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HS2 Solutions Acquires LunaMetrics!

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on HS2 Solutions Acquires LunaMetrics!

HS2 Solutions Acquires LunaMetrics!

As CEO of LunaMetrics I sign a lot of papers. But on Friday, I signed the most important paper of my career.

On Friday morning, I sold LunaMetrics.

We were acquired by the coolest company, HS2 Solutions of Chicago and their financial partner, Mountaingate Capital. HS2 provides elegant solutions–mostly in the areas of strategy, UX & design and development. Together, we will be able to provide end-to-end solutions for customers. HS2 won my heart at the very first “meet and greet” when its CEO said something like, “All that matters is, are we going to do a better job of providing excellent service to our customers?”

Though it’s still business as usual, we expect and hope that the boundaries between LunaMetrics and HS2 will become more fluid and eventually disappear. We will welcome some talent from Chicago, and we are excited to be able to provide many more services to our current and future customers!

Something as great as HS2 didn’t come to us by accident. We worked with an investment bank to seek out interested parties, and it was exciting to see how our years of experience and success prepared us for this moment. Think speed-dating, but with much higher stakes and much nerdier conversations.

I worked closely with Alex Moore and Andrew Garberson to help explore our options. Together and with unanimous support, we chose HS2 because the fit with LunaMetrics was so wonderful.

So, you might ask, why did we sell? I own 100% of LunaMetrics, and I know that I am no longer the person to run this amazing company. LunaMetrics has grown far more than I ever envisioned when I was unemployed in 2004. (You can reread our 10th anniversary post – we’ve doubled our team and grown so much since that date three years ago.)

Ten Years Later – by CEO Robbin Steif

By: Robbin Steif
Published: October 8, 2014

The team here has worked hard and the sales group has sold hard. We’ve grown. We’ve hired and nurtured some of the best talent in Pittsburgh (and beyond!) and our reputation as industry experts has never been more widespread. I really want to take a step back and let the other members of the management team take steps forward. They are talented, eager and looking for that kind of responsibility, and I have been doing the CEO thing for more than a decade.

I am thrilled that we found HS2 Solutions. When I decided to sell, I knew that it would only work if we found just the right company. We needed a company that matched us on many levels, from the way we motivate and nurture talent to the way that we value customer service above all else. LunaMetrics shot for the moon and we found the best partner, HS2!

Learn more about HS2 Solutions and read their blog or press release.

The post HS2 Solutions Acquires LunaMetrics! appeared first on LunaMetrics.

New Report: 59% of E-commerce Sites Not Testing Their Most Important Channel

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on New Report: 59% of E-commerce Sites Not Testing Their Most Important Channel

New Report: 59% of E-commerce Sites Not Testing Their Most Important Channel

I enjoyed reading through the new report from Conversion.com and econsultancy based on research they carried out to understand the big trends in e-commerce and specifically focusing on attitudes to testing and experimentation.

One particular part caught my eye and I thought I would repurpose (with permission) some of their research and data to illustrate a point that I found interesting.

The original report contains this chart:

I was immediately struck by the big gap in the organic search line – it is the channel that has by some margin the biggest number of e-commerce companies which simultaneously rely on the channel and do not test to improve and understand their performance in this area. (And this accepts at face-value the claim by 29% of respondents that they do test organic search which is high, from my experience).

Regular readers will be unsurprised to hear that I’m interested in this given the huge investment we have been making into making SEO testable and quantifiable. So having noticed this tidbit, I reworked that chart to order by the gap and got this:

We very often hear from our clients and customers that they are under significant pressure in the business to measure and justify organic SEO investments. If you find yourself repeatedly having conversations where your boss asks how are you measuring the value of these on-site SEO changes? Or do you know which of the investments we are making in on-site SEO are paying off?

(Or if you’re the boss and you don’t know the answers to these questions).

Then maybe it’s time to check out the latest thinking in SEO split-testing – drop us a line and we’ll be happy to show you how it works.

Common Pitfalls of E-Commerce SEO: Duplicate Content

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on Common Pitfalls of E-Commerce SEO: Duplicate Content

Common Pitfalls of E-Commerce SEO: Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is one of the most common SEO pitfalls that many e-commerce sites struggle with.  And with the growth of a business riding partially on organic success, both regular assessment and proactive SEO work are imperative to give the business its best chance to succeed.

Having spent a few years working for a solely-online retailer, I noticed a few trends in locations where duplicate content issues consistently popped up on our site and those of competitors. Knowing what to keep an eye on can save a lot of time and troubleshooting down the road – so here are some of the repeat offenders to look out for and how to fix them.

Problem Area: Across Categories

The most blatant form of duplicate content on an e-commerce site is at the category level. This happens if multiple categories target the exact same type of product (for example, “Men’s Boots” and “Boots for Men”). This can happen for a variety of well-intended reasons such as wanting to present the category within two different parent categories, trying to appeal to different markets, or even in the name of targeting keywords for SEO.

However, regardless of intent, if the pages are targeting the same topic, Google will not have a clear picture of which page takes priority and will likely not serve either of these pages to users above sites that offer clear structure.

Solution

There are a couple of courses of action that can be taken on this issue depending on whether you are working in more of a preventative or reactive capacity.

If you are lucky enough to be involved in a process before duplicate categories are added, education is the best strategy. Many merchandizers or product teams don’t realize that there is any issue with having multiple landing pages for a product type. Helping them understand what to avoid and why can help reduce the number of duplicates preemptively.

The reactive solution to this issue is to clean up the existing pages to more clearly indicate importance. To locate the most obviously problematic categories, start with a crawl and look for identical or highly similar H1s. Then, if possible, follow that up with a manual check through a list of all live categories, as some duplicate intent (such as with synonyms) would not be as straightforward to find via crawl data.

When searching for duplicate categories on a site, remember that Google also uses on-page content to interpret page intent. So product selection within categories also needs to be considered, as the bulk of the content on most category pages comes from the product titles. Some e-commerce CMSs have a view that allows you to see which products are dual categorized and where; this can be very helpful for locating this particular type of duplicate content.

Once you’ve found the categories, the best course of action is to 301 redirect all but one of the overlapping categories to the one that you have determined to be most valuable (via rankings/traffic/sales/user experience). Alternately, if removing pages isn’t possible (like if they are being used for marketing purposes), you could add noindex tags to the duplicate pages or have them canonical back to the primary page.  I would recommend putting a noindex, nofollow tag on a page that is not linked to from the site, such as a stand-alone landing page for an email, and using canonical tags for pages that live within the site’s navigable structure.

For example, if I found these categories and determined that they all contain mostly the same products:

I would then identify what each page is for, where it is linked from,  and determine the action to take based on those factors:

Problem Area: Filters or Filter Combinations

Even if categories are targeting different product types you can still end up with identical targeting on certain pages when filters are applied. Of course, this issue will only be a significant problem if the filtered pages have unique URLs and are indexable.

To give an example, the site below sells many types of throw pillows, some of which are specific to indoor or outdoor use, and some of which are multi-use.  They have separate categories for “Decorative + Throw Pillows” and “Outdoor Pillows,” which are located in respective /outdoor/ and /decor-pillows/ sections of their site.

At this point these categories are fine. While there may be a bit of overlap in intent, users and Google can both understand how they are differentiated.

However, duplicate content becomes an issue once filters are applied to these categories. Because “Outdoor Pillows” is such a broad term, this category includes a type filter for “Throw Pillow”: 

And since some of the “Decorative + Throw Pillows” are multi-use, that category features one for “Outdoor”:

So now we have two self-canonicalized unique URLs targeting the exact same type of item (and even returning the same specific products).

This example is relatively straightforward, but given the limitless possibilities that some sites have for filter combinations, duplicate content from filters can quickly get out of hand if unaddressed.

Solution

Much like the cross-category duplicate content issue, the preventative solution to this one lies largely with education and process. If merchandising teams know:

That duplicate content is a thing
That it’s a problem
What to look at before creating a filter

Then they can keep these issues from existing in the first place. It may also be helpful to keep lists of similar categories or commonly overlapping filters to check before adding new filters – On sites I’ve worked on in the past, we consistently saw issues in overlap between filters in indoor and outdoor furnishings as well as between furnishing categories for general consumer and commercial clients.

If these filtered duplicates already exist, the solution is to remove them and 301 redirect the URLs to the page that takes precedence. Depending on what the filter was, it may be better to redirect them to one or the other of the parent category pages. However, before you remove anything, be sure to take a peek at any existing rankings or organic traffic that a page may be getting so that you consider any existing value before making a final decision on which to axe.

Problem Area: Product Descriptions

Every product page needs text on it to explain features and product details and add an element of branding. To meet this need, many e-commerce sites will use an unedited description directly from the manufacturer.

While there are obvious reasons behind this practice, including the implied accuracy of the initial description and efficiency of onboarding processes, this is a big problem when it comes to differentiating your site in the SERPs.

Because the manufacturer sends the same information to all brands that it sells through, this leads to many sites having identical text on their product pages. Even big brands are guilty of this. For example, the product description for a specific bookcase is identical to:

Home Depot

Overstock

Amazon

If you are using identical content to compete with a more prominent brand in the SERPs, both Google and users are likely going to prioritize the site with more brand authority.

Another instance where duplicate product descriptions become an issue is when a brand expands the number of platforms they sell through. For example, if an independent company initially sells through their own site, but then decides to list their products on Amazon as well. If this company uses the same descriptions on both sites, it can result in the brand losing the top place in the SERP for their own product, as Amazon has such a high domain authority.

Solution

Unique content is the solution to this problem. High effort though it may be, there is no substitute. This can be from internal teams that have writing skills, or it can be outsourced – different solutions work better for different organizations. The important part is ensuring that the content you are creating is both high quality (proper grammar, no misspellings, etc.) and unique to your site.

Problem Area: Title Tags

Duplicate title tags are an extremely widespread problem across the web in general. When SEO teams say “we need title tags on every page,” often developer teams will find the quickest and easiest solution to this problem: rolling out a standard tag across all pages.

However, title tags are supposed to help both users and Google to understand what a page is about at a high level. And clearly, identical tags on every page help no one identify topics.

Solution

The solution that many come to on this issue is algorithmically generating title tags based on the page’s H1.  If this is feasible, it can be a great way to achieve SEO goals efficiently. However, in most organizations this will require developer resources to accomplish, which can be a significant constraint.

However, if your CMS is configured in such a way that it will accept a bulk upload of meta-data values, this can even be accomplished without dev dependencies by using Excel. If you use Screaming Frog to pull a list of URLs and their corresponding H1s, you can create a template design that will integrate the H1 text.

For example, If I wanted to make title tags that read “Shop *Product Type* | Example Site” I could create the following layout in Excel:

Then, I would use the CONCATENATE function to automatically generate text for all the title tags by inserting the H1 after “Shop” and putting “| Example Site” at the end as shown below.

Apply the formula to the column, and you have a list of unique title tags and their associated URLs:

Problem Area: Blog Posts or Resource Section

Most e-commerce sites these days feature some inspirational or informational content in the form of a blog or resource section. While this can be a great asset, it can also be a bit of a minefield for duplicate content.

Poor quality outsourcing, internal content producers who don’t understand the significance of creative integrity, or even just individuals who don’t know how to cite or refer to a source appropriately can end up producing content that is duplicative of another website’s.

Even if you invest in quality unique content for your site, sometimes it can be “borrowed,” overly quoted, or just straight copied by other sites. And if the site that does this has higher domain authority, the content can be beaten by itself in the SERPs.

Solution

Depending on when you are coming into the content creation process, the first step could be an initial audit of existing content to see if any is duplicate. While much of this must be done more or less manually by doing a quick search for exact matches to sections of your content, there are some tools available that can speed the process up a bit (I like Copyscape). If you find content that is duplicate, assess the value of the topic to your site and the extent of duplication, then either remove or refresh the content piece.

If you are lucky enough to be in on the content creation process from the beginning, ensure that the writers know what duplicate content is, and both how and why it can be a detriment to the site.

Conclusion

While many of these recommendations sound relatively simple, I understand they can be much harder to execute in practice. But if you keep tabs on these specific areas, and work to educate teams and integrate SEO considerations into their processes, your site will be one step closer to organic success.

7 Mobile-Friendly Navigation Best Practices – BruceClay

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 7 Mobile-Friendly Navigation Best Practices – BruceClay

7 Mobile-Friendly Navigation Best Practices – BruceClay

7 Mobile-Friendly Navigation Best Practices – BruceClay was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

It’s now 2018, and we are officially living in a mobile-first world. In fact, Google has begun the switch to a mobile-first index — which means Google will rank your website based on your mobile content, relevance and UX.

Your mobile navigation (menus and internal links) contribute to all three and must work for users and for SEO.

Good mobile navigation makes it easy for people to find what they need, without bogging down page speed or cluttering the screen. It also needs to keep PageRank flowing to the important pages that you want to rank well in search.

Site navigations historically included everything on a site in huge, multi-tiered lists. On mobile, that approach doesn’t work. It looks cluttered. It requires scrolling. And it causes your visitors to bounce away.


Bruce explains why mobile navigation decisions affect SEO and UX.

Make life easier for people visiting your business site on a mobile device.

Here are seven mobile-friendly navigation best practices:

Keep mobile navigation short and sweet.
List the most important pages first.
Think of search as part of your navigation.
Make your navigation intuitive.
Be thoughtful about fonts and contrast.
Design for touch.
Design for the multi-screen mobile user.

Note: All of the mobile navigation tips mentioned in this article are equally applicable to separate mobile sites, responsive design sites, and sites that dynamically serve web pages. If you’re not sure what that means, or which mobile platform is best for you, read our Cheat Sheet for Mobile Design.

7 Mobile Navigation Best Practices for UX & SEO

1. Keep Mobile Navigation Short and Sweet

Many mobile phone screens are only 720 pixels wide in portrait mode.

Designing mobile navigation means designing for a small screen size. With limited real estate available, there’s no room for clutter. Get right to the point then cut the fat.

Ask yourself, what links need to be included to help your user complete priority tasks? What elements from the desktop navigation aren’t relevant in the mobile environment?

To save your user from decision paralysis, we recommend you limit your mobile navigation to four to eight items on the top level. Your mobile navigation menu is not the place to link to every page in your site.

To keep it short and sweet, you may even consider adding a top-of-page logo that navigates to the homepage and leaving the Home button out of your navigation all together (as on the BCI website, below).

Comparison of BCI’s desktop and mobile navigation

Some mobile navigations require multi-level navigation to aid user experience. This is more common with ecommerce websites. If you must go there, keep it as simple as possible. Don’t add more than one sublevel of dropdown functionality.

If your navigation must include more items, a vertically oriented navigation activated from a menu icon is the best option.

If your mobile user’s typical needs are very limited, consider using a static navigation that runs across the top of your design, like we see on the GameStop mobile site:

GameStop uses static navigation across the top of its mobile-friendly view.

A navigation that requires horizontal scrolling probably won’t be mobile-friendly. Some sites have the resources to design a sleek image-based carousel type of interface, such as what Google uses for certain search results. That might be an exception, but consider your audience.

2. List the Most Important Pages First

Your website users don’t have a lot of time — or patience. How can you help them get to the right place faster?

To design your mobile site navigation, first think about:

What are your most important pages?
What are the top category pages outlined in your siloing strategy?
What are the most common actions taken by site visitors using smartphones?
What pages of your website most effectively satisfy a mobile user’s needs?

The answers to these questions influence not just which items go in your main menu, but also which links and calls to action you should put on each page.

You’ll want to keep your main navigation menu consistent throughout the site. It should point to the top four to eight landing pages (such as main category pages).

A short-and-sweet mobile nav is a win-win for SEO and your users. It preserves the flow of link equity to your most important pages while also helping users get around.

Once users arrive on a page, contextual links can move them to wherever makes sense. These links can be added within the body content of each page in a comfortable way.

For instance, a long blog post may have multiple sections and thousands of words. Have mercy on your mobile users — don’t make them scroll to find what may be pertinent to them. Some ideas:

Show a TL;DR summary at the top of a long article. If readers want more detail, they’ll scroll down.
Give anchor links at the top that jump a reader to the different sections below (as I did at the top of this article).
Include useful calls to action and links to related pages within the body copy, where they make sense.

The mobile navigation model I’m describing — a short, consistent main menu coupled with contextual links that vary per page — actually supports siloing better than the massive structured menus of old. A parent only links to its children, maintaining a clear hierarchy and intuitive flow. Internal links allow PageRank to flow to topically related pages naturally.

This mobile navigation model — a short, consistent main menu coupled with contextual links that vary per page — actually supports siloing better than a massive, multi-tiered menu.
Click To Tweet

When it comes to mobile users, quicker is always better! It will take some work for you to make each page deliver the most appropriate navigation options. But you’ll improve user experience and no doubt your ROI by giving visitors a more direct path to what they need.

While we’re on the topic of “quicker,” remember that fast mobile pages make for a better user experience. Google announced that page load speed can factor into your Google search rankings, so a streamlined navigation helps with mobile SEO.

You can test your mobile page speed with Google’s mobile speed test (or use our SEOToolSet).

3. Think of Search as Part of Your Navigation

Mobile users look at search as navigation, and you should too.

Consider Amazon.com. On mobile, Amazon doesn’t even bother with the category dropdown (although it’s there under “Departments” if someone wants it). What’s prominent at the top of the mobile view is a simple “Search” box.

Even with its massive catalog, Amazon doesn’t expect users to navigate through menus to find what they need. Most of the time, customers just type in a product name and go directly to buy it.

The Search box is Amazon’s most mobile-friendly navigation option.

On mobile, your search box is often the most direct route to what a user needs.

Set it up and make sure it works well!

4. Make your Navigation Intuitive

Your customers work hard enough; navigating your site should not be work.

To make your navigation intuitive, menu language should always be written in a way that lets the user know what to expect. It should be clear what the item does if it’s a dropdown, and exactly where it goes if it’s a link.

If you are using symbols to convey information to your users, make sure they are clear, conventional symbols. For instance, if your menu items drop down, use an intuitive symbol like a plus sign (+) or an arrow (>) to let your users know a click will reveal more options.

Another best practice example would be using a magnifying glass to indicate a search feature.

If you are using a toggle menu, use three stacked lines — the icon highlighted in the example below — to help the user locate and access your main nav.

REI’s menu opens from a hamburger icon.

TIP: A hamburger-style menu icon like this often gets more clicks if it also has the word “menu” below it according to A/B testing. If your design has room, you might test this to see if it makes your mobile site more intuitive and increases clicks/conversions.

Try adding “menu” for clarity. (image per CXL)

The goal is for your mobile navigation to make life easier by limiting thinking, scrolling and clicking.

About Breadcrumbs in SERPs
It’s worth noting that since 2015, Google has displayed URLs in its mobile search results differently than it does in desktop SERPs. The change replaces a web page’s URL with a description of the page’s location in a breadcrumbs-like format. If this doesn’t scream of the importance of siloing and clear hierarchy, nothing does!

Now, rather than showing a page URL, Google’s mobile search results display a breadcrumb path beneath each title.

For example, mobile search results for “history of Google” include a Wikipedia result showing how the URL appeared in the past versus the current breadcrumb style:

How Google’s mobile search result URLs have changed

TIP: You can control how your breadcrumb URLs appear if you add schema markup to the HTML on your pages. Refer to Schema.org’s breadcrumbs structured data for details and Google’s help file on breadcrumbs. (For more on this update and what it means, see our post Google’s New Mobile Breadcrumb URLs: Making the Most of Your Site Name & URL Structure.)

5. Be Thoughtful about Fonts and Contrast

Your website users shouldn’t have to zoom to read any of the text on your mobile website, including the text within your navigation.

Tiny text that requires zooming creates a bad user experience, and neither your website users nor Google or Bing like poor user experiences.

All of the text on your mobile site needs to be large enough to be read on a variety of devices without zooming. This principle needs to be a top priority that you consider as you build your mobile-friendly CSS (cascading style sheets) to control the appearance of text on various devices.

To make your navigation text easy to read, choose a font that naturally adds enough space to distinguish between letters and is tall enough to be clearly read in a menu.

Your font size and style also depend on your brand’s style guide and what fits your unique demographic. For instance, a young audience may not struggle with smaller or condensed fonts as much as an older demographic would. The way you handle formatting such as bullet styles, capitalization, margins, captioning, and so on should also reflect what’s attractive to your audience and comfortable for them to read.

Once you decide, set up your CSS and create a written style guide to keep your content consistent.

For designing the look of your mobile navigation, best practices can’t give you a one-size-fits-all recommendation. What’s important is that every word on your mobile site can be read easily without zooming. I recommend you perform user testing to see first-hand whether your font is tripping up users.

Also, make sure there’s sufficient contrast between your text and its background. WebAIM guidelines offer rules for color contrast (recommending a minimum ratio of 4.5 to 1). You can try their contrast checker tool to see how your text treatment measures up.

Google gives a few examples of what different contrast ratios look like:

Text needs contrast against the background for readability on a phone. (Per Google)

In addition, Google points out that “classic readability theory suggests that an ideal column should contain 70 to 80 characters per line (about 8 to 10 words in English). Thus, each time the width of a text block grows past about 10 words, consider adding a breakpoint.”

This tip applies to body text; consider a shorter maximum length for your menu options.

Not sure if your text is easy to read? Run your site through Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool.

6. Design for Touch

Tablet and smartphone users rely on touchscreens to get them around websites. While a pointy mouse arrow allows users to precisely select items in tight spaces, the average finger requires a larger target to press. Many users don’t hit a touchscreen exactly where they are aiming.

Google recommends building mobile pages with a minimum touch target size of 48 pixels with a properly set viewport (more on that later). And touch targets should be spaced about 32 pixels apart, both horizontally and vertically.

Buttons and touch targets should be big enough to be mobile friendly. (Per Google)

Build navigation buttons with a target smaller than 40 pixels and your user experience plummets. Visitors end up sloppily navigating to the category above or below the one they want.

Don’t frustrate your users!

Since people are so bad at hitting their tap mark much of the time, it can also help to incorporate touch feedback into your navigation. Your feedback could be a color change, a blink of color, a font change or another visual cue.

Even if it’s subtle, this feedback can improve user experience by helping to reassure users that they’ve selected the right item. Take a look at the example below from Search Engine Land:

Color changes show which menu item is touched on SearchEngineLand.com.

If you are using multi-tier navigation, it’s also important that you make sure your dropdowns are activated by touch — not mouse over. Clearly, hover navigations work just fine in the desktop experience, where hovering is a possibility, but they leave mobile users stuck.

Another touch-friendly option is to design a supplementary navigation that uses images and exaggerated graphic buttons. This type of navigation can be a great homepage asset that gets your visitor headed in the right direction quickly.

Vintage clothing site RustyZipper.com uses large graphic “button” with text labels for mobile-friendly navigation.

It’s important to note that graphic buttons like these should only be a supplemental option used alongside a toggle navigation or a static top navigation. You need to have a consistent navigation that the user can access at the top of every page.

While you may be able to include this graphic navigation at the bottom of your mobile pages, it’s not optimal or practical to use these big graphic buttons as your primary navigation. And always consider the load-time performance impact of images and buttons.

Be Careful with Popups
You also want to avoid intrusive interstitials — those popups that monopolize the screen when a visitor clicks through from a search result. In January 2017, Google rolled out an intrusive interstitial penalty for mobile search.

Per Google, “Since screen real-estate on mobile devices is limited, any interstitial negatively impacts the user’s experience.”

Example of an intrusive interstitial popup (credit: Google)

Be careful to use interactive forms and popups courteously. Some best practices for these include:

Apply a delay or time interval between views so you don’t annoy your visitors.
Reduce the amount of screen space your element covers.
Try a bar or box that scrolls in from the bottom or side.
Avoid covering the middle of the mobile screen or obstructing your navigation elements at the top.
Let no be no. If a user closes a form, don’t display it again within a reasonable period of time (perhaps a week later).

7. Design for the Multi-Screen Mobile User

Chances are good that interested website visitors come to your website using multiple devices over a short period of time.

To help them feel confident they’re in the right place, it’s smart to give your mobile and desktop sites a consistent visual theme.

Your mobile and desktop navigation, however, do not have to be — and sometimes should not be — identical twins.

While the colors, fonts and themes you use for your mobile and desktop navigation need to be consistent to reinforce your branding, the similarity may end there.

Your mobile navigation needs to help users navigate around your website and accomplish tasks. Consider the content your smartphone users need and the tasks they are looking to accomplish, and then build your mobile navigation specifically for a smartphone user.

What mobile-specific calls to action need to be built into your navigation to aid user experience?
Does it make sense to include a “Call” button or a store locator?
Can a mobile user easily find essential information like your address, directions, phone number, hours of operation, or other facts?

Remember: Space is limited, mobile needs are unique, and on-the-go patience is minimal.

Because website visitors will use a variety of devices and screen sizes, specify a viewport using the viewport meta tag.

Websites need a scalable meta viewport for correct display on smartphones.

Common mobile mistakes include having a fixed-width viewport that doesn’t scale for all devices, or assuming too wide of a viewport, which forces users on small screens to scroll horizontally.

Mobile-Friendly is Customer-Friendly

Creating a mobile-friendly navigation means creating a customer-friendly navigation that gets your personas moving in the right direction right away.

If you build an intuitive navigation that is easy to use, your website users will be headed toward conversion happiness in no time. Build a navigation that is frustrating or confusing, and they’ll be headed back to the search results and straight toward someone else’s website.

To keep your inbound visitors smiling, follow these best practices to make your mobile-friendly navigation:

 Short and sweet whenever possible
Easy to read
Task-oriented
Prioritized with what’s most important listed first
Accessible and placed consistently across all pages
Clear, straightforward and expected
Vertical if scrolling is required (never use horizontal scrolling!)
Easy on the eyes
 Finger-friendly
Fast

Be a leader — share this post with friends or colleagues who are as interested in UX as you are. For more resources like this one, subscribe to our blog.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is an update of an earlier post written by Chelsea Adams for the Bruce Clay Blog.

What is SEO and How to Convert Your Traffic

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on What is SEO and How to Convert Your Traffic

What is SEO and How to Convert Your Traffic

Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or simply someone who wants to learn more about digital marketing, you’ve likely come across the term “SEO” at least a handful of times. That’s because while it used to be a fairly niche technique used by only the most tech-savvy site owners, it’s now considered a standard marketing practice. As consumers spend an increasing amount of time online, having a strong digital presence is essential for any business to succeed — and SEO a cornerstone in accomplishing this goal. But what is SEO and how it works? How can you use it to…

The post What is SEO and How to Convert Your Traffic appeared first on The Daily Egg.

The Valuable SEO Advice That Fulfilled One Contest Winner’s Dream – BruceClay

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on The Valuable SEO Advice That Fulfilled One Contest Winner’s Dream – BruceClay

The Valuable SEO Advice That Fulfilled One Contest Winner’s Dream – BruceClay

The Valuable SEO Advice That Fulfilled One Contest Winner’s Dream – BruceClay was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

This post comes from one of our international partner offices, Bruce Clay India, which Bruce visited this month to meet with the team and deliver his SEO Training course.

On 12th February 2018, Dhananjay Kumar from Max Life Insurance​ fulfilled his five-year long dream of meeting Bruce Clay in person. Dhananjay, who was the lucky winner of Bruce Clay India’s SEO Contest, arrived at BCI’s Gurgaon office to claim his prize — an exclusive 30-minute Q&A session with the Father of SEO, Bruce Clay.

Contest winner Dhananjay Kumar with Bruce Clay at the BCI office in Gurgaon

Dhananjay, who calls himself a big fan of Bruce Clay, is passionate about SEO. With an eager clasp of hands and the words, “Can’t wait to get started,”  he shot off questions for Bruce, which the SEO guru answered with his characteristic composure and just the right dose of humor!

The excerpt below contains Bruce’s SEO advice on issues from overcoming compliance restrictions to press releases, voice search, local market confusion, PWAs and more.

Dhananjay: Being an insurance firm, we cannot use words like Best, Top and other superlatives. How do we rank for such superlative terms?

Bruce: You have a compliance issue. Therefore you cannot use the terms “Best Insurance Company” or “Top Insurance Policy” anywhere on your website or ads. We have the same problem in US with Banking and Insurance companies where you can’t use words like cheap, best, etc. You need to check with your compliance team on what else should you not use.

If you remember linear distribution from the SEO Training, you can use the word ‘best’, but not to describe your business or product. Get the two words ‘your business’ and ‘best’ in proximity without violating the compliance. It can be done by saying things like, “Many insurance companies claim to be best but not us.” It can be used in the schema description, meta title and meta description of the page.

Also check with your compliance team if using the ‘taboo’ words (Best, Cheap, Top, etc.) in meta titles, meta descriptions and meta keywords violates compliance in India or not, and act accordingly.

Dhananjay: Can we rank on our competitors’ brand queries?

Bruce: You can, but it’s unethical and ill advised. You cannot use a person’s brand against them. If you do, they can take legal action against you.

If you want rank for your competitors’ keywords legally, you can use your competitors’ brand names in a review. But you can’t sell anything on that page or even try. Also, you might be obligated to link to the competitor’s website.

Dhananjay: How effective are press releases?

Bruce: Press releases are an awareness tool to create buzz about a product, a company or even a keyword. For example, your company creates a new type of insurance. A press release will encourage some people to go online and search for it on Google. If you are the only one with that type of insurance, it will help you get more traffic. Social media and press releases are mechanisms that excite people to make them search. Once they search, your PPC and organic handles the rest.

Dhananjay: Google hasn’t given any recommendations for voice search, so how do we leverage voice search? What could be the best SEO strategy for voice search?

Bruce: First of all, search for your product by voice. Sometimes, accents also make a problem for voice search. The phone can’t understand certain words in different accents. Voice search may not work best internationally. Hows, Whats, and Wheres — use long-tail, question-based, 4+ word queries. Ensure that you answer the Hows and Whats of your product within your content.

Mobile, voice and local are the big three focus points. Google’s search index is now mobile-first, so that’s very important. We know voice search is important as the top three products sold last Christmas were all voice products. Local is important because it helps Google make money. Remember that local helps national, so strengthen your local first. So focus on all the three areas for best results.

Dhananjay: A fraud site with a similar domain name as ours used to rank in our place. We set that right with the help of legal. However, they claimed 70% of our local listings, and I am unable to fix it.

Bruce: Your lawyers can indicate that there is “Market Confusion” (it’s the proper term) over the domain name and make them surrender their product.

If you find that a company with a similar domain name is taking away your traffic, you can claim that domain. For local listings, you can indicate to Google that your local addresses/listings have been hijacked. A Google representative should be able to help you with getting the domains/listings back. You can also file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint with Google, a form that is easily available online. All you have to do is give Google your copyright number or your trademark number to file the DMCA (just to be on the safe side).

Dhananjay: How does PWA (Progressive Web Apps) fit into our SEO strategy?

Bruce: PWA is still changing. There are two types of design decisions you can make, as I mentioned in the Masterclass — Appy or Webby. The general feeling is Webby. The general way in which PWA works is this: when someone opens a website for the first time, it’s installed. It installs an envelope and loads the content in the envelope. The next time Google will know it’s a PWA and will load the content. The content will still be responsive.

To learn more about PWAs, type “site:google.com Progressive Web Apps” on Google.

 

Dhananjay looked thrilled after his interaction with Bruce and receiving his valuable SEO advice. And why not? After all, how many people have the privilege of meeting the most well known proponent of SEO on the planet!

If your company is stuck with how to do SEO or digital marketing, or is facing compliance issues, you can drop the Bruce Clay India team a note at [email protected].

Siddharth Lal is the managing director of Bruce Clay India, established in 2009 and based in Gurgaon, India.

How to Optimize Your Site Structure for SEO

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How to Optimize Your Site Structure for SEO

How to Optimize Your Site Structure for SEO

A well-defined site structure makes the job of search engine crawlers easier and this means better indexing and more chances in achieving higher rankings.

With the introduction of artificial intelligence in the Google ranking algorithm, voice search and mobile first index, the structure of a website has gained more importance than ever.

It’s no longer enough to have pages thrown on a website but these have to be grouped properly into categories so that search engines can understand for which topics you want to rank for.

Keywords are still important for rankings but equally important is topic relevancy and one of the ways to achieve this is through a good site structure.

The importance of a good site structure

The structure of a web site, blog or ecommerce store is very important both in terms of SEO and usability. It should be user friendly, easy to navigate, fast and serve its purpose: attract new customers, get more email subscribers, make a sale, get revenue from advertising or just present the information in the best possible way.

Site Structure and SEO

A well-defined site structure is important for SEO for three main reasons:

It helps search engines understand your content better

A good site structure helps search engine crawlers read, index and understand your website faster and this improves your chances of ranking in search engines.

The way search engines work is the following:

They discover your website on the Web.
They start crawling your homepage and then follow all links from there
They try to figure out the structure of the site so as to get a better understanding on how your pages/posts are related and which pages of your site are more valuable than others.

When you have an optimized structure, you make this job very easy for them and this means better exposure.

If on the other hand your site structure is flat, search engines can still index your pages but they won’t have enough clues as to how your pages are related.

A good structure increases your chances of getting Sitelinks in Google search

Sitelinks are links shown below the description of your snippet in Google Search Results that point to other pages on your website. They are a great way to make your search listings more prominent and increase your CTR (click through rates).

Example of Sitelinks in Google Search Results

You cannot specify which parts of your website to be shown as sitelinks since these are automatically selected by the Google algorithm.

The only way to get sitelinks to appear with your listing is through a good site structure.

A good structure provides for a great user experience and lowers bounce rate

A bounce rate is a metric that shows how many people that land on a webpage leave without interacting with the page or site. A high bounce rate is bad for SEO and the reason is the following:

Google knows when a user clicks on your listing from Google search, visits your page and then goes back to Google search without interacting with your website.

For them, this is a signal that users are not happy with the results and eventually this will lead to lower rankings.

When you have a solid site structure, users will find it easier to navigate through your website and find what they are looking for and this increases usability, time on site and lowers your bounce rate.

What is the ideal site structure?

Before we go into the details on how you can optimize your site structure, let’s first understand what we want to achieve. What is the ideal site structure of a website?

The actual structure of a site, is strongly related with the type of content a website offers. If we are to divide website types into groups, we will end up with four major groups:

Blogs
Corporate Websites
News Websites
eCommerce Websites (Selling either products or services online)

Ideal site structure of a blog

A good site structure for a blog looks like this:

Ideal Site Structure for a Blog

Besides the home page and the other pages like about us, contact us etc., blog posts should be grouped into categories according to relevancy.

For example, if you have a food blog publishing different kinds of recipes, you can create several categories based on the type of recipes i.e. Italian recipes, vegetarian recipes, Chinese recipes etc.

Ideal site structure of a small business / corporate website

The main purpose of a small business / corporate website is to provide more information about the business, it’s products, services and departments.

A good site structure for a corporate website is as follows:

Ideal Site Structure for a Small Business Website

Notice that you have a main category for departments and a main category for the blog with several sub-categories.

Ideal site structure of a news website

Ideal Site Structure for a News Website

A news website such as an online magazine can group content into a number of categories based on the type of content and when it was published.

This structure can help both search engines and users find what they want either by visiting the category of interest or navigating through the content by date.

Ideal site structure for an ecommerce website

The site structure of an ecommerce website can be a bit more complicated than other types of websites especially when it offers a number of different products.

In a typical scenario though, a good structure can be as follows:

Ideal Site Structure for an eCommerce Website

On top of the structure we have the homepage and then the content grouped into several categories.

There is no limitation as to the number of categories or subcategories you can create but a rule of thumb is not to create more than 3 levels of depth in your hierarchy.

In other words, each product should be accessed from the homepage in less than 3 clicks. This makes indexing faster and easier to understand by crawlers and it’s also friendlier for users.

How to Optimize your Site Structure

Now that you have an idea of what is the ideal structure of a website, let’s examine how you can practically build a good structure for your website. Here are the steps:

Plan your site structure in advance
Use categories to group related content
SEO Optimize your categories
Use HTML and CSS for navigation
Make use of breadcrumb menus
Create an SEO Friendly permalink structure
Pay attention to your internal link structure
Create a sitemap for users

Plan your site structure in advance

For new websites

If you are starting a new website then it’s easy to plan the site structure in advance. From experience, this step is overlooked by many web designers and webmasters.

They tend to concentrate on the visual aspect of a website without taking into account the structure.

The best way to approach this is to use the above ‘ideal structures’ as your guides and adjust them according to your needs. What you need to have in mind is the following:

Your website should have a hierarchical structure – The focal point is the homepage and then all other pages should be grouped into categories based on their type.

For example, blog posts should be grouped into blog categories and placed under the ‘Blog’. News articles can be grouped by published date. If you are offering services, these can be grouped under services.

Try to think what the best grouping from a user’s perspective is. Run some scenarios and try to replicate the steps taken by users to find a product or article on your website. If you can make this process easy enough for them, then it will be for search engines too.

Your hierarchy should be no more than 2 or 3 levels deep – Don’t overcomplicate your site hierarchy but keep it simple. All pages of your website have to accessible from the homepage in less than 3 clicks.

Website hierarchy should be no more than 3 levels

For example, if you are running an online shop then a user should be able to visit a specific product page in less than 3 clicks. This translates to:

Homepage (1 Click)
Product Category (2 clicks)
Product Subcategory (3 clicks)
Product page

For Existing websites

If you already have a website that it’s indexed by Google and has some rankings, then don’t start changing you site structure as this may have a negative impact on your rankings. There is a procedure to follow. Keep reading and we will get to this below.

Use categories to group related content

There are some rules to follow when creating categories, either for the products and services you are offering or for your blog.

The first rule is that you NEED to have categories. The reason is simple: It makes it easier for users to find the content they are looking for and for search engines to crawl and index a website.

Try to keep your categories the same size. If a category is too big because you have a lot of products or blog posts about that topic, try to break them into two or three categories.

Add your categories in the menu of your website and homepage. Don’t try to hide your categories but make sure that your main categories are accessible from the main menu and linked to from the homepage.

Use categories to create content relevancy. This is true especially for blogs. One of the reasons for creating categories is to build topic relevancy and help Google understand for which topics you want to build authority.

SEO optimize your categories

When you create a new category do some SEO work on it. In particular:

Optimize the title and description of the category
Write a short introduction
Add a relevant image (with proper ALT text)
Optimize the slug
Make sure that is included in your sitemap
Add internal links pointing to your category pages.

For example, look at my SEO Articles category. Notice that I have changed the slug of my categories from ‘category’ which is the default value to ‘articles’. Why? Because it makes more sense.

The category has an optimized title, optimized meta description and a short introduction. Besides listing my latest SEO articles, I have created groupings of the most popular articles. These groupings have proper headings (h2).

As a result, the category page is ranking for a number of terms including SEO Articles and Latest SEO articles.

For more information on category SEO, you can read:

How to SEO category pages of your ecommerce store
Category SEO for WordPress websites

Use HTML or CSS for navigation

Avoid using Javascript or Ajax when creating your navigation. The best approach to make the life of search crawlers easier to use plain HTML tags combined with CSS for formatting.

Also, don’t use images to create your navigation links but use text. This means that if you want to link to a category page from your homepage don’t just add an image and link to it but have a text link as well.

Make use of breadcrumb menus

Breadcrumb menus are important for SEO. Google has many times mentioned the need to have a breadcrumb menu on all your pages so that users can navigate the site easily.

When activating breadcrumb menus on your website, make sure that:

The breadcrumb menu displays your site structure accurately. For example, when you activate a breadcrumb menu on a product page, it should have the following elements:

Homepage > Product Category > Sub Category > Product page

In other words, the menu should display all levels until you go back to the homepage.

Add structured data to describe the breadcrumb menu to search engines. There is a special type of markup for breadcrumbs that gives search engines more information about your navigational structure. Google can use this information to enhance the appearance of your search listing on both desktop and mobile.

Breadcrumb Menu
Create an SEO friendly permalink structure

When creating your site structure, you should also think about your permalink structure. Your goal is to create SEO friendly urls that match your site structure.

For example:

Let’s assume that you have decided to adopt this site structure for your fitness blog:

Homepage
Fitness Category -> Articles
Diet Category – > Articles

Your permalink structure should be as follows:

myfitnessblog.com
myfitnessblog.com/articles/fitness
myfitnessblog.com/articles/diet

IMPORTANT:

Don’t confuse the logical structure of a website with the URLS of the category pages and the actual URLS of single pages.

In the above example, the URL of a single blog post could be: myfitnessblog.com/how-to-lose-weight.

Notice that the category name is not included in the URL because It doesn’t have to be included. It’s friendlier to users and search engines to keep your urls short and precise. Google can understand the category of the article from your sitemap and breadcrumb menu and.

Pay attention to your internal link structure

One of the ways to make your site structure stronger is to make good use of internal links.

Internal linking is a very important aspect of SEO for 5 reasons:

It’s a way to lower bounce rate and increase time on site
It’s a way to help search engines discover more pages from your website
It’s a way to pass ‘pagerank’ from strong pages to other pages and make them stronger
It’s a way to give search engines clues about the valuable pages for a website
It’s a way to implement your site structure

In the beginning of this post, I have mentioned that search engines during the crawling process start from the homepage and follow any links to discover and index more pages from a website. Having internal links to the rest of your pages makes their job easier.

When creating internal links, have these rules in mind:

Create internal links pointing to your category pages. This will help crawlers index those pages and give them a good idea on how your website pages are related (and this helps topic relevancy)

Identify your most valuable pages (others refer to this as pillar content or cornerstone articles) and link to them from other related pages of your website. At any point in time, these should be the pages on your website that have the greater number of internal links.

Hint: You can view the internal links report in Google Search Console to find out how your internal links are currently distributed.

From your category pages make sure that you link to the most valuable pages of that category. See how I have organized by SEO Articles category page where the most valuable posts are displayed on top of the page.

You can use optimized anchor text for your internal links. For example, if you want to link to a category on your website that displays athletic shoes, you can safely use the following anchor text “Athletic shoes” when linking to that category. Unlike external links, Google will not punish you for using optimized anchor text for internal links.

Internal link structure

Make sure that ALL pages of your website can be reached through internal links. A page that has no internal links will probably be ignored by Google so make sure that all your website pages have internal links pointing to them.

Here is an example of good and poor internal linking practices as explained in my SEO Tutorial.

Good and Bad Internal linking Practices
Provide users with a sitemap

This is different than the XML Sitemap you need to create and submit to search engines. In your website’s footer you can include an HTML sitemap that shows the website hierarchy to users.

Here is a nice example from HP

User Sitemap Example
How to change the site structure of an existing website

If you already have a website that ranks in Google, one of the challenges you will face is how to change your site structure without losing your existing rankings.

While there are a number of actions to follow to protect your rankings, there is always a risk involved when changing either the content or structure of an existing website. So, you need to have a good plan to follow to minimize the risk.

Some guidelines to help you out:

Before changing anything make sure that you have the full picture in your mind as to what you want to achieve.

Don’t just go and create a new category because you realized it’s a good idea but first think how your overall structure should look like and then start making changes.

Use 301 redirects in case you are renaming or removing categories or changing URLS.

A 301 redirect instructs search engines that a URL of the page has changed. Search engine crawlers will update their index accordingly.

For example, if one of your category pages has the following URL:

example.com/category/seo

and you change it to

example.com/articles/seo

then you should add the following 301 redirect in your .htaccess file or using a redirects plugin.

Redirect 301 /category/seo example.com/articles/seo

Submit your updated sitemap to Google.

Once you are done making changes, login to your Google search console and submit your updated sitemap to Google. You can optionally request a ‘Fetch as Google’, to force Google to process your changes faster.

Structural changes take time – set your expectations correctly

When working on your SEO, you should always have in mind that SEO takes time to work. It may take weeks or months to see the outcome of the changes you are making to your site today.

Yes, Google will pick up your changes pretty fast but until they are fully processed, it may take a lot of time.

It is also important to set your expectations correctly. By changing your site structure, it does not mean that your rankings will skyrocket.

Following best practices and solid SEO techniques it’s a step towards the right direction but for overall SEO success, a number of other factors are taken into account.

Conclusion

A good site structure is nowadays more important than ever. In the past we used to create flat websites with lots of pages targeting specific keywords but that’s no longer the case today.

Things have changed. Competition is intense in all niches and with the introduction of machine learning, mobile first index and voice search, it’s important to give search engines more clues about the topics (and not just keywords) you want to rank for. And the best way to do this is by having a well-defined and solid site structure.

A website site structure should be hierarchical and easy to use. The starting point is the homepage and all other pages should be grouped into related categories.

Users should be able to reach any page of the site by following links of the homepage.

Website categories need be SEO optimized and added to the navigation menu. Internal links should point out to users and search engines the most valuable content of a website and also help them identify how the website is structured.

If you haven’t done an audit of your site structure yet, then this is a task to add at the top of your SEO checklist.

The post How to Optimize Your Site Structure for SEO appeared first on reliablesoft.net.

5 Reasons Your SEO Consulting Project Is Failing and How to Turn It Around – BruceClay

Posted by on Jul 9, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 5 Reasons Your SEO Consulting Project Is Failing and How to Turn It Around – BruceClay

5 Reasons Your SEO Consulting Project Is Failing and How to Turn It Around – BruceClay

5 Reasons Your SEO Consulting Project Is Failing and How to Turn It Around – BruceClay was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

The relationship between a business and its SEO consulting firm is a delicate balance of give and take.

In order for an SEO strategy to deliver the best results, the SEO consultant must give accurate and useful recommendations, and the client must take that guidance and implement those recommendations.

This is a team effort where the consultant solves problems and mentors the client, and the client then learns and implements.

Seems fairly straightforward, but it’s not always so.

You have no doubt experienced this in your business. A project can have great energy at the outset. But as time passes, progress can be delayed and momentum stalled for a variety of reasons.

Here’s the good news: We’ve observed that there are five common roadblocks affecting SEO consulting projects that can absolutely be surpassed — once you know how to identify and push through them. Many potential failure points can be addressed even before the project starts, for maximum results.

In this article, I’ll list five common issues that threaten an SEO consulting project’s success AND how you can overcome them:

Misaligned expectations
Time constraints
Budget constraints
Lack of SEO knowledge
Website back-end and architectural issues

There are five common roadblocks that stand in the way of an SEO consulting project’s success (goats not included).

1. Misaligned Expectations

Misaligned expectations are a huge reason why consultants fail with their SEO projects.

This situation leads to scope-creep and client-satisfaction issues. It often disrespects the SEO team, and sometimes disregards the client’s desires for extra services.

Some clients — especially those that are already knowledgeable about SEO — may want to retain unyielding control of their SEO project. This is understandable when you’re a company that had an SEO team and strategy in place already. Issues arise, however, when that in-house team thinks they are better than they are and the consultant is ignored.

Generally, our favorite consulting scenario involves working closely with the client’s in-house SEO team.

But sometimes conflicting efforts or opinions between the consultant and the client’s SEO team lead to mishaps. A large amount of time may be lost due to drawn-out discussion or inaction. Eventually, the project may see little success. And even worse, with two cooks in the kitchen, sometimes neither can get things done.

At the end of the day, both the SEO consultant and the client want results.

The challenge for the SEO consultant is to create a list of recommendations that will have the greatest effect while aligning with the client’s expectations.

What roadblock does your SEO project face? Photo by Emran Kassim (CC BY 2.0)

Challenges on the client’s side may be that they have no power over the IT implementation team, or their influence is weak. But once they see and evangelize results within their organization, client teams will be more receptive to future recommendations.

The SEO consultant can sometimes help their client contact make progress within their organization.

Example: A national auto service chain we consulted for had a site speed issue, but their IT department didn’t think it was a priority. IT’s lack of cooperation was hindering the project. We finally included their IT team in a conference call, where we demonstrated how much faster competitor sites were compared to their own. Soon after, our speed recommendations were implemented and that project roadblock was cleared.

Solution: Ultimately, the best way to avoid misaligned expectations is to speak candidly about each party’s role in and ideas for the SEO project. Do this up front, followed by often. Keep focus on the KPIs for the project.

Clients should be sure to communicate their major pain points and goals. And they should celebrate wins.

Meanwhile, consulting firms need to create strategies that address these pain points. Remember, an SEO consultant becomes an important part of the client’s digital marketing team.

Taking unilateral action can alienate you. Instead, create a partnership between yourself and the rest of the team, so you are working together to achieve the business’s goals.

At the end of the day, both the SEO consultant and the client want results.
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2. Time Constraints

Clients want the biggest bang for their buck. As such, they often don’t want to spend their staff resources to follow recommendations that appear minor or insignificant. Makes sense to me — focus on what drives the most traffic first.

For instance, clients often discount the value of editing meta tags — a page by page task that can seem time-consuming and trivial. And time consuming it is, but certainly not trivial.

Project roadblocks may be unexpected. Photo by Jefe Le Gran (CC BY 2.0)

Those who do see the value usually have seen positive results from optimizing titles and meta descriptions in the past. We have never seen it hurt, and almost always see solid improvement. What is especially helpful is if the client’s team understands how SEO really works at an advanced level.

Providing recommendations to a client with time constraints is difficult because, as with the budget barrier, everything must be justified in terms of the resources they are spending on the task.

Solution: Clients can request conversations, instruction and deliverables that show how SEO proves its value in terms of time commitment.

On the SEO consulting firm side, here are a few ways to justify value:

Make the recommendation and its explanation thorough. This gives a sense of confidence to the client that the work follows the best SEO practices.
Perhaps propose a proof-of-concept test that will prove the recommendations are valid.
Reference Google, Bing or other expert resources that align with the recommendations.
Have confidence in what you say and the client will, too.
Provide a comprehensive training class that shows the consulting agency’s expertise and teaches a proven methodology.

The best way to avoid misaligned client/consultant expectations is to speak candidly about each party’s role and ideas. Do this up front, followed by often.
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3. Budget Constraints

No one likes spending money on what they believe is useless. And let’s face it, any project that takes months to see substantial results requires a leap of faith. You just must be a believer that SEO will eventually pay off.

A microscopic focus on the ROI of every individual recommended task, however, can disrupt an SEO project. By scrutinizing the cost and return on investment of each individual task that the consultant recommends, some business clients miss the big picture.

SEO often requires that many tasks reach completion for the needle to move, and often an individual task is little more than a piece in the puzzle.

For example, budget-wary business owners might incorrectly believe that:

Editing meta tags, rewording main navigation links and other detail tasks are too time-consuming and unnecessary for SEO strategy.
Their content is fine as is, which is really very seldom the case.
Their main problem is not having enough backlinks to their site.

Look ahead — don’t let your SEO project be blocked. Photo by B4bees (CC BY 2.0)

Since SEO success or failure results from a combination of efforts over time, it can be complicated to quantify (although some have tried to measure KPIs for SEO).

While SEO consultants understand SEO as a long-term game, client teams may not. They’re often more concerned with their monthly investment and how that translates to immediate results.

Solution: Budget-conscious clients almost always want recommendations to be justified in terms of ROI. On the client side, it’s important to remember that data analytics aren’t yet able to completely track customer journeys across the wide range of digital marketing touch points available.

SEO consultants, on the other hand, can help clients to feel more comfortable by presenting a clear, concise project plan. The consultant should be able to explain the value of each step of the SEO strategy — even when the costs and results cannot be precisely tied together.

SEO often requires that many tasks reach completion for the needle to move.
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4. Lack of SEO Knowledge

Bruce Clay delivers SEO training.

Many clients don’t understand the art and science of SEO — after all, it’s not their only job.

They know they have a problem with their website and want more online visibility. And they’ve hired an expert to fix these problems.

However, a client should never feel “in the dark” about what the consultant is doing on their behalf.

The expert consultant should be willing and able to explain complicated topics in an easy-to-understand manner. You, as a client, should be comfortable that you can ask questions and receive clear answers that increase your knowledge of SEO. The consultant should be able to cite credible sources like Google and Bing to give more weight to their recommendations. And if the SEO consultant refrains from using unfamiliar industry jargon to explain processes, even better!

Lack of SEO knowledge can often be at the core of other common roadblocks, such as the time and budget constraints I talked about earlier.

Solution: Besides finding an SEO consultant who is able to provide the kind of Q&A described above, clients could also become familiar with at least the basics of search engine optimization. This will help them ask the right questions and see the value of the recommendations — and help prevent the marketing consulting project from failing.

For our own SEO consulting clients, we provide formal SEO training. Each new client gets a seat in the Bruce Clay SEO Training course at the start of their project. We’ve found that providing training is one of the best and fastest ways to get a client up to speed on how SEO works and why we recommend the things we do.

A client should never feel 'in the dark' about what the SEO consultant is doing on their behalf.
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5. Website Back-End and Architectural Issues

Terrible content management systems don’t discriminate.

We’ve seen some of the world’s largest brands have a content management system (CMS) that is either outdated, broken or cumbersome to use. This is a problem because SEO implementation often requires flexibility to make proper changes.

In addition, sometimes the way a site is structured or designed does not allow the SEO consultant’s recommendations to be fully implemented — and sometimes they cannot be implemented at all.

Example: Sites using the Magento CMS often experience structural issues when organizing product categories. As a result, the CMS often creates duplicate content — two identical categories with links pointing to both pages. In the end, these pages compete for rankings and confuse the search engine and user experience.

What happens in cases like these is that the client usually won’t be receptive to the SEO consulting firm’s (our) recommendations because they simply can’t implement them with the current CMS in place. Understandably, the client may even get annoyed when the SEO consultant repeats the same instructions. The client often believes that there’s nothing that they can do about it.

As a result, the SEO consulting firm ends up backlogging important but not implemented SEO tasks. To-do lists for the client switch to smaller, more actionable changes that may not make as big of an impact but which reduce the friction of the project.

Solution: Discussions about the client’s CMS and potential implications to the project’s success should occur before the outset of the project. Both parties should be fully aware of what can and cannot be accomplished with their SEO consulting project within the limitations of the existing CMS.

Sometimes, the full scope of the limitation is not known until after the project begins. However, the proposed solutions should be on the table so that the client knows in advance that they may have to upgrade their CMS to fully realize SEO success.

Both the client and SEO consultant should be fully aware of what can and cannot be accomplished within the limitations of the existing CMS.
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Summary

Both the client and the SEO consulting firm want the project to succeed. So it’s in everyone’s best interests to work as a team and see results.

Unfortunately, misaligned expectations, time and budget constraints, lack of SEO knowledge and back-end limitations may slow the project’s forward movement. An experienced consultant can often identify the roadblock and steer the project back on course.

Example: One of our clients, a beauty-products retail site, came to us with a small budget. We took them on as a client because we saw opportunity for them to expand their market. However, right away we had a scope-creep issue. They had big plans, moved fast, and wanted us to be involved in every move they made. For about two months, our analysts were working double what the contract paid for. In month three, we nailed down a project plan for the next 90 days that included goals and deliverables. Regularly we show the client this rolling 90-day plan so they know what to expect. Now, if they throw in a new request, we ask what part of next month’s project plan they’d like us to table to make room.

If your SEO project seems to have stalled, you may be experiencing one of the five common roadblocks I’ve outlined for why consultants fail. Whether you represent the consulting service or the client, I hope these observations will help you to turn things around.

If you’re ready to find an SEO consultant who understands the challenges and is committed to success, contact us to request a quote — we would love to discuss how we can be a great team member.

How To Choose a Domain Name – An SEO’s Guide

Posted by on Jul 8, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on How To Choose a Domain Name – An SEO’s Guide

How To Choose a Domain Name – An SEO’s Guide

Deciding to purchase a new domain and choosing a domain name are often decisions that are made by a wide range of stakeholders within a business. Like a first-time home buyer, clients who are faced with the decision to purchase a new domain ask us a myriad of questions:

Are domain names a ranking factor?
Should I include keywords in my domain name?
Does the TLD (or domain extensions) affect SEO?
Will an older domain get me better rankings?
Do I need a domain or subdomains or subfolders?

These are all valid questions but, we can start honing in on the issues that matter most by shifting our thinking. In the current search landscape, rankings are a large part of SEO. It’s why SEOs spend countless hours analyzing keyword data, server logs, and technical best practices so that we can move one spot higher in the SERPs. However, rankings are like high school diplomas. The diploma is significant, but it’s more about the journey. Here’s the shift in thinking that we must achieve as SEOs:

“Stop focusing on the rankings. Let’s focus on the experience.”

Now let’s focus on a few general questions and best practices to keep in mind when choosing the right domain name for your business.

Do You Even Need a New Domain?

One of the first questions a business should ask if whether or not the new domain or subdomain is needed? Can the new content or product live within a subfolder on the existing site? If the new product or service like a closely related cousin to the existing business, can it live on a subdomain? Think about the various customers coming to your site would they benefit from seeing this new content on the same site or a different site? Would it create a disjointed experience? All of these questions come down to what is useful for your users. The analysis done to answer these questions should focus on user experience.

From a search engine perspective, building your site’s authority is an important factor in achieving organic success. PageRank is something that is core to Google’s ever-changing ranking algorithm. PageRank has also gone through changes but generally speaking, it is a mathematical equation that helps Google ascertain the quality and quantity of links to a webpage. This evaluation helps determine a relative score of a page’s importance and authority which is one of the many factors that Google considers when they are deciding which pages to rank over another. One way we can help increase PageRank of a site is by consolidating links under 1 domain rather than splitting those links across multiple domains.

Brand + Audience

Choose a domain name that makes sense for the brand and relatable to your main audience/user. When viewing your brand alongside other businesses in the SERPs, what name do you think will pique user interest, gain their trust and click through? Some brands focus on names that are playful or gimmicky and easy to remember. Other brands focus on names that are relatable and jibe with your products or services. Cards sorts and the analysis you did to understand your audience and user personas is extremely valuable here in providing insights to what domain name will resonate with your user base.

For example, if you had a local baby boutique (selling clothes, toys, and gear) and some of your user analysis showed that your customers were interested in:

Supporting local mom and pop shops
High quality, handmade toys
Organic, natural, non-toxic products
Unique non-big-box baby items

Some domain names you may consider are:

seattlenaturalbaby-boutique.com
totttchotchkes.com
appleblossomkid.com

The problem with the first name is that it’s too generic, extremely long and also includes a special character like the hyphen.

The second domain name is catchy and fun to say. Who doesn’t like speaking Yiddish? The problem is that it’s pretty tricky to type.

And like Goldilocks, we finally find some satisfaction with final option. The name is easy to read and satisfies many of your users’ interests. Now we just need to make sure that no family of bears already owns the appleblossom.com domain.

Friendly + Descriptive URL Structures

Ultimately, what will matter more to search engines than your domain name is creating URL structures are friendly and easy to identify.

Meaning, do this ==> https://www.example.com/ovarian-cancer-research/

Do not do this ==> https://www.example.com/research/ovarian/204ka9083d54h7309asfaa257243lkd

“Friendly,” easy to understand and descriptive URLs are not only good for search engines but good or click-through rates. More users are likely to click because they understand what the page is about.

HTTPs vs. HTTP

Make sure the site is HTTPs. Even though your site may not be an e-commerce site or collect personal information via forms, https is a standard that more users are starting to expect and trust.

Blank Slate

Make sure the new domain isn’t similar to a product that is already popular. Is your new domain name a popular brand in another country? From a “common keywords” and “search competition” perspective you will have to compete with an established brand. If possible, choose a brand/domain name that is a blank slate. From a user experience standpoint, if your brand name is already commonly known, it’s better to come up with a unique name to avoid confusion. Do your due diligence and figure out if the name of your domain is the same or sounds similar to something else that is already out there. You may also find out that the domain name you are considering is also known for something that is not in line with your brand identity.

For example, we had a client who had a small e-commerce business selling clasps that hold baby pacifiers, bibs, and toys. They were considering naming their brand and domain, Claspers. Through the power of the internet, we discovered:

Male shark appendages are NOT quite the image you want your clients to think of when they are searching for a baby product.

Domain Extensions (TLDs)

Back in the day, the internet was pretty simple. Our choices were .com, .org, edu, .net, and .gov. Today, thanks to ICANN’s approval of hundreds of new TLDs, we have so many choices. Theoretically, whether your site is a .com or one of the new gTLDs, in the eyes of Google it should be equal. However, make sure the domain extension you are considering makes sense from a branding perspective and is relatable to your users. If your domain extension is not relatable to your users, you will send negative user signals to search engines.

Past Penalties & Domain Age

Another thing to consider before purchasing a domain is its history. Was it used as a parked site? Was it an active site with content that was impacted by one of Google’s quality algorithm penalties like Panda? Was the domain scraped by a malicious 3rd party site? What kind of backlinks does it currently have? Does it have backlinks from low-quality, spam, or adult-content sites?

Keywords in the Domain

In the past webmasters sought domain names that closely matched their business or service offering. They derived some benefit in organic performance, however, too many folks exploited this tactic to throw up spammy, low-quality content sites. Google launched the Exact Match Domain algorithm to penalize thin or low-quality content sites with exact match domain names. So rather than worrying about search engines when choosing a domain name, pick something that is relatable to your users and gains their trust. Find a name that will help people to choose your content in the SERPs and click through to your site.

There is so much to consider when choosing a domain name. We answered almost every question through the lens of user experience. It is good to have a firm grasp of SEO best practices when selecting a domain name but your customers’ experience and trust matter more than the analysis of “what is or is not a ranking signal.”

Conclusion

There are certainly more elements you could, and should, consider from a branding standpoint as you choose a domain. But if you’re looking for just a little more walkthrough on the SEO side, Rand Fishkin did a great Whiteboard Friday on How to Choose a Domain Name back in 2016 that’s still on-point.

Good luck, and hit us with any ponderous questions about this in the comments!

The post How To Choose a Domain Name – An SEO’s Guide appeared first on Portent.

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Local and Small Businesses

Posted by on Jul 8, 2018 in SEO Articles | Comments Off on 5 Digital Marketing Tips for Local and Small Businesses

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Local and Small Businesses

Let me start off by saying that digital marketing for local and small businesses does not need to be difficult. Many of the companies I’ve worked with in the past see it as a daunting task that is going to take too much time, money and a team of people to do. Sometimes they are right, but a majority of the time they are just trying to do too much at once. Internet marketing as a whole encompasses a broad set of activities, but local and small businesses do not need to do all of them. They just need to find specific strategies that work for them and capitalize on them.

This blog will be most helpful for local and small businesses such as electricians, plumbers, heating & AC Services, house cleaning companies, restaurants, lawyers and other small business types.

My goal is that you get at least one takeaway that will help make a positive impact on your business’s digital marketing efforts. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.

OK? Here we go…

Tip #1: Your Website – Keep it simple

Your website is the face of your company online. It’s a marketing brochure for your brand, services, what your company stands for and the kinds of clients you work with. It should contain all the most important things about your business. This makes it easy for someone to find the information they need before making the decision to contact you.

In regards to creating a website, there are plenty of great companies out there that will outline and build a site for you.  Just make sure you do research before contacting them so you know what to expect. The best tip I have for building a site is to… keep it simple.

Keeping a website simple can be very good for user experience, website upkeep and management, and especially SEO (search engine optimization). Here is an example of a basic outline that will encompass everything a viewer should know about your company. This outline will still leave room for you to expand your site and create more content with SEO in mind.

Homepage
Individual Service Pages (including pictures and/or video of past work – if applicable)
FAQ Page
Testimonials / Success Stories / Reviews
Resources (if applicable)
Could be used as a “self-help” or “how-to” section for certain business types
About Us
Contact Us
Blog

One thing to keep in mind is the kind of imagery and copy on your site. A lot of companies decide to use stock imagery and fairly generic copy. I would recommend going another route because this is a big opportunity for local businesses to show that they are human and their company has personality. This is where you can beat big brands for new business. To break this down a bit:

For imagery, use images from real projects or services you’ve done in the past. Spend some time ideating what kind of imagery you want to show on your website. Then hire a photographer (yes definitely spend money on these) to get the pictures you desire for your site.

For the copy, hire a copywriter who has done work previously for businesses in your industry. Make sure you give plenty of input so they know exactly what you are looking for and they stay in-line with your brand voice. And be sure they are experienced in writing copy with SEO in mind — that is very important. 😉

One local site that has done well in both categories is Johnson Roofing & Gutters (the name is just a coincidence and I have no affiliation with them).

Last but not least, make sure your website works on all screen sizes so people can view it on all devices (computer, tablet and smartphone). A responsive design or having a separate mobile-specific version is a must. Also, If you already have a website, I highly recommend going through the Technical SEO Audit Checklist for Human Beings to ensure it is healthy and will perform well in search engines like Google and Bing.

Tip #2: Reviews – Your customers are your biggest advocates

Reviews are VERY important for your companies reputation, especially online. Positive or negative reviews and how you handle them can be a customers deciding factor when it comes to their decision to contact you. This is why it is a good practice to respond to every review you can.

Similar to using real images of your work and developing copy that gives your site personality, replying to reviews shows people that you are human. Local and small businesses need to show they care about the customer. If someone gives you a positive review, say thank you. If another person gives you a negative review, respond like you would if someone gave you negative feedback in-person. This shows that you care about what people are saying about your company and you want to engage with your customers even after working with them.

Here is an example of a company that does a good job replying to reviews on Yelp.

  

I would like to highlight two things here:

This company replies to all review types. Even 5-star reviews get attention, which is important because it shows the customer you care about their feedback and their business is important to you. This is a tactic that can help you get a customer for life.
The response to a bad review doesn’t just stop at an explanation. It goes one step further and asks the person to get in contact with the general manager (contact info included), so they can learn more about the experience. This is a good tactic to (hopefully) change someone’s opinion after a not-so-great, or misinformed experience.

Along with the above, reviews can be very helpful for SEO and your company’s ability to rank above the competition. Be sure to ask for reviews on site like Google, Yelp and Facebook so you have a diverse review profile on a number of websites. Once you receive reviews, monitor them on a weekly basis so you can reply to them and engage with past customers. A good resource to learn more about why reviews are important is MOZ’s resource on Local Reviews and Ratings.

Tip #3: Social Media – Own your channels and grow your audience

Businesses of any size should be using social media. Create a company page, update it with all necessary information and use it on a regular basis. Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter can be very helpful when marketing a company. Plus, they are great sites to promote your services and post original content such as blogs and video. Use them correctly and you can find and engage with your target market (aka customers) and grow your following. Social media signals are starting to have an effect on SEO, too.

Some websites may have already created a generic page for your business. It’s good to do a sweep of all the main local and small business profile sites and check to see which ones have done this. Once you’ve identified the sites with your profile you can simply request to take ownership of the page and update it with all the correct information. Here is a small list of sites to check:

Google
Bing
Yahoo
Facebook
LinkedIn
Yelp
CitySearch
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Angie’s List
Merchant Circle
YP.com
See more on this comprehensive list from HubSpot

Now that you’ve taken time to create and/or round up your company profiles, update them with the most accurate data and include photos if possible. Then identify the ones that will be the most effective and start using them to your advantage.

Tip #4: Email Marketing – Keep them short and sweet

Email marketing is one of the best ways to market your services and content to a quality audience. People who sign up for your emails are asking you to communicate with them. You can do this by highlighting specials and deals you may be offering, letting them know about new blog posts or resources on your site, or just sending a monthly update on what your company has been up to and what’s ahead. One easy tip to keep in mind is to keep them short and sweet.

When used correctly, email marketing can be one of your highest converting marketing channels. Keeping your emails shorter is a good way to keep people engaged, while still getting your message across. People can get overwhelmed when presented with too much information. If the goal is to get someone to click on a link, write an enticing description and present an appropriate call to action (CTA). If your business has a new deal or promotion, tell them exactly what it is and how to get it.

Example email opener from Flatstick Pub that covers that month’s events

One more thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it with email marketing. If a company sends too many emails people could become uninterested or annoyed. This can cause people to unsubscribe from your mailing list, which is counterproductive to your goals for doing email marketing in the first place.

Tip #5: Content Marketing – Find your audience and plant some seeds

While content marketing is not always the most ‘important’ online marketing task it can be very helpful for many reasons:

Building thought leadership by answering questions around the web
Growing your online footprint by being active on Forums and Q&A sites like Quora, Reddit, and industry-specific sites such as AVVO (lawyers and attorneys) and HOUZZ (all kinds of home and garden discussions)
Both organic and paid social promotion of services and original content
Link building by creating relationships with bloggers and online influencers

Content marketing for local and small businesses can definitely take time to get right. It’s one of those tasks that’s easier to do when you have some spare time to spend on it. You need to identify “where to play”, meaning you need to find the right websites that have the discussions and content for you to engage with. This is also a very good way to identify new blog and page topics for your website. If someone has a question that requires a longer answer, write about it and post the full answer on your site. Then, you can answer the person on the site you found the topic on and refer them to the full answer on your site. Chances are that same question has been asked elsewhere, and now you have the “answer” on your site that you can point them to.

Final Thoughts

A couple things to keep in mind before embarking on any of these tactics are to:

First, make sure you have specific goals. This could include obtaining more organic or referral traffic, growing your social media following, or getting more qualified leads. Each of these tips can help you meet your goals and succeed in the ever-changing digital space.

The second thing to remember stems from my note in tip #1 about websites. Keep it simple. Don’t overthink things, which can cause less action to happen. Don’t be afraid to dive in and get familiar with each space. The sooner you start taking action, the sooner you will start finding digital marketing success for your local or small business.