platforms that increase your reach.
  • Encouraging users to engage in different ways.

Inbound links remain a top SEO ranking factor year after year. It means that someone read your content and felt it was authoritative enough to use it as a source for the piece they’re writing about a similar or related topic.

While sharing on social media isn’t a ranking factor that directly affects SEO, it does help drive more traffic to your site and encourage more visitors, more links, and more conversions.

Sharing, liking, commenting, and subscribing are versions of user engagement that occur on third-party sites not necessarily affiliated with yours – but can benefit your overall digital presence.

Dwell Time

In a recent SEJ article, Duane Forrester dives into what’s called dwell time.

According to Forrester:

“Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a webpage after they’ve clicked a link on a SERP page, but before clicking back to the SERP results.”

Dwell time is an inherent measurement that helps search engines determine if a searcher’s needs were met with the results the search engine provided.

Searchers will input their query, click through to a top result, and stay on a site that satisfies their need.

For search engines, it’s a measure of their effectiveness.

Forrester points out that there’s not a single way to track dwell time – that search engines alone can do that. However, it’s important for webmasters and SEO pros to be aware that it could affect your site.

Engagement Metrics to Track

While these measures don’t have a direct effect on rankings, they’re important on-site engagement metrics that are crucial for website administrators to track and keep an eye on.

These numbers give you an idea of how well your users are engaging with your site and content. There’s no set “good’ or “bad’ number for each of these metrics. It’s more important to track trends and take anomalies for your site into account.

Pageviews

In Google Analytics, when you go to Audience > Overview, you can get an idea of how many total pageviews your site has received in the given time period.

This metric includes multiple views of a single page. Watch for any large fluctuations in pageviews – whether up or down – to determine if users are drastically increasing or decreasing their engagement with your site.

Top Content

Under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, you can find which pages/pieces of content on your site are engaging users the most for the selected period of time. Check each week for changes in these pages.

Watch how new pages climb in the ranks to perform well. And ensure that main pages that have always drawn the majority of your visitors and kept users on the site for a long time aren’t dropping in this top content section for any reason.

New vs. Returning Visitors

In Analytics under Audience > Overview, you can see a pie graph of new versus returning visitors. New visitors are always great.

We love new eyes on our sites, discovering our products or services, and potentially converting and becoming returning visitors.

It’s crucial to watch your balance of new vs. returning visitors. Once you’ve established a sort of baseline after a few weeks of observing, you’ll be able to see when and how the balance changes.

Returning users are engaged users, especially depending on your product or service model.

Bounce Rate

Every time I talk to someone who is just learning SEO or digital marketing, I get the question: “What is a good bounce rate?”

The answer (as with everything in SEO) is that it depends – on your business model, your website goals, your content types, and more.

If your goals are to truly serve the searchers’ needs, then someone clicking to your site, reading an article that gives them exactly what they need, and clicking away.

As with all these metrics, tracking bounce rate trends is often what’s most effective.

Any huge drops or jumps can not only tell you something’s off with your Analytics implementation but also if users are engaging with what you’re putting online.

You can find this one under Audience > Overview, as well.

Time on Site

Time on site, or average session duration, gives you a metric for how long users are spending on your site. As with bounce rate, there’s no set good or bad number, but more of a trend to track over time.

Observe how your session duration changes as you engage some of the user engagement tactics below. If you start producing longer-form content for your site:

  • Does it increase because users have a reason to stay longer?
  • Or does it decrease as they are intimidated by long content that would take them too long to read?

Adjust your strategy accordingly.

Conversions

This is one of the most important measurements to track. If you don’t watch the trends for any of the other engagement metrics in this post, at least watch conversions.

Conversions through Analytics are goals you set up to track and assign value to.

However, too many people get caught up in tracking only end-goals (like signups or phone calls).

It’s critical for user engagement metrics to also track micro-conversions that help move users down the funnel.

Whether it’s a newsletter signup, a download of a whitepaper, talking to a chatbot, or the completion of an online survey – these smaller conversions can give you an idea of the funnel toward larger, monetized conversions.

Learn more about how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

Why Does It Matter For SEO?

The above metrics are not ranking factors, so I understand if you’re asking yourself why user engagement matters for SEO. Dwell time is definitely a ranking factor, according to Forrester.

Interpretation of the March 2019 Google algorithm update also indicates that search engines are paying close attention to user engagement through metrics like dwell time to determine if they are serving searchers useful results – essentially, if they’re doing their job:

According to Marcus Tober:

“Looking at the March 2019 Core Algorithm Update, we see another example of Google rewarding user engagement and helpful content. This means that, as the amount of available online content grows, Google is paying more attention to signals that indicate whether users are happy or not.”

This means that instead of focusing on what search engines, SEO pros, and website admins should also be focusing on what users want.

A few ways to do that include doing the audience research, focusing your content to your specific target audiences, and think about the specific stages of the funnel for each group.

Tactical Ways to Increase Engagement

1. Speed up Your Site + Make It Responsive

“If your landing page is too slow, almost half your potential visitors admit they’re less likely to make a purchase,” according to an Unbounce study. And about 25% will go find a competitor with a faster site.

People will stay on your site longer and are more willing to search around for what they need when they don’t feel like they’re wasting time waiting for pages to load (on any device).

2. Eliminate Basic Technical SEO Errors

Nothing is more disruptive to a website’s user experience than weird technical issues.

I was doing some research for a client this week and found a search result that I thought would be the answer to my question. But when I clicked the blue link, it led to a 404.

“No worries,” I thought. “I’m an avid SEO, and will find it elsewhere.”

But the site had gotten rid of the piece altogether and hadn’t redirected it or bothered to publish an updated piece.

I had to go back to SERPs and find another, less satisfying result. That’s traffic lost, but also money down the drain.

3. Give People Different Ways to Engage in Your Content (Text, Video, Audio)

When I was a kid, I remember taking an assessment that determined my learning style.

Some people learn better through visual, auditory, or tactile styles. Think about this when you create content.

We always focus on written word online (because that’s what’s indexable), but we all absorb information in different ways.

Try using video with text transcription to reach new people or recording your written blogs for people to listen to instead of reading.

Go with a trusty infographic or another visual representation of data.

Mix up your content forms and observe how the key metrics on your site change.

4. Produce Helpful Content (a.k.a. Give Knowledge Away for Free)

Create thorough, useful content that serves users’ needs.

Zapier’s blog does a great job of this. They realize that users who come to their site are probably researching the best ways to automate things.

We automate things so we don’t have to do them manually, which saves time and lets us do other tasks that require more brain power (or are more fun!).

So Zapier has focused its blog on productivity. They dig deep on how-tos and tool tips, give examples of some of the best ways to automate things that normally require manual work, and also present good information on the science of productivity as a whole.

I use them as an example because it’s one of the few blogs I go to on my own and peruse what’s new.

When you create useful content that helps your target audience do their jobs better – your site will become a destination for them.

5. Clean up Your Navigation & Site Design

Many businesses start small and scale quickly. While that’s great for the bottom line, it often means your website ends up as a catch-all for new information.

Perform a check every quarter to make sure that your website design and navigation makes sense for users.

Give your aunt or nephew a basic task to perform on your site, and if they struggle to figure where to do it, it’s time to make it simpler.

Figure out what fits in the top-level categories, and organize down from there.

6. Improve Internal Linking & Suggested Posts

Help people find the content that’s most relevant to what they’re currently looking at on your site.

The best ways to do that are through internal linking within pieces of content on your site and suggested posts.

Every time you mention something that you’ve written about before, link to it!

Categorize and tag your posts so you can refer website visitors to something similar once they’re done reading.

7. Have a Site Search Option

If people can’t find what they need when they’re on your site, they’ll leave and find it somewhere else.

Having a good on-site search option allows users to search all the content available on your digital property to find the best fit to serve their own needs.

And then you can use your site search data to write more content.

8. Clear CTAs to the Next Stage of the Funnel

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone trying to shove me down the funnel before I’m ready.

I remember going to a site a few years ago where the only navigation option was “Buy.” I didn’t even know the product/service and why I should buy it.

The same principle should go for the content you create on your site.

If it’s a top of funnel, informational piece, use your CTA to direct people to the corresponding content that’s in the middle of the funnel.

From there, you can encourage people to the bottom to buy.

9. Introduce a Chatbot

If you have the capability for a live chat option, give users the opportunity to ask questions to a real person who’s an expert.

If not, you can create automated chatbot scripts that can help answer top questions on your site and make users feel like they’re getting more personalized treatment.

If they can’t find answers to their questions elsewhere on your site, the chatbot can keep them on your site and engage with suggested content.

10. Collect Email Addresses + Engage With Email

Keep returning visitors coming back by delivering your content directly to their inboxes.

You can have a subscribe box or pop up on your site, or you can collect email addresses by gating middle- to bottom-funnel content and then following up with useful content based on your target audience’s needs.

11. Create Surveys & Publish the Data

Everyone loves original data.

By running experiments, creating surveys, and collecting data in other ways, you become the go-to resource when someone needs information on that topic:

“People curate data. Whether it’s to prove a point they believe in strongly, to show their boss they should invest in a strategy or solution, to inform their own next move, etc., we’re a data-driven society.”

Keep engagement trending upward on your site by regularly publishing the data you’re producing. Not only will it drive more engaged traffic, but it will increase your inbound links, too.

Summary

SEO is a puzzle with many pieces. No single piece or small group of pieces alone will give a complete picture of SEO health.

Instead, all the pieces need to be in place and fixed the right way to best serve users’ needs and increase engagement on your sites.

Meet Cocolyze, the SEO Tool That REALLY Simplifies Your Work

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

A few months ago the SEO solution, Cocolyze.com discreetly launched, a newbie among the SEO tools.

Now, you’re probably used to page analysis and scan tools, rank tracking tools, and even backlink audit tools. But Cocolyze isn’t offering a new “all-in-one” solution.

This newcomer actually reveals some quite surprising and practical surprises that haven’t been seen before.

1. Do You Know Why You Lost a Rank Yesterday?

Who hasn’t asked themselves this question on a Friday night in panic after noticing a ranking drop on a keyword with no obvious explanation?

Backlinks problem? Internal website problem? Google update? A competitor change?

Utter panic!

Everything has been gone over with a fine tooth comb and we often still have that bitter taste of doubt and certainty.

It’s a major progress in SEO: Cocolyze tracks and monitors all ranked pages on a keyword, their positions, their backlinks, and their optimization. Every single day.

A real comparative of strengths and weaknesses, the solution simplifies our lives by registering every detected change.

It also makes it a lot easier to understand if a competitor has just benefited from a better ranking thanks to its newly added pages if the rank fluctuation is due to an error on your site or a competitor’s.

This huge amount of data reproduced in a really simple interface is essential for each of the strategic keywords that you target.

We’re wondering why we haven’t seen a solution offering this functionality before!

Ranking Analysis

2. Do You Know What Your Competitors Optimized a Week Ago?

What an interesting question!

You’ve probably never asked it yourself, simply because you know it’s impossible to easily get the answer.

Every strategy must include the competitor sphere and this audit is generally done from time to time. But in this context where SEO is continually changing, it’s no longer enough to just track your competitors once a year.

Imagine knowing what your competitors changed on their page over the past three weeks to achieve this rank. It’s only by having this information that you can know which optimizations to work on.

Cocolyze offers us daily tracking of your competitors ranked pages, completely automatic and in such unusual simplicity!

This solution registers each change made by a neighboring page in the SERP every day: change to a page title, content keywords, design change, loading time – basically all aspects that impact your SEO.

We can only imagine the amount of data analyzed every day by the tool and yet the simple and refined interface allows us to easily navigate in the pages’ history.

Events Timeline

3. You Track Your Ranks but Do You Know What Keywords Need the Most Attention?

Any good SEO project manager monitors their SEO rank tracking nearly every day.

Lots of rank tracking solutions have been developed due to the limitations of Google Search Console.

These tools alert you of a change in position, generally with a classic performance indicator: the average rank.

If you have several hundred keywords this can quickly become unnecessarily complicated where we’ll get lost in the table rows.

Cocolyze surprises us again here by introducing an interesting key performance indicator: SEO Value.

This indicator calculated by the tool ranks the positions in order of importance.

In other words, it’s able to tell you that your position 4 on keyword x is more important than your position 1 on keyword y.

The SEO Value of Cocolyze proves to be impressively effective when it comes to sorting out the keywords in order of return on investment, and this is already in the pipeline for the solution.

Cocolyze actually filters the keywords in order of value to gain, this is the value that you can gain on your SEO by increasing your ranks on a keyword vis-à-vis another keyword.

I think consultants and SEO project managers will love this indicator to prioritize their daily tasks and reporting!

Cocolyze Dashboard

4. You Crawl Your Site but Are You Analyzing the Right Pages?

Using crawl tools, tools that scan all the pages of your website to test the exploration, is indispensable.

Again, the problem comes from the sometimes ridiculous amount of suggested errors to correct: “You have 32,439 errors” (I can imagine what that to-do list looks like).

The Cocolyze solution innovates in this sector by not offering the scanning of the site from the links, but the scanning of the site from the ranked pages.

It’s thanks to this knack that the tool only analyzes the pages with high potential and automatically gets rid of the useless pages (such as the terms of service if they aren’t pertinent for you).

Of course, the SEO solution still analyzes pages that aren’t yet ranked in the case when you want to work on the ranking of a new page.

It’s therefore quite easy for Cocolyze to propose a list of strategic pages, prioritized by importance to optimize rather than the traditional crawl reports with thousands of errors that you have to sort through.

Again, a great innovation which simplifies your SEO work and has never been offered by other tools.

5. Do You Know Which Backlinks You’ve Lost and How to Get Them Back?

Cocolyze isn’t limited to Google rank and page analysis. The solution also includes a full backlinks monitoring tool, which is both powerful and fun at the same time.

You probably carry out (I hope anyway!) backlink audits. In most cases, you’ll get your best backlinks and the toxic backlinks to disavow.

As you know, getting quality backlinks is complex.

It’s for this reason that Cocolyze.com provides us with an interesting solution to retrieve the lost quality backlinks, as it’s also simpler to retrieve lost backlinks than to get new ones.

The solution tracks and analyzes your backlinks every day, providing quite interesting different scores:

  • The domain influence and the page influence, which measures the popularity of a page.
  • The Spam Rating, which measures the level of the quality of the link (a backlink referring to a popular page but of poor quality).

Thanks to these scores, the tool fetches the toxic links to disavow, new links but also, and especially, lost links, every day.

This data is very reliable.

We decided to use Majestic for the backlinks database (rather than creating our own or using another one) for a simple reason: it has the biggest database in the world, with more than 8 trillion links.

We added our own layer of analysis thanks to our algorithms of backlink scores to make it manipulable and interpret it. The solution, therefore, goes way beyond some alternatives, such as SEMrush and others.

6. How Long Do You Spend Looking for Optimizations to Do?

The answer: never enough!

Unfortunately, this is the observation that we make after discovering new mysteries, analysis after analysis.

Generally, an SEO consultant uses up to 12 different SEO tools regularly – and just as many invoices!

Cocolyze offers all the features, which allows it to offer complete dashboards and time-saving at its best.

Cocolyze offers all the features that you need, and some more. For specific needs, you can use complementary tools, but generally Cocolyze is enough to meet nearly all of your needs.

Even if this solution is autonomous (no need to link your account with Google Search Console, the data comes directly from Cocolyze), and almost meets all needs, it’s always interesting to use another complementary tool on the side to compare the data of different tools.

In terms of pricing, Cocolyze is an affordable solution – especially considering all the functionalities it offers.

Remember: Cocolyze is the first SEO solution that:

  • Tracks the rankings of your website and of your competitors.
  • Analyzes your ranked pages and backlinks.
  • Registers every change in order to provide one of the most complete SEO history reports in the market, for a more than affordable price for the average person.

How to Take Your Website Beyond Fast

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques, Uncategorized

Slow sites frustrate consumers. Frustration costs money.

To delight consumers, beat competitors, and to please Google, your site will need to load in under a second. And you’ll need to get there fast, otherwise, your competitors might beat you to the finish line.

Sound impossible? Web performance is no longer an art, but a science.

Alderson shared the top tips, tricks, tools, and tactics you need to speed up your website.

Here’s a recap of the presentation.

Page Speed Optimization

Users expect fast – a fast website, a fast app, a fast digital experience. The relationship between web performance and user behavior is backed by plenty of research.

  • A research by Google found that delays of over 3 seconds can lead to over 50% abandonment.
  • In 2014, a study revealed that 47% of people expect a site to load in less than 2 seconds.
  • Radware discovered that 20% of users abandon their cart if the transaction process is too slow.

Time is money and every single millisecond could be costing you users or conversions. People are impatient, and delays reduce the likelihood of them spending, converting, or taking action.

The statistics mentioned were from as far back as 2014. It was around that time that it became apparent that site speed is quite a big deal.

By that logic, we should’ve been on top of this and nailing it. But it turns out, that’s not really the case.

This table, which shows data from Google’s Industry Benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed, tells us the number of seconds it takes for a website for an average website in various sectors and different countries to be completed loading on a mobile phone on a 3G connection.

Seconds to load on a 3g connection

These sites are taking over eight seconds to load which is extremely slow.

We know users dislike this kind of experience and how much it impacts conversions, so Google took matter into its own hands.

Google’s Take on Site Speed

Now the world is changing primarily because Google, as a powerhouse of influence and authority, has become very interested in speed – and for a whole bunch of different reasons.

In early 2018, Google announced how important they consider speed to be and that it’s officially going to be a ranking factor for mobile searches starting July of that year.

The search engine’s advice?

“We encourage developers to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics.”

What Google is essentially saying here is that speed underpins user experience.

When you are browsing , trying to get your page or channel to load, or add a product to a shopping cart, how quickly that happens is a huge component of the overall UX.

For Google, speed = efficiency. And as sites get faster, slow is going to feel slower.

Consumers expectations’ will increase and the fastest, best experiences they have will become their expectation for the norm.

So, what do we need to do?

Approaching Speed Optimization

The secret isn’t to do a big web (re)development project.

In speed optimization, you’ll win by a thousand tweaks – now, and every day, forever. You’ll need to find the important bits and make them faster.

At the heart of speed optimization, you need to understand two fundamental truths:

  • There’s no such thing as speed.
  • The only thing which matters is perception of speed.

There’s No Such Thing as Speed

When you start exploring this, it becomes very difficult to answer the question, “How do you measure speed?”

How do you put a metric against how fast your website is?

You could probably start off by saying “The time how long it takes for a page to finish loading.”

But, what does that mean?

What if the server responds quickly, but then it takes ages to show the content?

What if the page has components which only load when you interact, or scroll? Are they “finished”?

We need better definitions to understand how well we are doing.

Most stock metrics from speed check and optimization tools are flawed and designed to give you a false sense of comfort.

Until recently, Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool was equally nonsense. The score didn’t actually measure speed and the charts were bad because measuring against slow competitors makes you complacent.

When Google updated the tool, it added the metric First Contentful Paint which:

“…reports the time when the browser first rendered any text, image (including background images), non-white canvas or SVG. This includes text with pending webfonts. This is the first time users could start consuming page content.”

In other words, how quickly can we show something interesting? 

How many milliseconds until we can put something on screen that looks like it’s doing something rather than having a blank white page with just a spinner or loading icon?

How quickly can we make it look like it’s happening? For many people that will be a hero image at the top of the page, a logo or the navigation bar.

If you can optimize your site in such a way that you load the important bits first with a minimum amount of delay (and then worry about loading all the other stuff after), then it feels much faster.

This works because waiting without visual feedback is the worst kind of slow.

Optimizing for First Contentful Paint will make your site look and feel faster.

Your scores might not change that much, but the goal is not to optimize for scores. Just make it faster.

The Only Thing Which Matters Is the Perception of Speed

Google’s own documentation says this much.

Load is not a single moment in time — it’s an experience that no one metric can fully capture. There are multiple moments during the load experience that can affect whether a user perceives it as “fast” or “slow”.

However, regardless of what your website is, what sector you’re in or how it works, there is one golden moment that you might want to measure. It’s Time to Interactive.

The Time to Interactive (TTI) metric measures how long it takes a page to become interactive.

Simply put, how quickly can we make it feel ready?

If there’s a fundamentally important thing to understand here is that it’s not likely that Google is specifically measuring the actual page speed.

What they’re much more interested in is the perception of speed. If you make a lightning-fast website that feels slow to load, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money.

The emphasis needs to be on:

  • How do we show something quickly?
  • How do we make it feel ready?

The challenge is that perceived speed is hard to quantify. There are lots of moving parts in that ecosystem.

But the good news is that performance optimization is now a science. There are hard rules, processes, guides and techniques you can follow to achieve this.

Every site in the world can load in less than one second. You just need to follow the rules.

Thankfully, Google offers a wide array of documentation into the topic.

Where Do You Start?

You need to start by finding the slow stuff. While tools aren’t good for giving you metrics over time, they are really good at spotting problems.

The most impactful thing you can learn about speed optimization is to look at the way in which pages load and find out what’s waiting for other stuff.

If you can remove those bottlenecks, change the order of how things load in, and get them to load at once rather than one at a time, then everything else happens sooner.

One other thing to remember is that Google is monitoring, measuring and analyzing sites in a mobile-first way. Many of our users are using mobile devices and that’s where the particularly slow pain points are.

There is no magic bullet. We’re on a journey of 1,000 tweaks.

Here’s what you can start doing today, instead.

Top Tips to Shortcut Speed

Load Less Stuff

You might want to consider lessening your website’s elements.

Some things to look at:

Basics

  • Plugins, extensions, and integrations
  • Bytes transferred
  • DOM complexity
  • Fonts
  • Colors, details, icons, lines, borders, shadows
  • JavaScript

Advanced

  • Lazy-loading, deferring or async’ing resources
  • Cross-domain resource reduction
  • DNS and asset prefetch/preload

Tidy up Your CMS

Use plugins, extensions, and integrations to measure.

What to use: Query Monitor, New Relic

Bolt on a CDN (Cloudflare)

Advanced

  • Page rules
  • Edge workers
  • Server push

What to use: Cloudflare

Get Good Hosting

You need to do your own research to find a good hosting company but here are a few recommendations:

How to Take Your Website Beyond Fast

Use a Static Page Cache

Rather than every user triggering your website to load up to request all its themes and plugins to go through that process to manipulate the outcome, why don’t you just save that the page and the outcome or save that database query and whatever it said.

This is not for everybody. If you want an easy win and you’re on a simple site, this might be a good fix for you.

What to use: WP Rocket or Total Cache for WordPress, Redis, Varnish Cache

Optimize Your Resources

Consider optimizing your images using tools like TinyPNG or Squoosh.

You can also do some advanced things, such as:

  • Offload media to, e.g., Amazon S3.
  • Use an image CDN like Cloudinary or Imgix.
  • Modularise CSS and JavaScript.

Use AMP(?)

The AMP project, at its heart, is an attempt to fix how broken and slow the Internet is, particularly the mobile web.

Rather than building your sample with normal HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, you might want to use the AMP framework. Your website will be fast, however, you will be constrained by their guidelines and restrictions.

It’s more technically complicated to customize especially through custom JavaScript so all of your ads, analytics, etc. will be limited.

That said, it’s worth looking into.

What to use: “The official” AMP WordPress plugin

Other Things You Can Do

Aside from the tips and tricks mentioned above, you can also try:

  • Canonical AMP
  • Post-load interaction improvements
  • New ways of thinking about CSS

How to Optimize for PPC Landing Page Experience

By | Netwoking Bizz Brand development

There’s an old adage that our CRO team likes to share. Companies spend $92 of every $100 to bring customers to their site, but only $1 to convert them.

Seems off, doesn’t it?

Landing page experience is one of the more under-optimized facets of search marketing. It doesn’t fit neatly into a budget, so it’s difficult to find resources.

The average search marketer doesn’t have the skillset to design and build a landing page.

Powerful development tools like Unbounce and Instapage exist to do the heavy lifting. But without the right starting point in mind, it’s akin to giving a 16-year-old a driving test in a Ferrari.

This author has many misgivings around old best practices.

Lists of features, minimized form fields, and trust signals are great, but won’t make you stand out.

Testing new versions of the same ol’ same ol’ leave you stuck in a feedback loop. You collect small wins, but don’t impact the business.

Remember, you aren’t optimizing for conversion rate alone.

You’re optimizing for:

  1. The business.
  2. Google.
  3. Conversion rate.

All three “targets” point to the same question to help guide your testing efforts.

Does this test benefit the end user?

With that in mind, here are six top tips to optimize your PPC landing pages.

1. Focus on Speed

According to Google, 53% of all mobile visitors abandon a page that takes more than three seconds to load. The data that can load in three seconds varies.

Users have a different experience depending on the device, connection speed, weather, astrological sign, whatever!

Needless to say, landing pages need to be darn snappy to load within a three-second “limit.”

Your mobile speed score matters to Google.

This wasn’t explicitly expressed as a factor in quality score. But it’s a factor in quality score.

The correlation between speed and quality score is directional but clear. Speed kills, especially when it comes to landing pages!

Below are a few resources to help with speed:

  • Pingdom Speed Test
  • Google PageSpeed Insights

Do faster pages benefit users? You bet! This focus on speed yields our next point.

2. Mobile-First Design (For Most)

A question for you, dear readers. How many of test your landing pages on a fast connection, working off a powerful laptop and 32-inch monitors?

Now, look at your stats in Google Ads or Analytics. How do the majority of your users access your site?

You can all read between the lines here. Design and test your landing pages based on how most of your users will see them.

Your gorgeous hero image, precise value propositions, and shiny trust signals may not show when starting with the wrong base.

Below is an example: The image is built for and renders perfect on my desktop setup.

6 Tips to Improve Your PPC Landing Page Experience (&#038; Quality Score)

On my Pixel 3, it’s a different story. The callouts, value propositions, and branding are all pushed far below the fold.

The escape hatch (see: point 6) has vanished. The privacy policy is invisible. Most of what made the desktop page great no longer show.

Travel Perk Mobile Landing Page

If you want to benefit your users, you need to test like your users.

3. Optimize for Customers, Not Conversions

Yes, you read right. Do not optimize for conversion rate.

This may seem a bit contrarian, but whatever. It’s my post, I do what I want.

Optimizing for front end conversion rate is dangerous.

Consider the following:

You cut landing page form fields to only ask for name, email address, and phone number. Your conversion rate doubles (yay!) which means you beat your CPA goal.

Your boss or gives you more money to get more leads at these conversion rates. The business team hires more salespeople to handle the volume.

Turns out these new conversions were junk. By removing the form fields, you encouraged everyone to convert without prequalifying them. Your boss is now mad, and you are now sad.

This is too common in landing page testing. Advertisers check the success of a test in a vacuum.

Instead, look at downstream metrics when conducting a test to make sure it’s a net positive for the business.

From a user perspective, it’s a net positive as well – it saves them time and gets the right people to your business.

4. Be a Minimalist

That’s right, everybody – Marie Kondo making an appearance! Cut everythingfrom your landing pages that do not spark joy for the user.

No, that does not mean reducing the content to bare bones nothingness. Nor does it mean cutting your landing pages off below the fold or cutting your form fields to two.

The best landing pages allow the customer to flow from search to ad to landing page to business.

Remove anything and everything that gets in the way. Exit intent or email capture pop-ups have a place in the marketing world, not landing pages.

The same goes for marketing pixels on your landing page. Keep pixels limited to what’s necessary. This:

  • Helps foster speed.
  • Prevents privacy mishaps.
  • Ensures there aren’t any rogue takeovers or broken images.

Have I made my point yet? Make sure everything on the page adds value to the end user.

5. Personalize with Purpose

Personalization is a delicate topic in the age of privacy.

It may be a bit too much to embed a user’s first name and favorite kind of cookie on a landing page.

A few audience-based content adjustments can take your experience to the next level.

Tweak to the landing pages by adjusting the hero image based on user location. Toy with value propositions or even headlines/taglines based on entry channel.

Work for a meal delivery company or a restaurant? I’d put dollars to doughnuts you’d see a huge lift from showing different food to male and female visitors.

Localization is a powerful weapon; use it with care. It’s easy to tell if a company is trying to “appear” local, which is worse than not trying at all.

If you do localize, get someone who’s a true local area to test and make sure your method fits.

As long as you give the users what they’re looking for, you’ll be happy with the results.

6. Test the Little Things

Don’t shy away from “the little things” in landing pages.

  • Take advantage of meta data and title tags. Odds are they won’t take your quality score from zero to hero, but they won’t hurt!
  • Test form fields, form styles/flow and yes, even button color. It’s unlikely these little changes will make a big impact on their own. But, even incremental improvements to customer flow can benefit landing page performance.
  • Toy with your content style and length. Don’t be shy about taking users below the fold; they’ll navigate there if you’ve done a good enough job setting the hook.
  • Explore different taglines, different ways of expressing features and benefits. Make sure your landing page highlights the answer to a users’ question and gives them a smooth flow to the next step.
  • Ensure landing pages have some form of an escape hatch. That is, a way for users to navigate off the landing page. Search engines don’t explicitly punish for bounce rate. But, they do punish for locking a user into a single page. Not to mention the potential frustration and soured view of the business.

Finally, don’t forget the big things that seem little. Your landing page will always need a findable, legible, and legal privacy policy.

To Sum Up

If there’s one point I hope I’ve driven home with this post, it’s to focus your landing page experience on the user.

Happy users make happy search engines.

Happy search engines make happy quality scores.

Happy quality scores make a happy you.

7 Tips to Protect Your Brand’s Online Reputation

By | Netwoking Bizz Brand development

The advice you’ll read in this article works for both proactive reputation management, and for those that already have online negative content/reviews about them.

Be advised, however, that some sites may be impossible or very hard to beat.

Major news sites (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, New York Times) require significant work to manage.

If a major news site has posted negative content about you, then you really need to be (or hire) an expert in SEO.

The do-it-yourself option is just not feasible at that scale. That said, these tips will help some DIYers before moving on to an expensive reputation management firm.

Up until recently, popular complaint website RipoffReport was also hard to beat.

Recent changes to Google’s algorithm (which we think occurred in September 2018) have pushed some complaint sites lower in search ranking. Read my prior article for more details about this.

7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation

Tip 1: Provide Excellent Service

You want to make sure that you really are providing an excellent service to avoid getting negative reviews in the first place. Consider going above and beyond your current efforts.

For example, if you run a restaurant, maybe provide a free appetizer to surprise new or returning customers.

If you notice even the slightest sign that a customer is unhappy, try your best to resolve the issue ASAP. The next best thing is to offer a free service or refunds to make up for the issue.

You can’t make everyone happy. I have been doing SEO services for over 20 years and there have been many times when I’ve had unhappy clients.

I have always either offered free services or provided refunds to my unhappy clients, and this is how I have kept a near flawless record online.

They say the client is always right. I know that sometimes they are not, but consider whether arguing with your customer is worth your reputation.

The decision may come down to the dollar value of your services.

Maybe a negative review on Yelp or Google Maps would not affect your overall rating because you have many positive reviews.

But what would happen if you got a negative review on a complaint site like RipoffReport?

Often, these kinds of reviews rank high for the brand name and can do more damage in a few months than the amount in dispute with your client.

I have offered full refunds to several clients over the years because the threat of a negative review on the right site can hurt.

My firsthand knowledge of the damage done to businesses has made me overly cautious.

One negative review can cost thousands of dollars in online reputation management (ORM) services to try and repair.

Tip 2: Ask for Reviews

Certain professions are more likely to have more negative reviews than positive.

For example, dentists for some reason usually get a high number of negative reviews.

My guess is that no one goes to a dentist with a happy feeling. One usually goes to a dentist to fix a cavity or do a cleaning, which could result in the discovery of cavities and require more work.

Having to spend money you had not planned on spending is a pretty good reason for most people to get upset. Even the best dental insurance requires some kind of a copay, so dental procedures can be expensive.

Even if you aren’t a dentist, you’re more likely to get positive reviews if you ask for them.

If you avoid asking your best customers for reviews, you may end up with more negative reviews than you would have wanted.

Just make sure that you know your customers are happy before you ask for the review.

If you are seeing your customer in person, you may start by asking how they felt about your service right after you finish the job.

Alternatively, you may want to follow up after a few days.

Another tip is to use a different person to follow up then whoever served the customer. If it is one of your staff that did the work/sale, then either a manager or you should do the follow-up.

This way the customer is more likely to tell you about a negative experience, and you won’t feel as defensive about it since you were not the one involved.

Tip 3: Incentives for Reviews

Consider offering some kind of incentive for reviews, but be warned that this practice is against Yelp. If you do this, make sure to never ask for it in writing, but always verbally.

If someone reports you to Yelp for doing this, you may get a warning or a demotion in Yelp’s search results.

I have seen businesses post messages behind their business cards asking for Yelp reviews, with a discount for positive reviews.

A customer just needs to take a picture of this and send it to Yelp. Yelp will quickly follow up with a Consumer Alert on your account.

Tip 4: Offer Refunds to Unhappy Clients

If you have clients that are unhappy with your services, at first try to resolve or fix the issues, but if this is not possible, then offer a full or partial refund or some other incentive such as discount coupons or even retail gift cards.

Accept that you were wrong. Trying to resolve issues will always sit better with clients than trying to argue.

Refunds can either help avoid the negative review or lessen the damage and turn the negative review into a somewhat positive one.

I’ve had clients where even a partial refund has meant the difference between a 1-star and a 4-star review. Even a 5-star rating may be possible.

Tip 5: Review Generating Platforms

Many companies offer platforms for review generation. The basic concept is to collect your customer’s emails and/or phone numbers.

After their visit, or every so often, you can send a survey email or text message to ask for feedback.

The message will ask how they felt about your services and if the answer comes back positive you can then ask them to give you a review on the review site of your choosing, such as Yelp and Google Maps.

If the answer comes back negative, you will see the message and can reach out to them to try and resolve the issue before they think about posting a negative review in the first place.

These services typically cost as little as $30 per month to run yourself, or up to hundreds of dollars for a full-service provider (ORM company). Some companies that offer this service include:

  • Birdeye
  • ReviewInc
  • ShoutAboutUs
  • GatherUp

Tip 6: Consider Revising Your Business Model

I have a client with an ecommerce fashion store that dropships items from China, even though the business is based in the U.S.

The delivery time is usually 2 to 5 weeks, which is slow for most people. In addition, sometimes the Chinese sizes run smaller than US sizes.

So this business often gets many negative reviews and requests for returns/refunds. They also further upset clients by asking the customer to send back the item at their own expense.

As you can see, this kind of business cannot avoid negative reviews unless they change their business model.

The main benefit of their service is that it’s affordable. In fact, they are extremely cost-effective compared to similar fashion items found at major department stores.

So, what can a business like this do?

My advice begins with an adjustment to their sales copy informing customers that items are delivered from China and that shipping may take 2-5 weeks.

This tactic reduces some of their sales, but it avoids so many unhappy customers and unnecessary refunds.

Most people would probably not mind waiting a little if that would save them some money.

The customers that don’t want to wait that long are usually the ones that would complain most because they probably needed the item to be there for an occasion.

Also, they can offer free or reduced shipping costs for returns.

If the item is pretty cheap, another option is to provide a full refund and have the customer simply keep the item. Amazon used this tactic effectively in its growth phase to encourage Prime users.

The good news with this business is that they decided to change business models and keep inventory on hand to ship from the U.S. after I consulted with them.

They have been getting fewer negative reviews since they did this couple of months ago.

So my point here is to take a look at your business model to see what adjustments you can make to avoid situations that lead to negative reviews.

Even if it is going to cost you some business or money, you would be better off in the long run.

Not only will you increase business from new customers (thanks to positive reviews), happy clients will return and refer others to your business.

Tip 7: Be Proactive, Not Reactive

There are a number of things you can do to create a positive online image.

Your goal should be to populate the top 20 of Google with positive content about your business, which in turn may help to keep negative content out.

I plan on writing another article soon to cover more specifics, but in general, here are a few recommendations:

  • Register your social media profiles on the top social media sites, and stay active on those platforms.
  • Active Twitter profiles often get in the top 10 for their brand names, and Google may even show the latest feeds from them taking additional real estate space.
  • YouTube videos will often rank well for brand names. You can create a professional video for less than $1,000, or an even lower budget video using your smartphone. Also, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr to do a slide show type video about your business.
  • Distribute press releases every few months. Try to use different networks for distribution to get maximum coverage.
  • If you don’t already have a blog, create one and post on a regular basis (once a week is what we recommend to our clients as a minimum).
  • Create mini sites or blogs with subdomain blog platforms, such as wordpress.com or tumblr.com. Make sure your brand name appears as part of the subdomain (i.e., yourbrand.wordpress.com).

Yoast SEO Becomes First WordPress Plugin to Offer Defragmented Schema Markup

By | Networking Bizz digital marketing

Popular WordPress plugin Yoast is releasing an update which offers defragmented implementation of Schema.org markup.

What makes this a first-of-its-kind update is that it cleans up the “fragmented mess” created by most Schema implementations

Even the best Schema implementations are not done very well, the company says, as they often provide no context to search engines.

For example, if a page has eight pieces of Schema markup it’s often unclear to search engines how they’re related to each other.

Here’s what error-free Schema markup looks like in Google’s structured data tester when implemented by other tools:

Yoast SEO Becomes First WordPress Plugin to Offer Defragmented Schema Markup

It’s clean, but those are still eight individual items and search engines need will need to figure out how they’re related to each other.

In addition, it’s also not clear to search engines what the main entity is on the page.

Yoast explains how the latest update to its plugin weaves everything together:

“In our implementation, which we’re releasing today, all of the pieces “stitch together”: we form them into a nested structure. Without this nesting, a search engine doesn’t know how all these pieces relate to each other, and what the most important piece on a page is. Our implementation also clearly and explicitly defines the “main thing” on that page. This removes all of the guesswork and adds a lot of context for search engines.”

You can see the difference for yourself by running one of Yoast’s example pages through Google’s structured data testing tool.

Here’s a screenshot of what you’ll see in the testing tool:

Yoast SEO Becomes First WordPress Plugin to Offer Defragmented Schema Markup

In this screenshot, you can see that the main entity of the page is an article. The article is part of a webpage, which is part of a website.

Scrolling further down you’ll see more entities which Google detects as being related to the article, such as images, author, publisher, and more.

What does this mean for SEOs and site owners?

Implementation of Schema markup with Yoast’s plugin can result in:

  • Correct info in Google Knowledge Panels.
  • Full support for Rich Article Pins on Pinterest.
  • Showing up in a News listing or carousel (when combined with the News SEO plugin).
  • Higher chance of product snippets in Google Search results (when combined with the WooCommerce SEO plugin).
  • Higher chance of good local listing snippets (with the Local SEO plugin).

Yoast SEO 11.0 with Schema.org implementation is available now by upgrading the plugin. And yes, these new features are all available in the free version.

7 SEO Tactics to Absolutely, Always Avoid Doing

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

Despite the evolution of Google and the internet, bad and outdated SEO tactics still proliferate.

And the worst part is they continue to wreak havoc to webpages, search rankings, traffic, and conversions because website owners themselves have no idea they no longer work.

So, what are some of the craziest and most common “do nots” of SEO?

On April 10, I moderated an SEJ ThinkTank webinar presented by Julia McCoy, CEO of Express Writers.

McCoy discussed the most common bad SEO tactics that are still happening all over the web along with smart solutions and replacements to help you avoid them for good.

Google Is Pro-User

Why should we care about what “NOT” to do when it comes to our website and Google-friendly practices?

We care about Google and avoiding bad practices for search because more than half (60 percent) of all traffic on the web starts with a Google search.

To forget, or even worse – ignore! – how your website is performing in search, is irresponsible.

The good news?

If you put the right practices in place, you might be on the verge of a success story.

Here are seven bad SEO tactics Google really hates and how to avoid them.

Bad Tactic 1: Using Your Target Keyword in an Outdated, Forced & Stuffy Style

Back in the day, it was common to see multiple pieces of content targeting the same keyword.

How to Make a Latte

Today, if we were to separate related keywords like this into multiple pieces of content, we would be ignoring the importance of semantic search, which looks at the topic of a page rather than the repeated instances of keywords to determine relevancy to the search engine user.

Creating too much content around similar keywords can also cannibalize your keyword rankings.

Solution: Naturally Incorporate Synonyms of Your Focus Keyword in One Comprehensive Piece of Content

Scroll down to Google after you type in your target keyword to find synonymous keywords.

Searches related to how to make a latte

All of the synonymous keywords make excellent keyword choices to use in your blog.

Bad Tactic 2: Developing Only Short, Thin, Non-Comprehensive Content

Short content has its place. Not so much in SEO.

Solution: Create Long-Form Content

Based on several studies, the most-shared and the highest-ranked content is long-form (1,900-3,000 words).

BuzzSumo analyzed more than 100 million articles. The most-shared posts were long-form. Backlinko studied 1 million blogs, and found 1,900-2,000-word posts at the top of Google.

Bad Tactic 3: Posting Content Erratically Instead of on Schedule

If you post content consistently, you’ll feed Google, your website, and build your email list.

HubSpot looked at blogging frequency data from over 13,500 marketers and agencies. Those who blogged 16+ times per month earned the most traffic and the most leads.

Solution: Set a Blogging Schedule

Post consistently and regularly to build up your content library – but, make sure not to lose quality in the process.

Bad Tactic 4: Prioritizing Quantity Before Quality

Google cares about quality content, in a big way. Poorly-written, crappy content does NOT contribute to high rankings.

According to Google Quality Rater Guidelines, Google says that pages with the highest quality:

  • Achieve an intended purpose.
  • Demonstrate a high level of E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness).

Solution: Focus on Creating Better Content

Create content that is much better than the results that already exist in the top five results on page 1 of Google for your keyword/term.

Bad Tactic 5: Publishing Duplicate Content

According to an SEMrush study of over 100,000 websites, one of the most common on-page SEO errors is duplicate content.

Solution: Use Copyscape to Check for Originality

Use Copyscape to run your content through a duplicate search, and rewrite any pages that have a high percentage match. The ultimate goal is to have a 0% match.

Bad Tactic 6: Buying Links

This is an old and outdated SEO practice.

Buying links is expressly forbidden and penalized by Google nowadays.

Google views each link to your site essentially as a “vote of confidence”. If you buy links, Google equates that to vote rigging.

In Google’s Webmaster forum, Google says that buying or selling links may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Solution: Create Link-Worthy Content, Consistently

Strive to become a known resource that people know, like, trust, and link to. This takes time and commitment.

It is possible for businesses to survive without physically buying or acquiring links.

For instance, Express Writers has never sought out a link in eight years. Quality of content, originality of thought, and relevancy for their audience have always come first.

There are also other leaders that have earned thousands of links without ever seeking one:

Unbounce

Oli Gardner wrote free ebooks and blogs to grow their brand. He created a 13,000-word, 15 million pixel infographic, The Newb’s Guide to Online Marketing, for Moz.

It was downloaded over 150,000 times and earned thousands of links.

Buffer

Kevan Lee has created “ultimate”-style content that’s earned hundreds of links per post for Buffer. Their “What We Learned Through 43 Million Facebook Posts” earned 164 organic links.

Bad Tactics 7: Forgetting About Consumer Reviews – or Even Worse, Getting Fake Ones Posted & Written

Seventy percent of consumers today check out company and product reviews before making an online purchase.

A study by the Washington Post found that 61% of electronics reviews on Amazon are fake.

Solution: Ask Your Happy Customers for Reviews

Ask more happy customers on a regular basis to review you on social media or your most important site (BBB, Yelp, Amazon). Listen for customer “YAY!” moments, and ask then.

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t create too much content around similar keywords. Naturally incorporate synonymous keywords.
  • Don’t create short, thin content. Comprehensive content earns more mentions, shares, and rankings.
  • Don’t post content erratically. Stick to a content schedule.
  • Don’t put quantity before quality. Focus on creating better content than what’s already in Google’s top 5.
  • Don’t post duplicate content. Use Copyscape to check for originality.
  • Don’t buy links. Create link-worthy content.
  • Don’t forget customer reviews – and never have fake ones created and posted. Ask happy customers for reviews in their “Yay!” moments.

Link Building: Don’t Do These 10 Things

By | Networking Bizz Business advice

Every SEO professional worth their salt knows that links (along with content) are the backbone of SEO.

Links continue to remain a significant ranking factor.

What happens when you get bad links on enough of a scale to harm your site?

Your site can get algorithmically downgraded by Google – or worse, you get a manual action.

While Google maintains they are good at ignoring bad links, enough bad links can harm your site’s ranking.

This guide will explain 10 different types of bad links that can get you penalized, and what you can do about them.

1. Press Release Links

Press Release Links

Press release links were popular about 10 years ago.

These links were super easy to get.

All you had to do was write a press release and syndicate it to hundreds of press release distribution sites.

You’d quickly get hundreds of links.

Like any SEO tactic that worked well, it got abused.

Now, Google considers press release links a link scheme because these are so easy to manipulate.

You especially want to avoid any press release links that rely on over-optimized anchor text targeting your main money keyword.

If you absolutely must have a website link due to factors beyond your control, use naked URLs or branded URLs as your anchor text, and use only one link from the contact area of the press release.

2. Discussion Forum Links

Discussion Forum Links

To be clear: not all forum discussion links are bad.

If a link is coming from a good quality site, an established user, and the link itself is not manipulative or spammy, you probably will want to keep it.

However, if you have thousands of links coming in from foreign discussion forums, they are all low-quality spammy links, and they continue to come in, you may want to disavowthem.

Any links that looks spammy won’t do you any favors in Google’s eyes.

3. Links From Foreign Guestbooks

Foreign Guestbook Links

Links like these are also manipulative.

Links from foreign guestbooks can be placed manually or with the aid of an automatic program.

Enough of these at scale can cause ranking drops.

When in doubt, disavow.

4. Many Random NoFollow Links

Think you can fool Google by randomizing your footprint just enough so that your spammy link building will go undetected? Think again.

If you are not using an automated program, Google will find your footprint.

Humans are naturally creatures of habit. It is exceedingly difficult to create randomized footprints that you think Google will not detect.

If you are using an automated program, it is increasingly likely that Google will find the footprint of that automated program, unless it is truly random.

Why? The simple act of nofollowing the link is a footprint.

Thousands of links from many different sites that are all nofollowed is an indicator that something spammy is going on.

5. Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

PBNs used to be a great way to build links to get rankings.

You could randomize your footprint and all would be well.

You could continue to see significant gains from using these techniques.

Not anymore.

Now, PBNs on a massive enough scale can tank your site and cause it to lose organic traffic.

Google is able to detect – and punish – most PBNs. Some PBNs may take longer to spot than others, but eventually Google will catch on.

6. NoFollowed (& Followed) Social Bookmark Links

Social bookmarking links are also considered to be manipulative by Google.

This can get you in trouble if you do it too much.

Think about it. They are all manually-placed and are spammy as hell.

It’s no wonder Google considers these a link scheme.

7. Directory Submissions (or a Directory Submissions Service)

Directory Submission Service

Directory submission services love to tell you that you will get great traction and gains from their links.

“We’ll help increase your Google rankings!!” they will say.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Submitting to low-quality directories will likely do more harm than good for your rankings.

As with many things in SEO, there is an exception.

It is OK to use relevant and targeted directories for natural link building – especially in local SEO.

8. Blog Comments

Historically, blog comments have been one of the most-abused tactics in SEO.

Comment spam is an ancient link acquisition tactic to avoid.

It. Does. Not. Work!

In fact, you can thank spammy blog comments for the introduction of nofollowed links.

The goal was to prevent spammers from getting SEO benefits from abusing the comments section.

But there is a right way to approach blog comments. The key is leaving topically relevant comments on topically relevant sites.

9. Links From Fiverr or Other Cheap Link Services

This is yet another abused tactic in SEO.

Again, this is so egregiously bad that, while they are not part of Google’s guidelines, the patterns and footprints left behind are likely obvious to Google’s algorithms.

It would not be hard for Google to set up an investigative protocol to sign up for accounts for these services, pose as SEOs or other webmasters, and check out the most common patterns used by these services.

Just always remember – that person you’re talking to on the black hat forums regularly could very well be a Googler.

10. Links Built by Automatic Link Building Programs

Ever heard of tools like GSA Search Engine Ranker, Scrape Box, or XRumer?

Sure these tools can build you lots of links. However, in recent years, these programs have become less effective.

This SEO professional does not recommend using these programs for your SEO efforts, especially not on your money site.

If an SEO can think of it, it is likely that Google is already several steps ahead with pattern variations already built into their algorithm.

Are Links Actually to Blame, or Is It Something Else?

Penguin or Panda Penalty

So far we’ve talked about links that harm you. But could it be something else?

To find out, you should perform multiple audits. Assess the state of your site and move forward from there.

  • A technical SEO auditto uncover any potential crawl issues, technical issues, or any similar issues impacting the site.
  • A content audit to determine the state of the site’s content.
  • A link profile audit to assess the current state of the site’s overall link profile.

From here, you will be able to move forward with steps to fix the site. If you are unfortunate enough to have a complex site with issues in all three columns, you will need to get to work.

Manual Action: Preparing the Disavow File

In my opinion, nothing beats Link Detox by Link Research Tools. It can assess links from the most sources (25), such as Majestic, GSC, Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and many more.

You will want to compile all links for as many sources as you can get your hands on. Upload them according to the instructions in Link Detox.

Once you have done this, and you have gone through Link Detox’s process of reviewing and rating links, it will be necessary to prepare the disavow file.

Frequently Asked Questions About Link Audits

How Can You Assess Whether You Have a Link Penalty?

Panda or Penguin Recovery

Did you get a manual action notification?

Just check under manual actions within Google Search Console.

You’ll know immediately if Google has penalized your site.

Did your site get downgraded algorithmically?

Usually, you can assess whether you have an algorithmic downgrade by examining your Google Analytics data.

Typically, you’ll see an approximate 35-50 percent drop in overall traffic. This could be to certain pages, folders, or even sitewide.

A careful analysis can sometimes reveal other issues (e.g., technical or content) on a site that are causing such traffic drops.

In these cases, you should begin with a multi-tiered audit implementation approach designed to fix content-related issues along with link-related issues.

What to Do If You Identify a Negative SEO Attack?

You need to stop the attack as quickly as possible. If you are under high volume link attack, it’s only a matter of time before you will be penalized.

The process itself is really fairly simple and not overly complex:

  • Block all bots. Except perhaps the major ones: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
  • Do a mass disavow of all incoming links.
  • Implement a regular link review and disavow process to continue disavowing all incoming links until the link attack goes away.

What Is the Best Way to Implement a Good Link Profile?

Creating a Better Link Profile

Adopt good habits:

  • Use branded anchor text where possible.
  • Use naked URLs.
  • Do not use exact match keyword anchor text.
  • Don’t get links from bad sites or bad neighborhoods.
  • Don’t place links with over-optimized anchor text manually or with tools.
  • Make sure your links are editorially vouched for by the site owners involved.
  • Get links from good authority sites in your niche.
  • Engage with people

In general, your link profile should be fairly balanced, and types of links should not exceed approximately 20 percent of your overall link profile.

Avoid spammy, unnatural links and disavow any against Google’s guidelines.

How Long Does It Take to Remove an Algorithmic Downgrade?

It can very well take 6-8 months or more depending on its severity. And if it’s a manual action, you could be looking at close to a year.

I’ve personally worked on a 200,000+ link profile in the legal industry that took over a year to fully get completely reversed, and seven submissions of the reinclusion request sent to Google.

Don’t give up – it’s possible to repair even the worst of the worst link profiles.

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google

By | Networking Bizz Business advice

Google is an integral part of our lives. We use it for research, reading and getting from points A to B.

Thanks to the internet of things, some of us even have a Google Assistant, ready to answer any question or even settle a family dispute as quickly as you can say “Hey Google”.

With so much information at our fingertips, it can become unnerving. Let’s face it – there are times when you’d rather not have certain content made publicly available.

Perhaps there’s a shot of you on Google Street View that you’d prefer to be blurred out. Maybe sensitive personal information has been leaked that you wish to keep private.

In this post, I’ll explain how to remove your information from Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Legally, there may be additional protections and remedies available under the concept of the “right to be forgotten.”

Before we drill any deeper, it’s worth noting that Google is primarily a web aggregator, indexing billions of web pages every day.

When content is “removed from Google”, they actually deindex the web page(s) from their search results, but the source content will still be online.

If you’re seeking to have personal content removed from the web altogether, you need to reach out to the site owner.

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google

A Note on Social Media

In an age where we live update just about everything, it’s worth noting that social media posts will often be indexed by Google.

If you’ve ever searched for yourself, chances are pretty good that your social media pages are what come up first. The best way to combat this is to change the privacy settings on these accounts.

Google’s Removal Policies

Google has come under scrutiny recently for having a “liberal bias.” In reality, their goal is to provide unbiased, algorithmically driven search results.

In an effort to protect that neutrality, Google is reluctant to remove information. Exceptions include “sensitive personal information” and certain legal issues.

Legal Removal Requests

Legally, if any web content includes anything to do with child sex abuse or inappropriate images of said children, it will be removed.

Additionally, they also remove any content that infringes copyright, as long as they meet the requirements of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

If you’ve ever owned a website, you may be familiar with submitting DMCA requests. Any legal removal requests need to be submitted to Google via this page.

Personal Information Removal

Certain personal information will be removed by Google, including credit card information, bank account numbers, images of signatures, explicit images that were shared without your permission and confidential medical records.

They will also remove any national identification numbers such as social security numbers, passport numbers and tax identifiers.

They will not, however, remove things such as telephone numbers, addresses and your date of birth. This is usually a matter of public record.

Moreover, if the information about you was found through a government website, it is most likely not going to be removed, as this is once again classed as public information.

Personal removal requests are reviewed and assessed by Google on a case by case basis. To submit a request for removal, go to this page.

What follows are directions on how to complete each request.

How to Submit a Legal Removal Request

1. Go to this page to initiate your request

Google requires you to submit a removal request for each Google platform which you would like content removed from.

2. Select the platform by clicking the corresponding radio button as seen in the screenshot below:

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google

You will then be asked specifically what the content is related to. Select the option which best matches the type of content you’d like to be removed.

How to Remove Your Personal Information from Google

Google will provide you with a link to the page where you can submit all the necessary information.

How to Remove an Image from Google

Google usually doesn’t remove images from their search results. This is because Google doesn’t physically have the images, they are just indexed through other websites.

They state that even if they remove it from their search results, the image will still exist on the third-party site and other search engines are able to pick it up.

Google suggests that you contact the owner of a website directly if you wish to have an image removed.

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If the image contains sensitive personal information such as credit card details or national identification documents such as a passport, then Google will endeavor to get it removed.

Refer back to their removal policies to see if the image you wish to remove is covered. Then, to begin the process, click here and fill out the questionnaire and click on Submit once you’re finished.

Google will also endeavor to remove any unwanted explicit images of yourself that you did not consent to being posted online. We discuss how to remove them in the next section.

How to Remove Unwanted/Explicit Personal Images from Google

Google put together a separate guideline for reporting the misuse of sexually explicit images of yourself. They will remove the photo if one or more of the following applies:

  • You’re engaging in a sexual act or are nude.
  • You intended the content to be private and it was posted online without your permission (“revenge porn”).
  • You did not consent to the act and the images were published without your consent.

As we discussed in the previous section, even if the image is removed from the search engine results pages, it will still be on the web.

It’s recommended that you also contact the owner of the website to get it removed from the web altogether. You can find out more about contacting the site owner (webmaster) here.

When filling out the Google form to have the image removed, be sure to give as much detail as possible. Include the offending URLs of the SERPs that show the image, as well as a screenshot of the image.

The image can be censored to obscure the explicit nature of the photo, but must still be easily identifiable.

How to Remove Involuntary Fake Pornography from Google

Involuntary fake pornography includes images or videos of you that have been doctored to make it look like you’ve engaged in a sexually explicit act, even though you haven’t.

In order for Google to consider your removal request, the content must meet the following criteria:

  • You must be clearly identifiable in the images/videos.
  • The content is fake and falsely depicts you as being nude or engaging in a sexually explicit act.
  • The content was posted without your permission.

As with genuine explicit personal images, you need to provide screenshots of the offending image, and the URLs of the SERPs it appears in, so that Google can process the request.

As above, once you have filled out this form, Google can remove the imagery from the SERPs, however, if you want the content to be taken down altogether, you will need to contact the webmaster.

How to Remove Content About You on Sites That Have Exploitative Removal Practices from Google

Some webmasters tend not to be accommodating when it comes to removing your personal information from their site, even after a polite request.

It’s not uncommon to find companies that try to exploit web users into paying them to remove explicit images or other sensitive data.

In these types of cases, Google may endeavor to remove such links from their SERPs. Google’s requirements for this are the following:

  • You must be the subject of the content.
  • The site is not a business review website.
  • The website insists that you must pay to have the content removed.

To get the content deindexed, click on this form and select the option that confirms that the webmaster is requesting payment. Then fill out all your personal details and select Submit.

You may wish to seek further legal action directly again the webmaster to get the content removed from the website.

How to Remove your Information from Other Google Products

Your personal information can also show up on other Google related products and services.

Here’s how to remove any personal information from each:

Google Maps

Google Maps shows up contact details for businesses. However, from time to time, they rely on third-parties to source that information and it can sometimes show up your personal information rather than business information.

Even if you’re not a business owner this can sometimes erroneously happen. To request information be removed from Google Maps, go to this page and follow the instructions.

They also have instructions on how to go about getting your picture blurred on street view.

Blogger

Blogger is just that, a blogging platform. Therefore information shared on there is classed as opinions and generally Google will not remove it unless their terms of service are violated.

YouTube

As with Blogger, YouTube is a content sharing platform so generally Google will not remove YouTube videos from their SERPs.

The exception to this rule is when there is a copyright infringement or if the content violates Google’s terms of service.

The Takeaway

My post “14 Great Search Engines You Can Use Instead of Google” generated a great deal of interest, in no small part, due to Google privacy issues. If your privacy has been violated by Google, you do have recourse.

Follow the steps outlined above. Better still, if you haven’t run into a privacy issue, now is the time to be proactive and be diligent in protecting your privacy.

6 Actions You Must Take After an SEO Audit.

By | Networking Bizz SEO News

Want to improve the organic search visibility of your website?

Step one is commonly an SEO audit.

An SEO audit can produce valuable insights. It reveals past SEO strategy and tactics – or lack thereof – and is a fresh way to get started with a new partner

The best audits are done in-depth and focused on aspects across the three key areas of SEO:

  • Technical.
  • On-page.
  • Off-page.

They also use some keyword or goal-oriented focuses to compare against. This allows for a deeper analysis of keyword performance and competitor comparison.

When investing time, energy, and actual dollars in an SEO audit, you are probably doing it with the goal of taking action afterward. Perhaps you’re looking to get a return on investment or jump-start ranking, traffic, and conversion goal improvements.

So what comes next?

Here are some specific next steps you should take after the audit is completed to build momentum and ensure your time and investment isn’t wasted.

1. Develop a List of Insights

A detailed, handcrafted audit report often includes:

  • The list of SEO items audited.
  • What the status is of those items weighed against best practices, audience, and competitive filters.
  • Recommendations of aspects to correct or improve.

These are often woven throughout the report and sometimes are summarized in an executive summary or conclusion section.

For lighter or more automated audits, this section of findings might be lacking clarity or depth.

Your first step after the SEO audit is to get to the short (or possibly long) list of specific insights and things that need action.

2. Prioritize Based on Level of Impact

Using the list that was included in the audit report, or the insights you compiled, it’s time to begin the planning phase.

If you have the option to go back to the person or team (internally or externally) who conducted the audit or do a post-audit meeting, this is the time to learn and understand the expected level of impact of each of the items on the insights list.

Not all corrective or optimization actions will have the same magnitude of impact. While SEO professionals are pressed to avoid promises due to the uncertain nature of the industry, there should be a scale and objective way to prioritize the list based on how big issues are.

Setting expectations of what the impact could be, even when they are based on benchmarks and where you want to be, will be helpful later for measurement of actual impact.

For example, resolving the issue of missing title and meta description tags on every page of the site by writing custom, helpful, keyword focused tags will likely have more impact and should have higher priority than implementing schema structured data for a contact us page.

3. Determine Necessary Resources

With a prioritized list of action items based on the level of impact, you can now determine the necessary time, budget, and resources needed to tackle each item.

Some updates can be made in minutes by a single person with little training. Others might require the assistance of other departments, individuals, or outside vendors.

Something like the implementation of a sophisticated canonical tag strategy might require a good technical SEO mind plus the skills of a web developer. Those resources may cost money and have to be slotted into schedules.

Once you know how long it will take to implement each item, what it will cost in time and resources, coupled with the level of impact from the previous step, you can filter the list and re-prioritize.

4. Develop a Timeline

You now have an outline of the work and needs in front of you. This is not the time to take your foot off the gas.

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Pushing forward on the SEO plan can be daunting due to time, resource, and budget constraints. However, SEO is a long-term commitment that is fueled by short-term activities and tactical execution.

At this point, you should be able to see what the all-in investment is for implementing all of the items on the list.

Based on budgeting, pacing, and the ability to commit, it should be possible to know how much time overall it will take to work through everything.

With this in hand, you can develop a timeline with specific milestones, goals, and reporting cycles to measure the impact of the effort.

5. Create an Action Plan

Putting the plan in motion, you’ll need to find the right systems to ensure that:

  • Collaboration is easy.
  • Tasks are scheduled and assigned.
  • Accountability is attached.

Whether that is a workflow program, SEO tool, or project management suite, treating this as a real project or campaign following the audit is one of the best things you can do to give it a fair shot.

Heaping a big stack of tasks or assignments on an individual, team, or group of roles with no expectation or accountability is a big risk for failure. Setting the tone with a plan and an expectation of it being organized and completed on budget and on time is critical.

Not all stakeholders and roles will understand the potential impact of improving SEO if they only have a small role in certain pieces.

The IT manager (no offense) probably won’t care much about why you want them to change 302 redirects to 301s or set a canonical version of the root domain.

Without some education and a clear assignment with a due date that tucks into the plan, it might go into an IT queue with low priority and never get done.

6. Achieve Success

How are you going to know what SEO success looks like and that this effort was worthwhile?

Tying back into the goals and expectations you set in the first post-audit step of assessing the best estimate possible of the level of impact of the action items identified, you can measure performance.

Using baseline or benchmark data, you can isolate the project schedule and see where average position, impressions, traffic, and conversions changed during the project or campaign.

With a dedicated plan and concerted effort, you should be able to track specific improvements.

Be sure to use the annotation feature in Google Analytics and have regular reporting cycles monthly or weekly depending on how long your timeline is for implementing the plan.

This is a great way to track improvement over time and understand the actual impact versus the estimated level of impact and to make any agile revisions to the plan or to keep going with the original schedule.

Conclusion

The SEO audit process can be overwhelming.

Depending on the type of audit, and how much support and education you receive at the end of the process, it can be challenging to use the audit as a powerful tool to improve the optimization of a website.

Through working from insights to fully-actionable and measurable plan, you can achieve success and find ROI not just for the audit investment itself, but in leveraging SEO as a valuable digital marketing channel.

Choose an SEO-Friendly Website Platform

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

I’m sure most of us have seen, it’s difficult to give our clients the results they desire when they operate a five-page site using Wix or Weebly.

Of course, it can be just as difficult working with a client using a WordPress site that is littered with errors that can take hours upon hours of consulting to uncover.

Web design and development should be developed with SEO in mind.

While I confess that my knowledge of web design and development is cursory at best, my experience and knowledge of the industry have shown me that certain platforms are better for SEO than any others.

Let’s explore!

Website Builder vs. CMS: What’s the Difference?

Unless you are a coding genius, most website development projects will be built either using a pretty basic website builder or a more sophisticated content management system.

A website builder should be pretty familiar to anyone in SEO. The most common examples, include Wix, Weebly, and GoDaddy Website Builder.

Website builders incorporate drag and drop UX and UI that makes it easy for anyone to build a site without hiring a developer.

For this reason, website builders are often a great choice for cash-strapped small businesses, although this does come at the cost of scale and sophistication.

While a website builder offers intuitive styling features, developers will be hard-pressed to make any changes to the backend or files that are hosted by the builder.

For this reason, developers often prefer the flexibility and blank slate that a CMS like WordPress provides.

Content management systems are software programs that enable developers to store and structure content on their site.

It’s often a misconception that WordPress is a website developer, when it’s really a CMS that can incorporate website builders and other plugins into its API.

Using a CMS, developers are free to:

  • Add their own HTML.
  • Manipulate .htaccess files.
  • Organize content on their website however they choose.

Furthermore, CMS platforms offer themes and templates that can make building pages a lot easier.

Website Builder Pros

  • Easy learning curve.
  • Cost effective.
  • Drag and drop features.

Website Builder Cons

  • Limited development options.
  • Often poor URL structures.
  • Some plans may be limited in page size.

CMS Pros

  • Flexibility/sophistication.
  • Data management.
  • .htaccess file management.
  • SEO plugins and tools.
  • Simple and intuitive interface.

CMS Cons

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Easy to break.

With this in mind, you may be more likely to turn to a CMS for the added SEO value. But different businesses should look at different options.

The following factors should determine which platform you use to build a new website:

  • Your budget
  • level of expertise
  • website’s purpose

What Program Is Best for Your Business?

WordPress

Wordpress dashboard

WordPress’s open source software platform and library of plugins make it the most one of the most robust CMSs for SEO professionals.

WordPress is great for companies that produce lots of content and are looking for simple designs.

Plugins, such as Yoast and WP Rocket can help improve your onsite SEO strategy.

WordPress offers web designers and developers the flexibility and customization they need to create an SEO-friendly website that is fast and responsive.

One issue that frequently does come up with WordPress is its security.

WordPress is fine for most publishers and businesses, but some ecommerce companies and financial institutions prefer their own proprietary code and other platforms for this reason.

Shopify

Shopify home page

Shopify is one of the most innovative web builders on the market.

Perfect for ecommerce stores, Shopify allows webmasters to create an entire online business and marketplace all in a self-hosted platform.

Businesses don’t have to worry about much in terms of a hosting and are given the flexibility to customize their CSS and HTML however they like.

I’d recommend Shopify for small retailers and mom-and-pop stores looking for a more sophisticated platform then Etsy or a basic website builder.

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Squarespace

Squarespace templates

Squarespace has long been a favorite website builder for small businesses, offering visually stunning design templates and flexible pricing options.

one of the best website builders for small, local businesses that don’t have a ton of money to dump into a new website.

With that said, Squarespace does falter when it comes to SEO features and integrating other API.

Its lack of support for third-party apps and limitations on what you can do in the backend of a site means you will have to go the extra mile in terms of marketing to reach new customers.

Messing with meta data on Squarespace can be a bit tricky and many of their SEO features, such as setting up redirects are not too easy to figure out for first time users.

Wix

Wix Homepage

You won’t find much love for Wix in the SEO community, Wix builder is probably the best solution for creating a small website that is thin on content.

Affordable and super simple to design, Wix is a great short-term solution for websites who don’t require a huge organic presence over traditional search to succeed.

Of course, Wix’s SEO features are bare bones at best. Wix significantly limits your ability to optimize new content, set up canonical tags, or add new markup to your site to assist in search.

Worst of all, there is no way to export data from Wix.

Weebly

Weebly Homepage

Finally, Weebly is the most simple website builder on this list. Its drag and drop features make it easy for anyone who doesn’t understand source code to create a website.

Unfortunately, Weebly does make it difficult to implement advanced technical features, such as schema and other technical SEO necessities.

Worst of all, migrating from a Weebly site to a Wix or WordPress site is incredibly frustrating. Generally, I rank Weebly as one of the worst website builders, although it’s not a bad place to start for a small business.

Further SEO Considerations for Developing a Website

Working with JavaScript

In the past, it was frowned upon to build a site heavy in JavaScript.

Fortunately, the search engines have become much better at reading JavaScript, although it’s still all too easy to block search engine bots from crawling a site without even knowing it.

You want search engines to see the same exact page that a user sees.

Unfortunately, when actions are required for JavaScript to fire and ends up blocking search engine bots, it means that search engines are seeing a lesser version of your site, which could hurt rankings.

Work with your developer to ensure that JavaScript is used sparingly and does not impede crawl paths and site speed.

Design for Mobile First

All designs should be made with mobile-first in mind.

Whether you are building a WordPress or a Wix site, it’s important that your actual design conforms to the physical requirements of a smaller screen size and different user habits.

With the mobile-first index search engines will rank sites higher that provide the following:

  • Responsive web design
  • Fast page speeds
  • Easy accessibility

Finding a solid website builder and CMS that can account for these considerations is important for your ongoing SEO.

Reinvent E-Commerce Personalization in 2019

By | Networking Bizz Business advice

You’d be hard pressed to find a tactic more capable of winning and losing customers than personalization. In the past, bad personalization has cost businesses three-quarters of a trillion dollars. In the future, Gartner claims smart personalization will enable businesses to boost their profits by up to 15 percent:

Today, personalization is everywhere — in B2B, B2C, e-commerce, SaaS — the list goes on. Unfortunately, the term “personalization” still carries much confusion with it, which is evidenced by the often-heard admonition that brands still aren’t getting it right.

The trouble is, personalization is hard — both to plan and to implement. It requires several stages of preparation that many businesses either don’t know about or skip altogether. Here’s what they are and why they shouldn’t…

What Is E-Commerce Personalization?

E-commerce personalization is the process of serving specific marketing messages to targeted segments and subsegments of a given audience, with the goal of boosting e-commerce revenue.

ecommerce personalization segments chart

E-commerce personalization is built on the idea that every customer is different with respect to the problem that needs to be solved, the product needed to solve it, the way the customer gets that product (path to purchase), and how the problem is solved with that product.

To carry out e-commerce personalization effectively, a business must be able to do three things:

  • Amass data on users. This could be, geographic, behavioral, demographic, etc.
  • Analyze that data to find segments that may respond more favorably.
  • Deliver an experience to that segment in real time.

Ultimately, the goal of these three preparational stages is to deliver more relevant content to users — but when stages are skipped or neglected, things don’t always go as planned.

Setting Up Personalization

The last several years have seen a major rise in adoption of personalization among marketers. Now, 98 percent of marketers agree that it advances the customer relationship.

As effective as it is, there’s a problem with the perception of personalization: It’s assumed it works, no matter the way it’s used or the goal it aims to achieve. That’s never the case for any tactic, regardless of how popular.

Personalization isn’t a one-size fix-all, which means that if you want to use it, you need to make sure it’s worth implementing.

You might argue that personalization is worth implementing, at least in some capacity. There are plenty of easy ways to “personalize” your content — from name in email to recommendations on product pages. Because they’re “easy,” many implement these tactics without consideration.

However, it’s not a question of whether you can get them done easily, but whether it is worth it right now for you.

Resist Getting Swept Up

It’s easy to get swept up in the obsession with personalization. As with any tactic, though, personalization methods require a strategic evaluation of business needs.

Is personalization where your resources are best spent right now? What are your goals, and how are you trying to achieve them?

For some, a universal user experience may work fine. For others, personalization may make sense. However, you should never implement a tactic for the sake of doing so, even if other businesses tout its effectiveness. In this case, you have to remember one all-important fact: Their business is not your business.

Cost vs. Benefit

Determining whether a tactic like personalization can work for you is as simple as performing a cost-benefit analysis. Work backward from your goals. What are you trying to achieve?

From there, lay out different routes for getting there. Is personalization the most effective route to accomplishing what you’re trying to do? Or are there other tactics that will move the needle more? Consider whether there are other tactics that will require significantly fewer resources than the personalization methods you’re trying to implement.

Personalization is as complex as you want it to be — and the more complex it gets, the more effective it can get, too. What’s also true is that the more complex it gets, the more difficult it can be to monitor. The more segments you create, the more you have to manage — and you have to manage them well. Poorly managed personalization is no personalization at all.

So You Want to Personalize

If you believe you’re prepared for personalization, you’ll have two ways to go:

  • Personalization by business observations
  • Personalization by machine learning

The first allows a member of a business to base its segmentation on observed factors in their data. This is similar to conducting any kind of optimization, in which you base your personalization on a test conducted, intuition, or qualitative/quantitative data. Say, prospects in different regions are showing very different buying preferences. That may push you toward creating personalized experiences for each.

The second, machine learning, allows you to use software to detect trends that are exploitable via personalization. Instead of your making the observation, it’s sophisticated software that does so in this case. Both methods are equally effective, though in the beginning, machine learning can be costly.

Once you’ve discovered methods for personalization, it comes time for another cost/benefit analysis. How personalized should you get?

The more rules for personalization you set up, the more complex it is to manage. The complexity of segmentation shows itself in future experiments, in support tickets, and in mismatches caused by machine or human error.

This is where tracking return on investment is crucial. You have to know whether a rule for personalization results in a boost in ROI. If it does, it’s worth replicating. If not, it’s simply costing you resources now, and will continue to drain them in the future, by boosting complexity without sustainable return.

15 E-Commerce Personalization Points

Think you’re reading to start using e-commerce personalization? Following are 15 methods that may work for your business.

1. Shoppable Social Media

The majority of Internet users access the Web via mobile device, and mobile device users spend most of their time in a select few apps. Among their favorites: social media.

At first, it doesn’t seem like a fact that benefits e-commerce businesses. However, research has shown that more than three-quarters of people have bought something they’ve seen on social media.

This leaves e-commerce brands with a unique and effective way to get into the wallets of their ideal customers: shoppable posts.

Shoppable posts feature images or videos of products, accompanied by a product page link that visitors can click on to shop. They can be as simple as these below from Urban Outfitters and Nike:

Urbanoutfitters, Nikewomen screenshots

Or, they can look like a regular post, with a link in the description where visitors can find the content of the post for purchase:

product page post screenshot

Both are a great way to get products in front of your audience in a noninvasive way. They’ve constructed their feed, so they’ve opted into seeing your content. In this case, personalization is simply showing them what they’ve requested to see, but in a shoppable way.

2. Influencer Partnerships

Shoppable Instagram posts aren’t the only way to get into the feeds of your target audience. Accounts with large, engaged followings composed of your ideal prospects are perfect channels through which to advertise your product.

The benefit of influencer partnerships over shoppable posts is that they take advantage of a relationship between the user and the influencer. These posts aren’t just pictures of clothing, like the ones above. They’re personal recommendations from people your users trust, and the added social proof makes them infinitely more powerful.

3. Device-Specific Offerings

Context matters. Personalization isn’t just about the “who” shopping for the “what,” but “how” they’re shopping, too.

For example, someone shopping on a desktop computer or a tablet is very likely in a different mindset than someone shopping on a mobile phone. There’s a chance that the mobile phone user is actually out looking for a brick-and-mortar location that sells what they’re shopping for.

The desktop user, however, almost certainly is shopping from a fixed location with the intention of buying online. Offering in-store discounts to mobile users who are near your brick-and-mortar location is a great way to lure them in.

4. Geographic Product Offerings

However, personalization’s use isn’t limited to brick-and-mortar stores.

Even if you’re a local shop with one location, it’s unlikely you’re selling only to people in-store. What’s more likely is that your visitors span a variety of geographic regions.

If location is related to the products they may buy, consider personalizing your offerings the way Shop Direct did with its website, Very:

Shop Direct website Very screenshot
Shop Direct website Very screenshot

“We know that relevance wins in retail, and right now customers are drowning in a sea of irrelevant choices,” said Alex Baldock, Shop Direct group chief executive.

Personalization was just one of many ways to narrow the field.

Very unofficially was known to the e-commerce world as one of the first extensively dynamic personalized homepages. It didn’t just personalize them by geography, but showed users information based on browsing history as well. Today, the website can be delivered in an impressive 3.5 million different ways, depending on who’s visiting.

5. Time-Sensitive Product Offerings

Where geographic product offerings like the one above can make shopping for clothing a little easier, so can time-sensitive offerings.

To use clothing as an example, once again, it would mean highlighting the most popular shopping categories based on the time of year. In summer that might be dresses, while in winter it would be heavier coats.

If you were a sporting goods store, your homepage might highlight baseball products in the spring, basketball in the winter, football in the fall, etc.

This seems like a very basic form of personalization; however, even the basic things can make shopping a little easier. Making the path to purchase just a little bit easier can result in significant improvements in conversion rate.

6. Paid Search Landing Pages

One of the major issues facing personalization is the personalization gap. This results when only one half of an advertising campaign is personalized: the pre-click stage.

  • The pre-click stage is everything that happens before a user clicks through an advertisement. That includes, but is not limited to, ad design, targeting, platform, etc.
  • The post-click stage is everything that happens after a user clicks through an advertisement. That includes, but isn’t limited to, page load speed, landing page design, conversion ratio, etc.

Too many campaign creators still focus on personalizing the pre-click experience by tightening targeting, segmenting by platform and device, and then neglecting the post-click stage by sending their visitors to a homepage.

This creates a personalization gap: The user is served an offer with a great level of personalization in the ad, but then is made to look for that offer from a home page, or a landing page that isn’t targeted to that user.

For example, it’s not uncommon for someone who clicks an ad for “men’s dress socks” to be directed to the page for generic “men’s socks,” or even worse, “menswear.” This is poor user experience in that it promises something and then does not deliver on that promise.

Every promotion should have its own targeted landing page to match the ad in the pre-click stage. If you run an ad for “men’s dress socks,” then you should have a landing page for “men’s dress socks.” This is how campaigns should be run to meet the user’s expectations.

It’s one of those low-hanging-fruit fixes that many e-commerce businesses don’t know they can make, which can boost campaign performance almost immediately.

7. Off-Site Retargeting

On their first visit to your website, 98 percent of users don’t convert. Retargeting is the most effective way to get them back.

With off-site retargeting, reach visitors on their favorite website, social media platforms, and even in email to get them to reconsider purchasing with ads created from their browsing history.

Some say this method is “creepy” and “ineffective,” but there’s evidence to show exactly the opposite:

Wordstream conversion rates graph

The key to succeeding with off-site retargeting is personalized listings. You can’t just show a generic ad for your website and expect it to entice visitors to return. Show them ads specific to their browsing history to increase the likelihood they click through to re-evaluate.

8. On-Site Retargeting

Like retargeting off-site, you can set up personalized pop-ups based on things like cart, session number and browsing history, both past and present. They’re a great way to supplement off-site retargeting, especially when you consider that the goal of off-site retargeting is to get people back to your website. With on-site retargeting, they’re already on your website — you just have to keep them from leaving.

This can be accomplished with contextual exit pop-ups. If it’s your visitors first time at your store, show a pop-up for 15 percent off their first order. If they’re shopping for shoes, show them the free shipping on sneakers pop-up. Too many exit pop-ups lead with a generic message. Make yours relevant to get visitors to reconsider leaving a great deal on the table.

9. Continuous shopping

The customer journey is long with, in some cases, countless touchpoints. That being the case, customers will arrive at your site, leave, then return — and they will repeat the process many times.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of their way and simply make it easier for them to pick up where they left off. This is known as “continuous shopping.” Jan Soerensen, General Manager of Nostro North America, likens it to the Netflix “continue watching” section:

“Continue watching” is one of the most powerful features Netflix created. When we saw that, we realized we could apply it to e-commerce. Thus, continuous shopping recommendations was born, and it’s one of the tactics we recommend most to high-growth retailers.”

Amazon is known for personalizing its homepage in this way. When you return to the website, whatever you previously were browsing will appear on the homepage. When Shoeline used this method to personalize its homepage, based on browsing history, it earned a click-through rate of up to 26 percent and a conversion rate of 18 percent:

ShoeOnline screenshot

10. Intelligent recommendations

Recommendations may seem like a tired form of personalization, but they’re a tried-and-true way to boost e-commerce sales. In fact, Amazon makes 30 percent of its revenue from recommendations.

The key to great recommendations isn’t simply recommending another product based on the one that’s being viewed, but combining browsing history to offer a very specific, wide range of options.

For example, if you’re viewing a book called Knitting for Beginners, the common recommendation might be a more expensive, comprehensive version of a beginner’s knitting book. This is known as “upselling.”

However, an e-commerce business with troves of data can see that browsing histories indicate other people who have been interested in this book also have been interested in knitting needles and yarn. This is known as “cross-selling.” It’s also where Amazon gets its “frequently bought together” category at the bottom of product detail pages.

An e-commerce business can bring your browsing history into the equation, to see what you’ve been looking at in order to give you an even more-detailed recommendation. Maybe you previously bought a specific brand or type of yarn, which it can recommend to you again in a different color.

These are just a few ways to incorporate personalization data to offer better recommendations than ones based simply on the product you’re viewing.

11. Detailed Product Pages

If you’re the seller, the advantages of your product may be clear. Let’s use backpacks as an example. You think that most people simply want a backpack that can carry a lot of cargo, and that may be true.

However, if you create product pages based on “most people,” you may be neglecting a significant portion of your potential buyers. “Most” can be 90 percent of buyers, it can be 70 percent of buyers, or it can be 51 percent of buyers.

What you may not realize is that there are other significant numbers of prospects who base their backpack preferences on something else — or, at the very least, more than simply one main feature (I like the carrying capacity, but I don’t like the colors it’s offered in…).

Consider these customer preferences:

  • Want to be able to carry a lot, but want to look stylish as well. For them, pictures of all the different colors offered would be highly valuable.
  • Want to be able to organize their cargo efficiently. For them, you might show photos of all the pockets in the bag, but also internal photos of compartments that can be used to divide up cargo.
  • Want to be able to carry a very specific kind of cargo. Is there a place for me to store my water bottle for long hikes? Images and descriptions that confirm such a feature are valuable to this subset of prospects.

These are the kinds of things you need to take into account on your product pages. Show as many valuable images as possible, and create as much bullet-pointed copy as is necessary to completely describe all features of a product that may be attractive to different segments of your audience.

12. Post-Purchase Adjustments

While marketers associate personalization with revenue, the relationship isn’t always linear. In fact, you might argue that it sometimes seems to act in the opposite interest of earning business.

Consider Amazon’s “manage order” button. This allows buyers to adjust or even cancel their order after making a purchase.

For most businesses, this feature wouldn’t just be difficult to follow through on for logistical reasons — it also would face opposition from decision makers in the company. “You want to allow people to cancel their orders within a certain time frame, after we’ve gotten them to buy? Right. Sure. Great idea.”

Attitudes like that are short-sighted, however. Ultimately, it’s not the one-time buyer who will keep your business profitable, but the loyal customer who returns for repeat purchases. A personalized feature that allows customers to manage their orders on their own terms post-purchase, is exactly the kind of thing that makes people comfortable with purchasing in the future.

13. Programmatic Email Marketing

Email marketing is still considered the most valuable tool in a business’s arsenal. It’s reported to generate upwards of US$40 for every $1 spent.

While that number may be surprising, the sentiment is not. Consumers have indicated on more than one occasion that email is their preferred way of contact. It’s a very low-friction way of reaching out to them with timely offers, as opposed to telephone, which is much more intrusive.

Email’s power is fully realized when combined with programmatic capabilities that can serve behavioral recommendations for the following:

  • products to be up-sold based on purchase history
  • products to be cross-sold based on purchase history
  • sales personalized by browsing history (e.g. mens/womens)
  • sales personalized by geography
  • sales personalized by time, etc.

The more specific your segments get, the more likely your visitors will respond to them. While time- and geographic-sensitive recommendations are effective, browsing history is likely to be where you see the most returns.

14. Content Marketing

Content marketing? For e-commerce? Absolutely.

One of the biggest problems consumers face is product overload. There are so many options out there that it’s hard to determine, on your own, which is the best for you.

This is where content marketing comes in. If I’m shopping for new running shoes but I’m not sure which are best for me, I’m probably going to search for a shoe-buying guide.

This one from REI is a great resource for someone in my position, and it even offers different ways to consume the content: text or video. It also positions REI as an authority on the subject of running shoes, and now I’m thinking: “These guys know their stuff, maybe I’ll browse their running shoes to see what they have for a runner like me.”

REI How to Choose Running Shoes screenshot

This isn’t just valuable before the sale, but afterward too. Part of getting customers to purchase with you again is to make sure they’re happy with their current purchase. A way to do that is by making sure they’re getting the most out of your product. The best part of this method is that you don’t even have to do it yourself (see below).

15. User-Generated Content

Arguably the best way to personalize content to your audience is to allow your audience to create it. User-generated content is exactly that: content created by your users with your product.

This content can be served via email or social media to inspire your customers to use your product in new ways, effectively by saying: “Look, here’s what so and so did with the product. You can too.”

GoPro is a great example of this. The more users upload different and innovative uses for their cameras, the more we’re able to see how versatile the product is.

Similarly, clothing and accessory brands have leveraged UGC by getting customers to submit different “looks” that prospects can steal from. For such a simple concept, the effect of UGC can be major.

One study of 559,276,000 online shoppers found the average conversion rate was 166 percent higher for visitors who saw UGC than for those who didn’t:

user generated content / conversion statistics

E-Commerce Personalization: Effective When Implemented Correctly

As with any flavor-of-the-week/year/decade tactic, there’s a lot of information on personalization out there. It can be overwhelming. The longer it goes on, the harder it becomes to tune out the noise and just, as they say, “do you.”

With e-commerce personalization, businesses need to do just that. While there are plenty of tactics on this list that you can start with, not all will be right for you today. Maybe none will.

However, they’re a great place to start when the time is right for e-commerce personalization to deliver the best return on your investment.

A WordPress safety plan for SEOs and developers

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

How to protect your WordPress site from attack and keep it safe and secure.

WordPress powers an astonishing one-third of all websites these days. It has been the CMS platform of choice for our community since the mid-aughts when many of WordPress’s SEO features were implemented. It is therefore relentlessly attacked, largely for SEO spam reasons, but attacks can escalate to much worse.

Is WordPress safe?

The latest version of WordPress is very safe out of the box. Neglecting to update it, however, among other things, can make it unsafe. This is why many security professionals and developers aren’t WordPress fans. WordPress also resembles PHP spaghetti code which is inherently insecure, where WordPress itself warns that vulnerabilities “stem from the platform’s extensible parts, specifically plugins and themes.”

WordPress updates:

There is no such thing as a 100 percent secure system. WordPress needs security updates to operate safely, and those updates shouldn’t negatively affect you. Turn on automatic security updates. Updating the WordPress core, however, does require that you make sure everything is compatible. Update plugins and themes as soon as compatible versions are available.

Open source:

WordPress is open source, which entails risks as well as benefits. The project benefits from a developer community that contributes code for the core, the core team patches security flaws found by the community, while hooligans discover ways to pry things open. Vulnerabilities are scripted into scans by exploit applications which can detect what versions of things are running to match known flaws to your versions.

Protect yourself first:

There are things you can do to protect yourself even when you don’t have an administrator role. Make sure you’re working on a secure network with a regularly scanned workstation. Block ads to prevent sophisticated attacks that masquerade as images. Use VPN for end-to-end encryption whenever you’re working at public WiFi hotspots to prevent session hijacking and MITM attacks.

Secure passwords:

Securely managing passwords is important no matter what role you have. Make sure your password is unique and long enough. Combinations of numbers and letters are not safe enough, even with punctuation, when passwords aren’t long enough. You need long passwords. Use phrases of four or five words strung together if you need to memorize but it’s better to use a password manager that generates passwords for you.

Password length:

Why is length so important? Put it this way, eight character passwords crack in less than 2.5 hours using a free and open source utility called HashCat. It doesn’t matter how unintelligible your password is, it only takes hours to crack short passwords. Starting at 13+ characters, cracking begins to get insurmountable, at least for now.

Administrators:

If you have an admin user role, create a new user for yourself that’s limited to an editor role. Begin using the new profile instead of admin. That way, wide area net attacks will be centered on attacking your editor role credentials, and if your session gets hijacked you have the admin capacity to change passwords and wrest control away from the intruders. Compel everyone, perhaps through the use of a plugin, to follow a strong password policy.

Security policy:

If you have security experience, perform code audits of your plugins and themes (obviously). Establish the principle of least privilege for all the users. You then are forcing hackers to perform shell popping tricks and privilege escalation which involves attacking targets other than WordPress credentials.

Change file permissions:

If you control the host, provide yourself with a SFTP account through the use of the Control Panel if you have one, or try what administrator user interface you have access to. It may have the side effect of configuring credentials to open a secure shell terminal window (SSH). That way you can perform additional security measures using system utilities and more.

Lock down critical files:

There are a few files that should never be accessed except by the PHP process running WordPress. You can change file permissions and edit the .htaccess file to further lock these files down. To change file permissions, either use your SFTP client (if it has the option), or open a terminal shell window and run the chmod utility command.

$ chmod 400 .wp-config
$ ls -la

Wordpress Config File Security

WordPress Config File Security

This means that only the PHP process running WordPress will be able to read the file, and nothing else. The file should never have the “execute bit” set, like with chmod 700. You should always have zeros in the second and third place — that’s what really locks it down. Verify your changes running the ls utility with -la options and have a look.

Having strict file permission settings means nothing can be written to the file, even by WordPress. You’ll want to grant write permissions back with $ chmod 600 .wp-config when there is a major WordPress update wherein the config file has modifications. That should happen extremely rarely, if ever.

WordPress login file:

I like to lock down the wp-login.php file using .htaccess rules. Limiting access to only my IP addresses is great for when I work from one statically assigned IP, or a small handful of addresses for myself and some users. It’s not difficult to change the setting if you’re logging in from another location as long as you can obtain a shell on the host. Simply comment out the deny directive, login with your browser, and uncomment it afterwards.

Wordpress Htaccess Limit By IP

WordPress Htaccess Limit By IP

XSS and SQL injection:

By far the scariest attacks that you’ll encounter will be cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection. There are .htaccess query string rewrite rules you can use to stop some of these, and you might be best off using a plugin that will manage this for you. Some security plugins will scan your installation looking for signs of compromise. If you know how to use rewrites, redirect or block query string signatures for attacks you read about or see in your logs.

Security plugins:

Some security plugins will scan your installation looking for signs of compromise. Wordfense is a popular security plugin, and it gets regularly updated. Sucuri Scanner has a paid option that will scan your installation. Ninja Firewall is going to try and limit request-base attacks, blocking them before they reach WordPress core. You can also write an application utilizing Google’s new Web Risk API to scan your site’s pages.

10 Dominating SEO Trends for 2019

By | Networking Bizz SEO News

As Google changes all year round, so does search engine optimization. Webmasters who want to keep their rankings and traffic (and potentially gain even more) are always on the lookout for the new ways to beat their competitors, thus setting new SEO trends. And now that 2018 is rapidly approaching its end, it’s time to ask ourselves: what can we expect from SEO in 2019?

1. Voice search domination

The list opens with the entry everybody saw coming. It’s hard not to, with so much talk about it! The bigger mobile Internet grows, the further we get removed from good old orthodox typing. Teaching computers to understand our speech – that’s what the future is about. And the path to this bright future lies through voice search SEO.

It is said that by 2020, half of all online traffic will be coming from spoken queries. I can only imagine what kind of futuristic technology will eventually come to replace voice search. Can you?

2. Video optimization

Voice search isn’t the only SEO trend taking over the Internet; videos are, too. They are an ever increasingly popular information medium, which makes them a rich source of customer traffic when you use them cleverly.

While your videos need to be excellent in order to rank on YouTube (any other quality standard is unacceptable there), they won’t be able to without being optimized for carefully picked keywords.

A different 2020 prediction says that videos will become a magnet for 75% of all Internet traffic. Get with the times or get crushed by the competition!

3. Mobile-first indexing

2018 was the year when Google finally rolled out their mobile-first index. How does it work? Simply put, websites are now ranked based on the quality of UX they provide on mobile devices. If a site has mobile and desktop versions, the index adds the mobile one; if there’s only the desktop version, it gets indexed the same as normal.

What does this tell us? You need to master mobile SEO! You must have a mobile-friendly version of your site, or else Google will index something you can’t show to mobile users. And a large chunk of traffic will go right past you.

4. Quality content development

Content is king, and high-quality content opens the path to high Google rankings; this is common knowledge. But what exactly does it mean? What kind of content counts as “high-quality”?

It’s actually pretty easy once you remember who the content is meant for: users. When they do a Google search, they hope to find something that will satisfy their needs 100% and then some more. When you take the users’ search intent into account, you can prepare a piece of content that does exactly that. The Internet will be dominated by people who are the best at getting into their audience’s mindset.

5. Protection of user data

Online security is a huge deal – and fortunately, the powers that be are taking it seriously. Earlier this year, the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation which entitles users to more control over their private information that’s used by sites. While it certainly works towards making user data safer, there are still many vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious third parties. It’s too early to celebrate just yet!

2019 will undoubtedly present us with more data protection initiatives, as well as more ways to make our online experience more secure.

6. Seamless user experience

The user experience on a website can make or break a deal of any magnitude. Therefore, business owners who would prefer to keep making a profit with their sites will do their best to guarantee a silky smooth UX. That means an easy-to-understand, intuitive design, a low page load time, and absolutely no technical issues.

A website gives a better impression of a business than any advertisement. Never let your most powerful assets tarnish your reputation.

7. Blockchain for SEO

Blockchain technology has uses in making the Internet more secure, which is why it’s been getting more popular lately. Webmasters are looking for ways to integrate it into their sites and potentially profit from it. It is expected that blockchain can also be used in SEO for things like validating backlinks.

The exact effect blockchain is going to have on SEO is not clear yet, but enthusiastic webmasters are already carrying out their experiments. We may see the fruits of their labor in 2019.

8. Influencer marketing

It’s always great to have someone important vouch for you. Especially in business, where there’s so much competition and you want people to know at least that you are here for them. What tricks do companies use to get an advantage? There are too many to list, but one of the most trending ones is to involve an influencer in your marketing campaign.

To do that, you need to connect with an influencer first. Fortunately, pretty much all of them use social media, so it’s only a matter of finding a way to get their approval of what you do. Did you know that 99% of all influencers spend their time on Instagram? There’s your easiest chance to connect with a few.

9. Long and in-depth content

Everyone can agree that the more time users spend on your website, the better. Long content obviously takes more time to consume, which makes it seem like the ideal solution. In reality, size doesn’t matter. Or rather, you can’t expect users to be satisfied with size alone.

And yet the websites ranking on the first page of Google tend to have over 2000 words. If their secret is not the length of their content, that logically leaves its depth and quality. Content that is not just long, but also engaging keeps its status as the page one ranking winner even in 2019.

10. Artificial intelligence

AI technology has massive potential. It’s little wonder businesses are actively looking for ways to use it in their work. The same goes for Google, and if (or rather when) they figure out how to make it work, it will inevitably affect SEO.

As an example of how artificial intelligence could be integrated into Google’s ranking algorithm, it can be used to more effectively sniff out websites practicing black-hat SEO.

SEO trends 2019: infographic

Machine vs. man: What really matters for SEO success

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

Changes to the core concepts of quality and authority over the past year have altered the course of SEO forever, with Google both improving algorithms and increasingly relying on human “quality raters.”

Old methods of dynamically generating content and other quick hacks no longer result in long-term, sustainable SEO performance.

Gone are the days of low-quality ghostwriting as a means of rapidly producing new blog articles for the sake of “content freshness.” Additionally, SEOs can no longer rely upon re-purposing information otherwise found online (especially without citing one’s sources) as an effective and sustainable content strategy.

To succeed in this new landscape, SEOs must learn how Google has changed the rules regarding content quality and authority and what steps website owners must take to ensure they’re seen as trustworthy.

What are the biggest changes in how sites are evaluated and ranked that you’ve seen over the past year?

2019 was the year when Google turned up the dial on analyzing the quality and trustworthiness of web pages and domains. In previous years, making small tweaks to well-known ranking factors (such as adjusting title tags or adding new internal links) could have been enough to see an improvement in SEO performance, even if the website wasn’t known as an authority on the subject being written about.

Those types of quick on-page optimization tactics are no longer sufficient to obtain top positions in the search results, especially if the website contains other issues related to quality and trust. Google is now honing in on the reputation and credibility of both the website itself, as well as the creators who contribute to its content. It has also placed great importance on user experience, such as by rolling out several updates related to page speed and switching to mobile-first indexing.

What steps do you take when one of your clients has had a huge traffic drop due to an algorithm change?

We start by looking at both on- and off-site issues related to quality and trust when a client has been hit. We analyze which pages were hit or whether the effect was site-wide, to see if a certain section of the site contains E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) issues or if the entire domain’s authority was called into question. We take a close look at the content on affected pages compared to that of our competitors. Does it adequately answer the search query with the appropriate vocabulary, citations and page structure?

Doing a “site:” search is another step we take when gauging the current organic footprint of a site; it’s common to find many thin, duplicate, or low-quality pages in the index that could benefit from being merged or removed. Another good tactic (which is actually suggested by Google) is to look up reviews of the content creator or the website itself, while excluding results pulled from the website in question. There may be external issues related to the client’s trustworthiness that need to be resolved.

How closely should people be following the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines?

Our SEO team has a printed-out copy of the 2019 Search Quality Rater Guidelines on our bookshelf, which we often dive into when analyzing an affected site or whenever else we have questions about how Google defines “high quality” content. While we are fully aware that Google has stated that many of the recommendations in the guidelines are not current ranking factors, we know these are good long-term marketing strategies that Google teams will work to build into future evolutions of the search algorithm.

Furthermore, we have already seen ample evidence in recent months that the algorithm has made great improvements in learning how to behave like a human being when analyzing website quality. And although it may be obvious to most SEOs by now, the updated guidelines clearly state that old-fashioned SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, auto-generating content or writing low-quality blog articles for the sake of churning out new content are not sustainable strategies to produce good results in the future.

How much impact are artificial intelligence and machine learning having on ranking algorithms?

I think a lot of what we have seen in recent months with algorithm updates stems from Google’s rapid advancements in machine learning. When Ben Gomes of Google said the rater guidelines are “where we want the search algorithm to go,” he confirmed that humans continue to be the best judge of what is high-quality and what is not (for now at least), but there is still work to do for the algorithms to catch up with human judgment.

Machine learning makes that process much quicker and more scalable than it has ever been before. But when we see major fluctuations in search, as we have in the past six months with sites drastically rising and falling after each algorithm update, it’s a good indication that sometimes the algorithms can miss the mark and still have a lot of work to do.

What kind of changes are you anticipating for the coming year?

By focusing so much on the reputation of the website and the creators of the content — especially for YMYL (Your Money Or Your Life) sites — Google has made it hard to rank well with mediocre content or lack of expertise. Ranking in 2019 will require more time and effort than ever before, because short-term hacks won’t lead to sustained SEO success.

I believe that companies and individuals who are focused on their search presence should keep a close eye on their online reputations and take steps to address anything that may bring their credibility or trustworthiness into question. This includes actually listening to their customers and addressing their concerns across different platforms. It includes not overwhelming customers with calls to action or advertisements. It also includes providing easy ways for customers to get in touch with them when customers have a problem and incorporating that feedback into how they operate their business.

These are not easy things to achieve; digital brands must be all-hands-on-deck to build and maintain long-term organic visibility. But these are also the things human searchers evaluate as they make informed consumer decisions, and search engines are quickly catching up to humans in their ability to emulate those evaluation processes.

SEO is Dead: Long Live OC/DC

By | Networking Bizz SEO News

This may come as a surprise to many since I am the resident SEO guy at networkingbizz and very active in the SEO community.

But for the past two years I have felt that the entire concept of SEO, while an important part of online marketing, had a very “spammy” connotation.

The term too often aligns our work with unprofessional practices like link buying and web spamming for article placement.

And with the recent issues around the SEO effort of Rap Genius, and the resulting negative impressions about SEO with the wider public, I have made it my mission for 2014 to eradicate the term SEO once and for all.

Yes, SEO is officially dead. Not the practice, but the term.

But what term should take its place?

One that more accurately defines what people really mean when they say “SEO.”

So … what do we really mean when we say “SEO”?

Talk with any professional expert in SEO and you will quickly find they rarely just spend time optimizing a site for a search engine.

In fact, most people who started out as SEO experts have morphed their services over the years to encompass the full spectrum of content marketing activity.

Make no mistake: legitimate SEO tactics still matter today as part of any content marketing campaign.

The problem is that the terms themselves — SEO and search optimization — are used when discussing what is actually the broader strategy of content marketing.

Introducing “OC/DC” — the replacement for SEO

What people really mean when they say “SEO” is the idea of optimizing content for discovery and conversion across a wide spectrum of the web … not just search engines.

Think about it: When you optimize your site, is it just so that it will rank in Google … or are your goals wider than that?

Absolutely, for many sites, traffic from Google is important. But sites get traffic from a variety of sources — social media, related blogs, and so forth.

Are search engines the only source of valuable traffic? Of course not. Yet we still call the tactics of optimizing for organic traffic “SEO.”

Silly isn’t it?

Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, or “OC/DC” for short, encapsulates this idea of amplifying the overall reach and results of content creation.

OC/DC defines a new role for the former SEO activities, broadening the scope and applicability to what a professional online marketer actually does.

The real rock stars of search optimization have always known that it took a lot more than just getting the top result in Google to measure the success of their work.

Now is the time for OC/DC to replace SEO in the online marketing lexicon … and leave the spammers and link buyers in the dustbin of history.

How should OC/DC be defined?

OC/DC can be thought of as two distinct areas of focus:

  1. External optimization
  2. On-site optimization

External optimization refers to traffic generated to your site, and the research and refinement necessary to improve its quantity and quality.

The external part of OC/DC includes numerous traffic sources — search engines, social media sites, blogs, as well as aggregation sites like Slideshare.net and content syndication sources like Business Insider.

On-site optimization makes the most of these external efforts. This matters because improving the quantity and quality of your traffic only helps you if visitors take the action you want when they find your site.

Load times, usefulness of content, responsive design, and ease of conversion are all encompassed within the on-site portion of OC/DC.

Once you understand the breadth of what OC/DC entails, it is easy to see how it plays a crucial role in the execution of a smart content marketing strategy.

Here’s what OC/DC looks like in practice

Armed with this new and better concept, how can we apply it to our online marketing?

Below are six tactics you can implement right now as part of your effort to optimize content discovery and conversion.

1. Improve content symmetry

All pieces of content on your site should work seamlessly together.

If you have been active in creating content, this may be a good time to stop and re-edit your existing content.

For example …

  • Edit headlines — We talk a lot about the importance of headlines, so it may not come as a surprise that we routinely edit published headlines . If you have under-performing articles, take some time to rethink and optimize your existing headlines. (And grab this handy tool for when you do.)
  • Review in-links — More than likely, your earlier published content doesn’t link to the latest articles you have been publishing. Take a look through your early articles that are drawing the most traffic, and find ways to link from that content to your best recent work. (Remember: time on site matters for conversion, so the more links to other internal resources, the better to keep the user on-site.)
  • Improve calls to action — Who cares if you are getting a lot of visitors if those visitors don’t take the actions you want? Take a hard look at the way you are including your calls to action. Test different wording and designs for improved conversion.
  • Convert list posts into individual posts — The numbered listis a tried and true format for drawing more traffic. If you’re looking for new content ideas, consider mining your successful list posts, breaking them down and expanding them into new individual posts, and using internal links to stitch them together.
  • Revamp keywords — The Google Hummingbird update placed a new emphasis on the context of keywords within your content. Once again, spend some time reviewing your old posts, then use a tool like Scribe to make sure you are doing a good job of building out the keyword context across your site.

2. Consider mobile responsive design a requirement

Web traffic from mobile devices keeps growing.

If your site is not properly rendering for the myriad mobile devices out there, then you are severely limiting your OC/DC efforts.

Luckily, there are many pain-free ways to optimize a site for mobile devices. Using the Rainmaker Platform is one of them. StudioPress also has lots of mobile responsive designs that work beautifully for WordPress.

3. Target a 3-second load time (max)

OC/DC practitioners appreciate the fact that a site loading slowly equals the loss of business.

If you are using WordPress, consider a fast, secure, reliable managed hosting provider.

Of equal importance is the code that is running on the server.

Spend time reviewing the loading of your site using tools like WebPageTest.org and find ways to optimize your page loads.

4. Repurpose your existing content

One of my favorite sites to visit networkingbizz is Business Insider. A tactic they use is to republish existing content from other sites directly on the Business Insider site.

No, they are not stealing the content. And no, search engines do not penalize Business Insider or the original publisher for duplicate content.

What Business Insider is doing, as well as a lot of other sites, is reposting existing content from reputable sites and using the “rel=canonical” meta tag to link back to the original post (with permission of course).

For example, check out this post at Business Insider by Belle Beth Cooper from Buffer.

If you look at the source code of the page, you will quickly see that the content originally appeared on the Buffer blog.

By syndicating its existing content to other sites, Buffer can increase its exposure online … while sites like Business Insider can serve more content to their visitors.

It’s a win-win strategy for all involved.

So if you have posts that have done well, don’t be afraid to find sites that would be willing to syndicate the content using the “rel=canonical” tag.

This is a simple tactic for optimizing content discovery if your site has authority.

5. Create your own research

Here is a unique idea to become a real rock star with OC/DC.

Most sites love to publish original research reports within their industry. In the past, creating a research report would take a lot of time and money.

However, with services from Google and SurveyMonkey, creating a research report is much simpler.

The trick is how you publish the data.

Once you have your survey completed and some basic analysis done, you can repurpose that research in a variety of ways:

  • Downloadable report from your site
  • Infographic highlighting the key data points
  • Presentation deck uploaded to sites like SlideShare.net
  • Narrated presentation deck on YouTube
  • Webinar discussing the results of the analysis
  • Press release detailing the analysis
  • Guest posts on the results of the research
  • In-person speaking opportunities to present the data

For an expenditure of a few hundred dollars, you have at least eight ways to generate content … from just one piece of research.

That is true optimization of content discovery.

OC/DC is here to stay

I hope you will join me in my crusade to remove the scourge of online marketing — the term “SEO” — from our lexicon.

SEO not only has a negative connotation, it is too often used inaccurately to explain a wide breadth of services and tactics that have nothing to do with search engines.

Optimizing Content for Discovery and Conversion, OC/DC, is a more accurate term, describing exactly what a content marketing strategy must encompass to be successful.

So … if you are a reformed SEO practitioner like me, join our cause and rock on with OC/DC!

Embracing automation and maximizing SEO performance

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

Intelligent automation allows SEOs to schedule tasks and immediately activate data to inform smarter optimizations.

Automation is critical in making informed, data-driven decisions in a world in which the amount of data companies are attempting to manage is unprecedented. But we’re at the point now where, as marketers have attempted to automate various tasks, many are struggling with unwieldy stacks of different technologies all vying for resources and budget.

If you or your clients are spending more time trying to find workarounds for your tech than putting insights to work, money is being left on the table. As creative marketers with technical and analytical skills, SEOs are in a great position to lead the creation and implementation of automation strategies companies now need to succeed.

Automation and the customer experience

Automation in your SEO and content process can create efficiencies and ease the burden of redundant tasks, but we’ve evolved so far past that (and quickly). Today, automation alone is not enough. SEOs must automate intelligently — not only to complete tasks but to analyze data and make decisions about which tasks to prioritize (and how to carry them out), as well.

AI is enabling the collection and analysis of datasets we simply cannot get through on our own. Layers of natural language processing and machine learning enable smarter optimizations driven by predictive analytics, pattern recognition, and evidence-based learning.

Source: Search & the Customer Experience: Utilizing AI to Drive Continuous Performance

Site audits, competitive analysis, monitoring rankings and other SEO tasks are made easier and more efficient with automation. But are you ready to take the next steps?

AI is already reshaping content marketing, all the way from ideation, planning and optimized content creation through to promotion to specific market segments. This isn’t new technology; in fact, the Associated Press has been using artificial intelligence to write business news since 2014 (and even then, the program could churn out 2,000 articles per second). We’re now at the point where automation can help identify new revenue opportunities and make recommendations on content topics, attributes, optimizations, strategic CTAs and more.

Intelligent automation also allows SEOs to schedule tasks and immediately activate data, to inform smarter optimizations. You can target specific content to searchers who interact with your chatbot, for example, depending on what led them to the interaction in the first place.

Automation – Data analysts, real-time research, content and communications

Intelligent automation is giving SEOs greater insight into – and control over – how search optimizations impact customer experience throughout every stage of the journey. Now, the insights gleaned from the real-time analysis of customer interactions can help shape every aspect of the customer experience, from discovery to conversion.

Source: PWC

How AI is driving superior search performance

Google’s dedication to AI is resulting in far more interactive search results that speak directly to searcher intent, as in these three similar queries that each produces different results:

Google is using taller organic cards, the local three-pack, Quick Answers, images and video, carousels, site links and dozens of other enhanced results to better answer searchers’ needs. The algorithm is listening to searcher cues and constantly learning to bring back the most relevant result. More and more often, that result will answer the need in such a way that the searcher doesn’t even need to click through to learn more. This is Google’s RankBrain technology at work.

Last year, research by BrightEdge (my company) revealed that 80-plus percent of queries return universal search results. Optimizing, structuring and marking up your content to show Google its relevance for queries of varying intents helps increase your visibility when and where it matters most. At the same time, you’re providing more compelling content and may even convert searches to sales without the consumer ever having visited your site.

SEO is moving further away from the static website; what you are optimizing for spans the entire search-based experience. And as Google’s ability to determine intent continuously improves, SEOs and marketers need to keep pace with AI and automation to stay on top and produce properly structured content.

  • Optimize for voice search. Use a more conversational tone in your content and incorporate longer-tail keywords. Applying a question and answer format to some content can help you rank in Instant Answers and as the best voice response. Be sure to apply proper schema markup, too. Read how visual and voice search are revitalizing the role of SEO for more.
  • Enable voice search on-site, where possible. Incorporate speech recognition in your app or on-site, if possible. You can extend the same hands-free convenience that delivered a searcher to your site by enabling some voice-free functionality.
  • Make good use of descriptive text. While many of your audience members crave visual imagery and video, some will not be able to render, watch or hear this content. AI can help in the creation of descriptive text and also with categorizing all kinds of content to improve both your accessibility and SEO.
  • Use intelligent automation to complement your skills. It’s important to understand that automation can’t ever entirely replace the creative and the strategist—they will continue to decide which technology to apply, and where. However, the Intelligent use of automation will help you do your job more effectively, so you can focus on more important and higher impact tasks.
  • Monitor regularly for new opportunities. Google is constantly testing and launching new features in the SERPs. It’s not a static space, and you cannot afford to sit still. Use automation to regularly analyze your search presence, as well as that of your most important competitors. Ensure that you have properly formatted, optimized and marked up content in place to take advantage of new SERPs features.

Embracing automation will be increasingly important to your ability to scale and succeed in all facets of digital. If you’re just getting started, try automating time-consuming, repetitive tasks like keyword research, data visualization, reporting, data collection, SERP similarity comparisons, testing JS rendering, generating content ideas, link building and technical auditing.

Next, look to AI to begin simplifying complex decision-making and prioritizing your SEO and content efforts, all with improved consumer experience in mind. SEOs who can embrace automation are making great strides in positioning themselves as the digital marketing leaders of tomorrow.

SIGNS THAT YOU SHOULD NOT OPEN A SHOPIFY STORE

By | Networking Bizz Business advice

Let me be clear – this article isn’t about Shopify.  I believe that Shopify is the no-brainer eCommerce solution for any small or medium business.  This article is about YOU or YOUR BUSINESS.

I’m a Shopify Expert that is focused on small and medium-sized businesses.  As such, I talk to a lot of owners of eCommerce (or prospective eCommerce) businesses.  Through those many conversations and interactions, I’ve been able to see what things lead to a successful store and business and those that don’t.  So I thought it would be useful to discuss those things that I’ve seen that tend to lead to failure.

My hope with this blog post is not to dissuade you from creating your own online business.  My goal is to warn you about common pitfalls that eCommerce stores experience so that you can avoid them.  This article assumes you are new, small store that is run by one to three people.  So here are the common pitfalls in no particular order:

1. THE PRODUCT IS NOT UNIQUE.

In today’s industrialized world, it is very easy to make a commodity product, say a t-shirt.  And there are massive company’s out there that operate on efficiencies of scale that can make a t-shirt cheaper and more reliably than a small company can.

So, a small company’s t-shirt must be different.  Maybe it has a unique design.  Or its made of highly sustainable bamboo fabric.  Or something else unique.  Think of successful brands on Shopify.  One thing they have in common – product differentiation.

2. YOU THINK THAT MORE FUNCTIONALITY IN THE STORE IS THE SOLUTION.

To over-simplify, there are four areas an eCommerce business’ efforts fall into:

– Product development – identifying product/market fit and creating a unique product.
– Infrastructure – website, payment processing, design, etc.
– Operations – fulfillment, accounting, inventory, etc.
– Marketing – customer acquisition, social, direct, advertising, etc.

Of these things, the infrastructure is actually the easiest.  There’s a whole army of Shopify Experts out there that can build just about anything for your store.  All too often, I see store owners that are way too focused on building more functionality into their stores when I believe that they should instead be building customer acquisition channels.

Let me illustrate with some math.  Let’s say a store has a conversion rate of 2% (which I consider to be a good rate) and 100 sales per month.  My recommendation to that store is to focus on doubling the traffic to the store (which should double sales to 200/month).  But some stores instead spend that effort on increasing the conversion rate, which if they get to a great conversion rate (over 3%) will result in 1 extra sale per month.

3. YOU ARE NOT A PROBLEM SOLVER.

One oversimplification of the world says that there are two types of people – problem finders and problem solvers.  To be a successful store, you are going to need to be a problem solver.  With little or zero staff besides yourself, you are going to need to find solutions to a wide, wide variety of things.  From defining the brand to determining pricing to paying business taxes.  There’s always something that needs a solution.  Successful store owners are able to cross things off of their to-do list.

4. YOU THINK THAT MARKETING IS UNIMPORTANT.

The hardest part of building a new e-commerce business is acquiring customers.  Having a great product and building an engaging website do nothing to bring people to it.  Customer acquisition is a never-ending process of trial and error across a wide range of sources like advertising, organic search, social, influencers, press, etc.

To be successful, an online store needs to execute well on driving traffic to the store.  Hence the need for marketing.

5. YOU REFUSE TO SPEND MONEY ON ADVERTISING.

It is possible to have a successful online store without paying for advertising, but those stores are very rare exceptions.

I’ve worked with many stores that have a small flow of customers from non-advertising sources.  They even have decent conversion rates.  But to grow their business, they need paid advertising.

Many stores hesitate with advertising because their pricing model doesn’t support it.  An ad campaign is going to cost 25-33% of the revenue it brings in (that’s if it is executed well).  So the product margins need to support that level of spending.

6. YOU READ THE 4 HOUR WORK WEEK.

This book (which is a great book BTW) was written in 2007, which at the time that I’m writing this article is 11 years ago.  And that 11 years is the point.  The internet and more specifically eCommerce has changed drastically since then.  In 2007, setting up a website that could collect payments was much harder than it is today.  In 2007, reselling products (alternatively known as dropshipping) was much harder than it is today.  Today, you can create a fully functioning store with a product catalog of 1,000s of items that looks professional in less than a day.

So, if your business model is going to be to sell thousands of widgets from Alibaba in your generic Shopify store, you will not succeed.  Hopefully reading this full article will explain why I believe that.

7. YOU THINK THAT YOU WON’T NEED TO BE HANDS ON.

Again, the store that runs itself concept from 2007 has faded.  Today’s successful store owners are constantly:

  • Innovating on their product
  • Exploring new distribution channels
  • Managing advertising campaigns
  • Building press and industry relationships
  • Tweaking their conversion funnels

Your business is going to need constant care and feeding.

8. YOU WON’T TALK ABOUT YOURSELF OR POST A PHOTO OF YOURSELF.

For a new, small online business, the old adage that ‘people buy from people’ is very true.  One of the ways that your store will differentiate itself from Amazon, Walmart, and the Chinese manufacturers is that it is not a global corporation.  Instead, it is run by real people with real names.  You MUST leverage this advantage over the bigger players.  Your About Us page should detail the PEOPLE at the company, not the product or mission.  You will need to be confident, willing to talk about yourself and post your photo.

Many people say they are too shy or too humble to do this.  My response is that they are then too shy or too humble to succeed.  Remember ‘fortune favors the bold.’

The best way to get more comfortable in front of a camera or by talking about yourself is to just do it.  If you look at videos of a stand-up comedian over their career, you’ll see their comfort on stage grow over time.  Same is true for bands in their music videos.  Or any other field.  Most people aren’t naturals in this role.  But most people can learn to appear natural in this role.

9. YOU DON’T RESPECT YOUR CUSTOMERS.

Again, ‘people buy from people’.  Your customers will want to connect with you at a personal or emotional level.  If you don’t respect your customers, it will come through.  Your customer service will be poor, you won’t understand your customer’s buying process, or some other aspect of your relationship with your customers will falter.

This lack of respect can come from a couple of different angles.  In the first, you just don’t agree with your customers.  Say you hate the color red but open a store where everything is red.  (Purposely using a stupid example to avoid the very polarizing example of republican/democrat.)

Another way I’ve seen this play out is if the store owner that believes they are the prototypical customer for their product and build it just to satisfy themselves.  They don’t listen to their customers needs and the business falls short.

10. YOU AREN’T DATA-DRIVEN.

It’s a numbers game.  If I could only have one metric for a new store, that metric would be Conversion Rate.  All effort should be focused on improving the conversion rate.  And if you’re not looking at the numbers, then you don’t really know what is working and what is not.

For my clients, I create weekly scorecards in Google Analytics (GA) and have them mailed to the team every Monday morning.  I also create reports from GA data that show the important metrics in a daily timeline and add that report directly into their Shopify store.  The reason for this is that one way to help a team become data-driven is to push the data on regular basis and make it as easy as possible to access the data.

Signs you are not data-driven include:

  • Do things just because your competitors do them.
  • Not having Google Analytics in your store (it’s free).
  • Not looking at the same set of metrics on a regular basis.
  • Not comparing the data before and after significant efforts/changes.

11. YOU DON’T CREATE CONTENT.

There are many ways that consumers make purchase decisions.  Some look at the price.  Some want to see reviews.  Some want scientific research.  Some want to see the product in action.  Some want to know who they are buying from.  There’s not just one way to sell your product.  You will need to give different customers different information to lead them down the conversion funnel.

As such, you will need to create different types of content in order to satisfy the different needs.  You’ll need to be able to produce product description, general copy, product and lifestyle photography, user manuals, videos, illustrations and more.

A simple product photo and a price won’t be enough to sell your product (unless you are selling $100 bills for $10).

Successful store owners think nothing of creating a new landing page for a new ad campaign and optimizing the copy and photography on that page for the intended audience.

12.  YOU ARE PART-TIME ON THIS.

Building an online business is very hard.  And it takes a ton of effort.  It is a never-ending to-do listing.  If your efforts are part-time, you’ll not be able to keep pace with the competition.

13. YOU ARE A ‘BIG-PICTURE’ PERSON.

Let’s assume that you already have product/market fit figured out.  The bulk of the work remaining to make the store successful is execution.  That takes someone that is heads-down, focused, meticulous and gets things done.

Let me put it another way.  Let’s say a certain store owner is a ‘genius’ at brand image.  They go out to the press and razzle and dazzle them.  They generate a bunch of hype and create demand that then turns into orders.  Well now, those orders must be delivered or all of that brand building will be for not.

14. YOU ARE GOING TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF.

As your business grows, you are going to need to delegate tasks to others.  Either to free up your time to focus on activities with high return.  Or because your business needs a level of expertise that you do not have.

15. YOU ARE A ‘PERFECTIONIST.’

Reid Hoffman (the man who sold LinkedIn to Microsoft for 30 billion) says “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

And I agree.  One will learn much more from how consumers interact with the site and products than they will by hypothesizing how the consumers may interact.  I’m a big proponent of shipping website changes quickly to see the consumer response.

In other words, the speed of e-commerce doesn’t allow you to everything perfectly.  You must be comfortable with good enough.  To understand more, read about Minimal Viable Products or MVPs.

16. THERE IS NO PRODUCT/MARKET FIT.

There are some product ideas that sound crazy, but in the end are just brilliant.  For example, if you told someone in 1970 that bottled water would be a $7 billion business in 2018, they would have laughed at you.  And they would have been wrong.  (The plastic used in water bottles was invented in 1973 which changed the game.)

But then there are other product ideas that sound crazy, and in the end, are crazy (or at least just not a good business).

It is important that you are selling a product at enough of a margin that enough people want to create your desired revenue stream.  I’m amazed at some of the just plain bad ideas I see.

17. YOU DON’T HAVE GOOD BUSINESS SENSE.

You’ve probably noticed that some of the things I’ve said above directly conflict with other things I’ve said.  And if you ask 5 ‘experts’ about your business, you’ll probably get 5 sets of differing advice.  A successful store owner is going to know their space better than anyone.  They are going to able to look at the data, listen to their customers, watch the industry and competitors, listen to advice, and from all of that information make the best choices for their business.  In other words, you need to be the decision maker for your business.  And to do that, you’ll need good business sense.

CONCLUSION

For every one of the ‘rules’ above, you can find an exception.  Someone or some business that succeeded despite defying one or more of these rules.  While there are always exceptions, that doesn’t mean that rules don’t apply.  That said though, these rules are only my opinion.  Hopefully, they give you insight into common pitfalls that other stores have been caught by.  For you to be successful, you’ll need to know your business, products, customers, competitors, etc so well that you’ll know when to follow the rules and when to follow your expert opinion.

51% of web site hacks related to SEO spam

By | Networking Bizz SEO News

report released by Sucuri states that over half of sites hacked in 2018 were done so for SEO reasons. These hacks target web sites in order to try to manipulate the success of a site’s SEO campaign and boost its rankings in Google, Bing or other search engines.

The report shows that 51.3 percent of all infection cases in 2018 were related to SEO spam campaigns, which is up 7.3 percent from the previous year, making it one of the fastest growing families of hacks in the past year. The “SEO Spam family” as Sucuri defines it “is comprised of attacks that specifically target the manipulation of search engine optimization.”

The growth. Year-over-year, SEO related hacks grew 7.3 percent, this is up from up from 44 percent in 2017. The blue line in the chart below shows the growth of spam attacks over the past year by quarter, which includes SEO spam, backdoor and malware injections:

Hard to detect. The security company said this form of hacking extremely hard to detect. “They are difficult to detect and have a strong economic engine driven by impression-based affiliate marketing,” per the report.

Search Engine Poisoning. The most use method is what is called “Search Engine Poisoning (SEP)” attacks. This is where attackers attempts to abuse a site rankings in the search results in order to monetize the site. It typically occurs via PHP, database injections, or .htaccess redirects.

“Websites impacted by SEO attacks often become infected with spam content or redirect visitors to spam-specific pages. Unwanted content is regularly found in the form of pharmaceutical ad placements but may also include injected content for other popular industries like fashion or entertainment (i.e. pornographic material, essay writing, fashion brands, loans, and online gambling),” the report explained.

Why you should care. It may be that your web site is hacked and you don’t even know it. Google is pretty good at notifying site owners of potential hacks via Google Search Console, so verifying your property with Search Console is a first step. Bing Web Master Tools has similar notifications.  In addition, it is recommended you keep your web site up-to-date and on the latest security patches to reduce the chance of your site getting hacked.

If your site is hacked, it can not only hurt your rankings in search, but it can potentially hurt your web site visitors.

The technical SEO hierarchy of needs!!

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques
Use the hierarchy of your site's technical SEO needs to understand its technical growth and actualization — and uncover what to do next to improve it.

What makes a site become the best site it can be? Healthy, functional sites that have reached their full SEO potential have been optimized based on market and keyword research, E-A-T, content relevance to search intent, backlink profiles, and more. But they all have one thing in common: their technical SEO needs are met.

Your site’s technical SEO needs form a hierarchy. If needs lower in the hierarchy aren’t met, needs on the next level are difficult to fulfill. Each level responds to a different requirement in the world of search engines: crawlability, indexability, accessibility, rankability, and clickability.

Understanding what each level of the pyramid involves helps make technical SEO look less intimidating without oversimplifying its role in making a website great.

 

The foundations of technical SEO: crawlability

At the foundation of the pyramid of technical SEO needs is a URL’s crawlability.

Crawlability concerns a URL’s ability to be discovered by search engine bots. URLs that are not crawlable might still be accessible to users navigating your website, but because they are invisible to bots, they can’t appear in search results.

Crawlable URLs, therefore, are:

  • Known to search engines. Search engines discover URLs by crawling links and reading sitemaps.
  • Not forbidden to bots. Most search engine bots will respect meta robots instructions and directives in a robots.txt file that ask them not to crawl certain pages or directories.
  • Covered by the website’s crawl budget. Less commonly, the “budget” accorded by Google’s algorithms is spent on other parts of a site, causing delays or problems in getting a specific URL crawled.

The first step in a technical SEO audit, for example, is to uncover pages that can’t be indexed, and why. Sometimes this is intentional, and sometimes it’s an error and a quick win for SEO.

Similarly, while crawl budget may seem esoteric and difficult to quantify, the basic principle is that when the cost of crawling is optimized and when priority pages are presented first, more traffic can be gained through search engines. Technical SEO uses how pages are discovered and prioritized to promote better crawling; it leverages historical data for crawl frequency and past situations that provoke increased crawling activity to improve current crawl rates.

Newly crawled pages distribution by page groups. The ‘Other’ grey category being the garbage category. A lot of crawl budget has been wasted crawling those pages. Source: OnCrawl.

Indexability

Just above crawlability in the hierarchy of technical SEO needs is indexability.

Indexable URLs are URLs that a search engine can include in a catalog of pages that are available to be presented in search results pages. Even when a URL has been crawled, various properties can prevent it from being added to the index.

In the most straightforward situations, pages can be prevented from being indexed by meta robots and robots.txt directives.

State of indexability by strategic groups of pages. Source: OnCrawl

But Google also chooses not to index pages when a more authoritative version exists for the same content. This is the case when a bot discovers the following elements:

  • Duplicate content.
  • Canonical declarations.
  • Alternate versions such as printable pages or mobile pages. (In the current move to a mobile-first index, mobile versions are indexed instead of desktop versions.)
    To ensure that the right pages can be indexed, technical SEO verifies that these elements are correctly set up and that they apply to the correct pages.

    Accessibility and website performance

    An accessible URL is easy to display or render.

    A URL that is both crawlable and indexable might still be inaccessible at the moment when a search engine’s bot attempts to crawl it. Pages and sites that rank but that have persistent accessibility problems are often penalized in the search results.

    Accessibility for bots — and for users — covers a broad range of related topics:

    • Server performance.
    • HTTP status.
    • Load time/page size.
    • JavaScript rendering.
    • Page depth in the site architecture.
    • Orphan pages.
    • Website resistance to spam and hacking.

      The goal is to discover the threshold at which accessibility and performance metrics negatively impact SEO performance, and to ensure that all pages of a website meet at least that minimum level. Technical SEO, therefore, uses tools to measure anything from server downtime or HTTP status served to bots and users, to the size of resources (CSS, JS, images…) transferred when a page is requested or load time metrics such as TTFB, FCP, or TTLB.

      Average response time between desktop and mobile bots and resources encountered. Source: OnCrawl

      Technical SEO audits that conclude you need links to certain pages are often working to eliminate underperforming orphan pages and URLs with excessive page depth. Some will include accessibility for users; a page that does not work with a screen reader cannot be used by many users, no matter how great its content or keyword optimization.

      Once accessibility issues have been addressed, we can say that the basic technical SEO needs of a page are met. Without them, page and website SEO suffer. As we continue to move further up the hierarchy of needs, we pass from blocking factors to factors of improvement.

      Rankability: the role of technical SEO in improving positions

      Rankability is the first of the two top levels of the pyramid that deal with optimizations. Instead of forming the foundations of SEO, they are sometimes considered advanced technical SEO.

      Clearly, crawlable, indexable and accessible URLs can rank. Some can even rank well. However, the average URL will rank better with a little help.

      Using links to boost rankings

      Linking, whether internal or external, transfers page importance (and traffic!) from popular pages to less popular pages. This second group profits. Technical SEO strategies will, therefore, examine backlinks to determine the most advantageous profile, or use internal linking structures to promote pages.

      Not only can internal links improve crawl rate (by reinforcing freshness when linking from new or updated content) and conversion (by funneling users towards high-converting and goal pages), but they also transfer page importance and help build content silos, two strategies for improving page rank.

      Distribution of SEO traffic regarding the number of inlinks by page. After 50 inlinks, the activeness of a page is increased. Source: OnCrawl

      Improving positions with semantic optimization

      Content silos, created by interlinking semantically related content, help groups of pages rank better than a single page could. They build both depth and expertise while expanding keyword reach with pages that focus on long-tail keywords and semantically related concepts.

      In some cases, it can also be worthwhile to look at the pertinence of a page with regard to the rest of the site, examine keyword density, number of words, text-to-code ratio, and other factors that can be either red flags or content quality indicators for a given keyword group.

      Clickability: the link between SEO and user behavior

      The final level of technical SEO optimization concerns technical elements that make it more likely for a user to click on your results.

      Because of how search engines present results, this can include earning coveted SERP locations outside of the normal organic results order and enriching your URL listings.

      Content structure, such as lists, tables, and headings, help search engines understand your content and facilitate dynamic creation of featured results, carousels and more.

      Similarly, formal structured data, including Schema.org markup, enhance search listings with rich elements:

      • Breadcrumbs.
      • Star ratings.
      • Product information (price, stock…).
      • Event information (date, location…).
      • Recipe information (thumbnail, rating, preparation time, calories…).
      • Site links to key pages on the same site.
      • Site search from the SERP.

      Likewise, videos and images with appropriate markup have an advantage in image and video search.

      Relevance to search intent and content uniqueness draw users. While these remain abstract concepts, the technical tools to analyze and improve them are emerging. Techniques such as machine learning can be applied to search intent and user click behavior, while content creation aids such as AI are intended to facilitate the creation of new content.

      OnCrawl shows the Impact of rich data on CTR

      In the meantime, technical SEO aims to use technical means to spot and signal potential discrepancies in search intent or duplicate content through similarity analysis.

      Finally, technical SEO analyzes user behavior data combined with website characteristics in order to discover correlations. The objective is to create more of the situations in which your website draws users. This strategy can uncover surprising correlations between page or website structure and user-based metrics like bounce rate, time on site or CTR.

      Implementing technical improvements

      You don’t need a technical background to understand or to meet the critical needs at the bottom of the technical SEO hierarchy.

      If there are issues that keep your site from being crawled, indexed, ranked, or clicked, SEO efforts in other areas won’t be as effective. Spotting and resolving these issues is the role of technical SEO. Solutions like OnCrawl will help you understand where to start with actionable dashboards and reports combining your content, log files and search data at scale.

SEO Website Audit: Website Need One?

By | Networking Bizz SEO News

Do you really need an SEO website audit?

It’s amazing how many businesses put their heart, souls and (often) a lot of money into creating a website but then neglect to monitor how it’s performing, especially when it’s been established for a while.

This means that issues such as broken links, slow page loading times, duplicate content, and missing meta data can all go unnoticed while collectively chipping away at the website’s rankings.

Ask yourself how much you know about your website right now.

  • How many backlinks do you have?
  • Do you know your site’s Domain Authority?
  • Which are the highest domain sites linking back to yours?
  • Are there broken links on your site?
  • Are you using temporary or permanent redirects in the appropriate places?
  • Are you using Schema Markup?
  • Could your URL structure be hurting your SEO efforts?
  • Does every page have a focus keyword and relevant meta data that follows best practice (e.g. right length, call to action, reflecting accurately what the page is about)?
  • Is your site mobile-friendly?

If you’re not able to answer these questions then you probably need an SEO website audit.

In fact, I would always recommend conducting a website audit before you create or make changes to your SEO strategy.

It will help you to form a better picture of what you’re already doing well and where there is room for improvement. You can also hone in on the most critical issues, helping you to prioritise what needs to be done next.

The goals behind an SEO website audit.

It’s crucial to have clear goals behind your SEO website audit and subsequent SEO strategy so you know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

I think the following three goals work well for most businesses:

  1. Increase the targeted organic traffic coming to the website via search engines
  2. Improve the website’s conversion rates, i.e. visitors performing certain actions such as signing up for a free download, filling out an enquiry form or making a purchase
  3. Grow the revenue created by the website

You might also want to add a goal that’s about ranking higher than your local competitors, out-performing them for specific keywords or occupying a niche for which they don’t cater.

What’s covered in an SEO website audit?

As you’re probably aware, the search engines’ algorithms are constantly evolving and being tweaked to return the best search results.

Google, for example, has never published a definitive list of the hundreds of factors that can affect rankings, although – through a process of research, analysis and observation – we can make some sensible assumptions about some of the key ranking signals.

For this reason, SEO professionals may present website audits differently and focus on different factors, depending on what they feel are the most relevant to achieving your goals.

Broadly speaking though, a professional SEO website audit will cover topics/issues such as:

  • Crawl diagnostics
  • Page speed
  • Mobile usability
  • On-site optimisation
  • Off-site optimisation

Let’s take a look at these topics in more detail:

  • Crawl diagnostics

Could there be any issues that are affecting how search engines are able to crawl some or all pages of your website?

Technical issues such as ‘Page not found’ messages or pages with incorrect redirects can send both users and search engines to the wrong URL, negatively affecting how they interact with your site.

Google has what is known as a ‘Crawl budget’, which it defines as ‘the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl’ on each website. It’s a balancing act between not putting too much strain on your host server and meeting the crawl demand for your site based on how popular it is versus how much stale content you have.

To make the most of the crawl budget allocated to your site, it’s important to make crawling your pages as quick, easy and logical as possible.

Duplicate content is another common issue usually caused by:

  1. Issues with the technical build of the site; or
  2. Physical content that is the same on two or more pages of your site.When, for example, websites can be accessed by https://www.domain.com or https://domain.com (without the www), search engines will see this as two separate versions of the site, unless told otherwise. This means every page could count as duplicate content that may have its rankings penalised as a result.In order to fix duplicate content issues, you’ll need to specify which of the duplicates is the “correct” one.

    There are three main ways to do this:

    1. Setting up a 301 redirect from the “duplicate” page to the original content page
    2. Applying a canonical tag (e.g. rel canonical) to the master versions of each page that you dowant search engines to index
    3. Using the parameter handling tool in Google Search Console.

    A website audit may also explore any design elements of your website that affect the user experience. This could include widgets, plugins, call to action button sizes and positions for mobile users, ad placements, external embedded media, image sizes and other issues.

    • Page speed

    How long does it take for your web pages to load? Are there any that are slower and what is causing this problem?

    The speed at which a web page fully loads can have a massive impact on your web traffic. Google has even confirmed in the past that Site Speed – and, consequently Page Speed – is a ranking signal.

    Pages with slow load times tend to have higher bounce rates and less dwell time. In fact, according to Yoast in April 2017:

    Google’s latest research shows that the chance of a bounce increases 32% when the page load time goes from 1s to 3s. 1s to 5s increases the chance to 90% and if your site takes up to 10s to load, the chance of a bounce increases to 123%.

    Therefore, addressing the issues that affect Page Speed must be a priority. A website audit should help you to identify the issues relevant to your site.

    • Mobile usability

    Google now does what it calls ‘mobile-first indexing’, which means that it crawls the mobile version of your site first, only crawling the desktop version if there isn’t a mobile alternative. This reflects the fact that more and more of us access the web via mobile devices.

    Is your website mobile friendly? Do you have a responsive design or, at the very least, identical mobile and desktop versions of the same site?

    If not, creating a good user experience (UX) for people viewing it on smartphone or tablets should be one of your priorities. A web audit will help you look at issues such as whether:

    • All of the elements of your mobile web page are crawlable and indexable (including images, videos and text)
    • Any of your content is wider than a mobile screen
    • Any of the clickable elements are too close together
    • Your URL structure is mobile friendly
    • Your website theme has been updated to the latest, most mobile-friendly version
    • web pages have good load speeds Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool can give you some top-level information about suggested changes you could make to your site but an in-depth audit is likely to address potential issues in more detail across your whole domain rather than by one URL at a time.
  • On-site optimisation

There are a number of on-site optimisation elements that can make a significant difference to your website’s click through rates from Google and also to how search engines understand the information on each of your web pages.

As I explored in my recent Keyword Research Guide, ideally each web page should have a targeted focus keyword or phrase – often medium-tail – that accurately sums up what the main topic of the page is about.

This target keyword should, if possible, appear in the SEO title for your page, the meta description, the H1 heading, one or more alt tags (only if appropriate) and other H2/H3 etc. heading tags.

Your meta data isn’t just about including the right keywords though. The SEO title should sum up what the page is about and the meta description should act as a call to action, showing the benefits of clicking through from SERPs to the page.

SEO titles and meta descriptions that are missing, too long or too short, or that simply don’t grab the reader’s attention can dent your SEO efforts.

Remember that, more often than not, an SEO title and meta description for one of your web pages will be the first thing that someone ever reads about your business – it’s important to make a good first impression. A website audit can help you find and plug gaps in your meta data.

Using a website audit as your starting point, you may also be able to build up a better picture of your current internal links and how you could develop your internal linking strategy to better tie related content together.

Let’s not forget too that an SEO website audit may include a section about your content quality and strategy. Which are your most successful blog articles? What search terms are people using to find your site? How can you increase the relevance of your content so that it’s more appealing to your audience?

  • Off-site optimisation

Your off-site optimisation is important to your SEO efforts too but sometimes harder to keep tabs on.

Google likes content that is shared because it’s an indication of trust, authority and relevance. Your social media presence and interactions such as likes, shares and retweets can give important signals to Google on this front so many website audits will include a section about social media within an SEO context.

The backlinks that your site gains from third party websites will also affect your rankings. Search engines view them as a vote of confidence so the more respected the source of the backlink is, the better for your site’s domain and page authorities.

A professional SEO website audit may well look at your current external linking strategy, linking domains and ways you can improve your domain authority.

A tailored SEO strategy

The findings of a professional audit typically form the basis of a tailored SEO strategy that highlights your priorities moving forwards. This may be broken down into urgent areas needing attention, new developments and areas for ongoing improvements and monitoring.

One of the many benefits of an SEO website audit is that it gives you tangible evidence upon which to base your SEO strategy. This means you know where to invest your budget rather than just taking a wild stab in the dark about what will work.

Is it possible to do a DIY SEO website audit?

Absolutely.

There are some fantastic free or relatively inexpensive tools available, some of which I’ll link to below.

However, free tools have their limitations. When all is said and done, they’re marketing incentives to entice you to sign up to the provider’s mailing list and maybe invest in paid-for tools or support in the future.

This means that most free tools only provide top-level information or you have to audit your website one URL at a time, which can be time-consuming if you have a site with lots of pages.

SEO specialists have usually invested in powerful auditing tools that let them assess sites of all sizes and purposes. I know here at SEO+, we think nothing of auditing sites of 100,000+ pages because we have the tools that enable us to do this.

If you do want to carry out a DIY website audit, you might like the following tools:

  • Woorank
  • Screaming Frog SEO Spider
  • ContentKing
  • DeepCrawl
  • Oncrawl
  • Website Auditor

Digital ad spending to top traditional for first time

By | Networking Bizz digital marketing
Amazon continues to eat away at the duopoly of Facebook and Google with an increase in share of 8.8 percent.

Digital ad spending in the U.S. will exceed traditional ad spending in 2019, according to a forecast out Wednesday by eMarketer. Much of that share will come from Google and Facebook, with Amazon gaining speed from behind.

The report predicts that digital will make up more than two-thirds of total U.S. media spending by 2023

The numbers. Digital ad spending is forecasted to grow 19 percent to $129.34 billion this year, and will make up more than half (54.2 percent) of total U.S. ad spending. At $87.06 billion, mobile will account for more than two-thirds of that amount.

Amazon’s U.S. ad business will swell more than 50 percent this year and its share of the U.S. digital ad market will increase to 8.8 percent, knocking into the share formerly enjoyed by heavy hitters Google, Facebook, Verizon and Microsoft.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) released revenue numbers earlier this month showing that digital ad revenues rose to $26.2 billion in the third quarter of 2018, capping off what it calls the industry’s “highest-spending first three quarters on record” — a 20.6 percent increase over 2017.

Where are those dollars coming from? From traditional ad spending. Spending share on non-digital advertising is down this year from 51.4 percent to 45.8 percent, led by directories like the Yellow Pages, which are down 19 percent. Spending on traditional print will drop nearly 18 percent and TV ad spending will decline 2.2 percent to $70.83 billion this year, a dip eMarketer attributed to lack of any big elections or sporting events.

Why you should care.  The trend is hard to ignore — advertisers are spending on digital and there’s no sign of them ever going back.

“2018 was a landmark year for U.S. digital advertising,” said Sue Hogan, SVP, research and measurement, IAB. “Brands continued their record-breaking investment in the marketplace in the third quarter.”

Monica Peart, eMarketer forecasting director, said, “the steady shift of consumer attention to digital platforms has hit an inflection point with advertisers, forcing them to now turn to digital to seek the incremental gains in reach and revenues which are disappearing in traditional media advertising.”

SEO RISKS TO TAKE AND SEO RISKS TO AVOID

By | Networking Bizz Advanced SEO Techniques

Many business people have a hard time seeing the value of SEO, and we understand that. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there about search engine optimization, and it can really increase the difficulty of this decision.

While an effective SEO strategy will take many months to yield positive results for a company, and the tactics may not make sense for non-SEOers, it can make a significant improvement in a company’s online exposure and profits.

Many companies are naturally nervous about trying something out they’re not familiar with, but let’s face it, nearly any business decision is going to carry some risks with it. Some can be avoided, and some can lead to sudden and serious growth.

The question that has to be asked, then, is what SEO risks are worth it, and which should be avoided.

Before we get into it, though, let’s put this out there first: the greatest SEO risk a company can make is to avoid SEO altogether. Everyone got that? Great. Let’s consider a few more.

SEO Risks to Take

Making and Testing Large and Small Changes

The overall goal of SEO is to get traffic and, ultimately, transactions on your website.

Neither of those will happen if nobody clicks on your website in the first place.

So, what if you’re getting your website to rank well for certain keywords, but no one is actually clicking on your link?

There could be any number of reasons for this, and it can take some time to zero in on exactly why it isn’t performing as well as expected.

And the only way to do that is through A/B testing. You’re going to have to take one element at a time, whether that’s the meta descriptions, the titles, the content and more, and test them against new variations.

That’s all well and good and even a little obvious. So what makes it a “risk”?

It will likely take a bit of trial and error to come up with the correct wording and layout combination that results in maximum website traffic and transactions. During this time, you may find a combination that doesn’t work well at all and ends up reducing what traffic you do have – at least for a while.

The risk is worth it, though, because once you find the best results, you’ll be able to focus on that element and continue to drive more traffic and get better returns.

Getting and Giving High-Quality Backlinks

Why would one company feature a link to another company’s website and risk the web user leaving their page?

Backlinks are a well-established part of SEO, and most companies want to get as many of them as they can. They help increase rankings and build authority.

However, it’s not just about being the one with the most links. Sometimes you need to give a little back.

So, yes, you may risk losing a few web visitors by providing a link to other high-quality sites, but at the same time, you’re showing Google that you are using and referencing reliable sites with established authority.

Just keep in mind, webpages that knowingly feature links to low-quality, malicious, spam websites are at risk of getting penalized by Google. You may also get penalized by getting too many links to your site from those poor-quality sites.

Enhancing Your Site’s URL Structure

Ideally, your homepage URL should be short, with only the company name, such as www.yourcompany.com. Short, simple, concise and easily remembered.

Subsequent pages, however, should have targeted keywords and be more specific about the content of the webpage.

Even so, you don’t want to let the URL get out of hand. If they’re too long and descriptive, the search engine will truncate their display with an […] after a cut-off point.

So, it may be time to alter some of your URLs with an overhaul of the site’s structure.

The risk, here, is that any kind of change like this can impact your rankings. As you alter old URLs and 301 redirect traffic to the new ones, you may see some dips in traffic and rankings.

However, if you do it right, you can end up with a streamlined structure that appeals to both search engines and internet users.

Overhauling Your Website

Every once in a while, websites need to get updated and redesigned. Website redesigns can be risky and expensive, not to mention time-consuming.

Eventually, though, your website may need a new facelift. Maybe it just looks extremely outdated. Then again, it may be optimized for search engines, but human users find it difficult to navigate. There could be any number of reasons to take another look at your website and maybe – just maybe – consider reconstructing it from the ground up.

Of course, just like changing the URL structure, these types of changes come with a risk to your rankings as Google tries to re-evaluate your site. For that matter, it comes with the risk of alienating customers who have grown accustomed to your website just the way it is.

Usually, though, Google understands that every website goes through these overhauls every once in a while, so your rankings will usually bounce right back. You just have to be patient. Most of your customers will eventually get used to the changes, too. More importantly, updated your website has a better chance of bringing in many more new clients.

Buy Expired or Available Domains

Some website owners, for whatever reason, don’t renew their domains, making them available for others to buy and use.

Buying some domains with history and redirecting them to your site can potentially be a quick and easy way to increase the number of valuable backlinks adding some link juice to your site.

There are some serious risks with this technique, though, so you should only do so when you know exactly what you’re doing.

The domain, for example, has to be related to your business. It should be professional and legitimate, because if that domain still receives rankings and traffic, those visitors will be redirected to your site, and there is nothing more frustrating than arriving on a site that isn’t at all related to your original search.

Also, expired domains that were filled with spammy content and links will also be transferred over to your website, causing your site to potentially drop in rankings and get penalized by Google.

This tactic, however, is inexpensive and has the potential to drive serious traffic to your site if you follow the best practices.

SEO Risks to Avoid

Now that you have an idea of what SEO risks are worth taking, here are SEO risks that will likely do your business more harm than good:

Poor Doorway Pages (or any doorway pages at all)

Doorway pages are simple and easy to create in batches to target specific keywords and keyword groups. Trustworthy SEOers avoid doorway pages as a rule because Google greatly dislikes them and penalizes sites that use them.

Google’s opinion of such pages should be reason enough for you to avoid this particular risk.

The only time Google will let doorway pages slide is if they offer unique, clear and valuable content and information to the site visitor – in other words, only if it acts just like the regular content on your website.

There is simply no reason to bother with them, so don’t risk it.

Disallowing Neutral Backlinks

You want good backlinks to your website, not bad ones. What about the ones that are neutral, that doesn’t help, yet don’t hurt your website’s ranking and SEO?

Neutral backlinks may not give your website the SEO boost it needs, but they also won’t subject your site to Google’s potentially harsh penalties.

In fact, with Google’s Penguin update, some penalties for bad backlinks because the search engine realized that the websites themselves don’t have control over every site that links to theirs.

As a result, it is harder for a site to be punished by Google for malicious backlinks.

The only way you’ll be able to tell if the backlinks on your website are bad, spammy and low-quality is if you’ve noticed that Google has taken manual action on your site.

If no action has been taken against your website by Google, the backlinks on your website are safe, though they may not be high enough quality to boost your site’s search rankings.

It is possible to disavow certain links, but you need to be careful about it. If you attempt to disavow all your neutral links, you risk potentially blocking sites that can improve your ranking.

Deleting or Condensing Content or Entire Pages

It may seem like no big deal to delete a page from your website, especially if it is about a product or service your company has discontinued.

Once a page is deleted, the keywords it once ranked for are now gone. The same thing happens to the URL of the page, which also includes those page-specific keywords.

Instead of risking the loss of those rankings, consider keeping the webpage even if you’ve discontinued the product. Simply leave a message on the page for the visitor that redirects them to a similar page with a relevant product or service.

If you’re merging or condensing two pages into one, make sure to include 301 redirects on the old URLs to make sure that all the link juice and traffic isn’t lost.

Using Exact Match Keywords in Anchor Text

It may seem logical to have your targeted keyword as the anchor text for a link to your website. After all, you want your site to rank for that keyword or phrase.

This practice was popular for SEOers in the past who had the same logic. Unfortunately, this practice got abused by “black hat” SEOers who used an excessive amount of exact match keyword anchor texts to link to their websites – and the links didn’t exactly come from the most authoritative sites.

Since then, Google has greatly cracked down on this practice and will punish websites who overdo this practice. Don’t risk it. Look for more natural ways to link to your site and develop a more varied backlink portfolio.

Making Too Many “Small” SEO Changes to a Site

Occasionally, it is a good idea to update the content on your website. In fact, Google favours fresh, updated content.

However, constantly changing the content and the look and feel of your website, even a little bit at a time, strictly for SEO purposes, will not go unnoticed by your website visitors or Google.

Making too many changes to your website or making the changes too often will raise red flags for Google which will likely see your webpage as suspicious and likely penalize your site.

Over time your site visitors will also notice the changes (especially since most of the changes were likely done for search engines instead of them). If this happens, they may find your site harder to navigate and find value. Some visitors may even start to think your site is suspicious.

Balancing Risk and Reward: 

SEO is essential for any business to succeed. There are many risks to SEO, some of which are worth taking because they can produce favourable results for a business. Other risks can harm and hinder a company’s internet marketing strategy and online presence.

As risky as SEO is, the only thing riskier is for a company not to do any SEO at all.

Social media has its own share of risks. So before you jump into your next campaign, download and complete this checklist to ensure everything is ready to go.

Local SEO an ‘artisanal’ discipline dominated by small agencies

By | Networking Bizz SEO News

Roughly 53 percent of firms doing local SEO have 10 or fewer clients

A new survey from Bright-local offers a window into the state of agencies doing local SEO. The survey polled roughly 650 digital agencies, SEO freelancers and in-house marketers from small businesses and enterprises. The results overall describe a market segment that faces challenges but is upbeat — a reflection of the dynamic and constantly changing nature of organic search.

Agency size and revenues. A majority (54 percent) of those doing local SEO are smaller agencies and small businesses themselves. However, the number of large agencies involved with local SEO grew somewhat compared with two years ago.

The majority of respondents had fewer than 20 SEO clients, with 53 percent having fewer than 10. The largest group (65 percent) were making less than $1 million annually from their SEO customers (some much less); roughly 18 percent were making between $1 million and $5 million and 6 percent were making more than $5 million annually. And 18 percent said they didn’t know how much they were making from local SEO clients.

Monthly retainer amounts were all over the place, but the bulk (59 percent) were in the $100 to $1,000 range. In terms of hourly rates, 30 percent of respondents were charging between $50 and $100, and 34 percent charged between $100 and $150, with 28 percent charging more than that. The vast majority of practitioners (83 percent) were making $100,000 or less in salary, with 17 percent earning over that amount.

Results hard to deliver. A majority (56 percent) said it will be more challenging to deliver local SEO results for clients this year, but that number is actually down from 2017. In other words, more SEOs are upbeat about potential performance. Indeed, 93 percent of the marketers surveyed said they are “fairly optimistic” or “very optimistic” about the outlook for the SEO industry overall.

The local search marketing services most in demand from clients were:

  1. Web design.
  2. On-site optimization.
  3. SEO audits and analysis.
  4. PPC
  5. GMB optimization.
  6. Social media.
  7. Reputation management.
  8. Citation management.
  9. Link building and content outreach.
  10. Content creation and optimization.

Asked about how they got new clients, practitioners responded that word of mouth was the leading source, followed by SEO itself. Content marketing was number three, local business groups was next, followed by PPC advertising, then conferences and Facebook. The latter dropped as a source of new business from number three last year to number seven this year.

Why you should care. Far from being dead, SEO business appears to be growing for the agencies participating in the survey. However, local SEO is a sub-segment that, for the moment, is dominated by smaller firms and smaller dollars.

Many people in the industry treat local SEO as a niche or see it purely as a concern for small business. However, the truth is the opposite; it’s something that every business or brand that sells through physical stores or service outlets should be focused on.

6 Things Marketers Should Know About Facebook’s App Integrations

By | Networking Bizz digital marketing

On January 25, Facebook announced a plan to fully integrate the three platforms: Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

The revolutionary project will empower users to message each other, regardless of the apps they’re using, according to The New York Times.People on Instagram will be able to effortlessly message friends on Facebook. WhatsApp users can reach out to friends on Instagram.

It was proposed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, which came as a surprise to some after he’d previously advocated for the apps’ distinct separation.So far, the word is that Facebook’s plans for the platform integration will be complete by 2020.This is about to have a huge impact on digital marketers.

Here are six key things every marketer should know about Facebook’s announcement.

This Is a Big Win for Folks Using These Apps

“[We want to] build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private,” say Facebook reps.

Being able to use the app you’re already using to reach friends, colleagues, and family on other apps – without having to download a new app on your phone? Convenient!. There are more than 2.6 billion combined users on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

By integrating the apps, Facebook doesn’t have to try to coerce users into downloading the other messaging platforms they wouldn’t use otherwise. Instead, users just need one of the three apps to message friends and family across the platforms.

“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks,” said Facebook.

Marketers Need to Get to Know Facebook Messaging Ads

After closing another quarter beating earnings estimates ($16.9 billion last quarter!) Facebook will benefit its bottom line with new revenue opportunities through the apps integration.

It was just a few years ago that Facebook said it was running out of space in the News Feed to show ads. As long as Facebook gives advertisers robust targeting capabilities and good placement opportunities, then demand and inventory will grow. With this integration, expect to see new ad formats and placements within the Facebook Ads ecosystem open up on Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp.

The big takeaway here: It’s time to start running Facebook Messenger ads with automated chatbot “landing page” experiences. Start looking at Facebook click-to-Messenger ads and developing your strategy for awesome engagement with competitive ROAS.

When you’ve nailed the click-to-Messenger ad, you’ll be ready when WhatsApp and Instagram release similar direct messaging ads.

Did You Know, Chat & Text Are Preferred to Email & Phone?

(Not so) news flash: most people prefer chatting over any other channel.

This includes communications via email, phone, and traditional mail.

Here are the stats:

  • 8 percent of consumers prefer to use messaging apps to communicate with businesses over email.
  • 55 percent of people are interested in reaching out to a business through messaging apps to solve an issue.
  • 47 percent of consumers are open to purchasing via chat automation (chatbots).

Ergo, marketers should use chat apps like Messenger and WhatsApp as marketing channels.

Marketers Will Be Able to Streamline Chat Marketing Campaigns

The new app integration though will allow businesses to expand their marketing presence and reach new target markets.

Because consumers prefer chatting, chat marketing is the most engaging channel today. 60 percent open rates and 20 percent click-through rates are the norm.

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That’s why learning to use a platform that lets you do chat marketing automation is one of the best things you could do for your campaigns and business today.

Creating a Facebook Messenger chatbot is easy with a visual campaign builder. But creating a chatbot for WhatsApp and Insta today, while possible, is super technical and pretty pricey. For instance, to construct a chatbot on Instagram, you can hire a developer to go to Github and copy open source code from the website.

This will create a basis for your bot that will be plugged into your VM instances under your computer engine. From there, you continue to code until your bot is up and running.

WhatsApp isn’t much easier. To create a bot on the messaging platform, businesses must apply for a beta program called WhatsApp Business API which still has limited public preview. Of course, the bot you built for one app won’t work for other chat apps. And so businesses usually choose one platform to invest in development.

After the three communication apps are integrated though, businesses will be able to use a visual chat bot campaign builder to create bots without coding for all three global chat applications. That makes reaching the 1 billion monthly users on Instagram, 1.5 billion on WhatsApp and 1.3 billion on Facebook Messenger possible from one convenient, easy-to-use chatbot builder.

Look to WeChat for Facebook’s Big Goals

WeChat is a messaging system where users can complete online tasks and it dominates in China.

People use it to order clothing, buy a meal, call a ride – without leaving the application. We can only assume that Facebook wants to achieve the same through this integration. Services haven’t really been possible in other similar messaging apps just because users are fragmented. But the consolidation of Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp can change all of this.

With Facebook’s united system in place, businesses can invest in making their goods and services available to users across all the messaging apps!

Act Fast with Chat Marketing to Get Early Adopter Advantage

If you’re seeing this all unfold, you can see what’s coming down the turn.

Chat marketing is about to become a dominant channel for business purposes. It’s time to develop your chatbot marketing strategies.

Start creating marketing automations on Facebook Messenger, the first of the three chat apps with a messaging API allowing for integrations with your other business systems.

You can be the first on the scene and among your competitors when the messaging infrastructures are combined in 2020

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