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Insights into the Online World

Feb082016

Choosing keywords for the search engine optimization of your website is a big decision, with several moving parts.  Not only does SEO influence your website, but it also influences your business.  Choosing the proper terms to target in search based on their relevance to your business and their expected search volume is essential.  Here are two common misunderstandings people often have when choosing SEO keywords.

Targeting Insider Terms

There are some "keywords" you hear and use every day in your work life.   Because these terms are frequently used in your day-to-day, you might expect them to be the best keywords to focus on for optimization of your website.  However, consumers, or people outside of your business, may not be familiar with them and would not think to search for them.  In our industry for example, if you were looking for someone to develop a web-based form for your company, as an industry insider you might search "web application developer", whereas someone outside the industry might search "online form builder".  Both terms may eventually get you to a similar place, but the search volume for one compared to the other will be significantly different.  

The Solution

When choosing keywords, put yourself in your buyer personas shoes.  What terms would they search for?  How do they refer to your product/service when you speak to them?  How else could your solution be described?  Research the search volume on these terms.    

Using Overly Specific Keywords

To clarify this point, using specific keywords for optimization is good - general terms are more likely to return informational pages or definitions than actual business results.  Optimizing your entire website with the goal of ranking for a very particular term will be challenging.  Search engines base rankings on many factors, one of which is content relevant to the keyword.  If you have sparse content on your site that relates to this keyword, the chances of ranking well in search results are slim to none.   

The Solution

Rather than trying to rank across your website for a very specific term, your energy is better used crafting a single piece of evergreen content to rank for that term.  Users who are searching for your highly targeted keyword will still have a chance to see your website in search results, but your chances of ranking for other broader terms will not be limited.  

Spreading your optimization thin across your website will not yield the desired results.  In trying to rank highly for a large number of general search terms, you end up ranking poorly for all of them.  Focusing on creating content that is relevant to your business and the needs of your clients will provide much more long term value.  

5 Tips For Local SEO Success

Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Jan042016

SEO is all about ranking well in search engine results pages.  Local SEO is exactly that; it focuses on ranking well in local search results.  There are a number of ways you can do this, here are a few quick tips for local SEO success.

  1. Claim, verify and update your Google My Business page.  I have found that businesses with a verified Google My Business page have a tendency to rank higher than their unverified and out of date competitors.  
  2. Curate reviews on your Google My Business page.  If nothing else, pages with multiple reviews stand out in local search results.  The bright yellow star rating next to your business name can’t hurt!
  3. Focus on keywords you know are used locally.  If you know people in your area search for “cheap” instead of “affordable” take advantage of that knowledge!
  4. A mobile friendly website is absolutely vital to ranking well in local search results.  The majority of searches are done on a mobile device.  If your website is difficult to maneuver or hard to read on a mobile device users will bounce quicker than you can say “SEO.”
  5. Use rich snippets.  Highlighting relevant information on your website, like upcoming events, makes them stand out in search results.  Search engines, like Google, will display this information under your business name in the results page, further enticing users to select your link.

Users search because they have a problem, and all searches fall into one of three categories: “do”, “know”, or “go.”  Users searching on mobile are more often than not looking for directions to a location; the nearest, most convenient, provider of the solution to their problem.  While you can’t control the proximity of the searcher to your location (unless you’re a food truck!), you have some control over how your website appears in search results through local SEO. Don’t miss out on these easy wins!

In the past year, we saw five updates to the Google Algorithm, some confirmed and some not, as reported by Moz in their Google Algorithm Change History. 2015 was the year of “Content is King”.  But where will search engine optimization be a year from now?  

The growing trend of content marketing for business because more accepted in 2015.  Business owners and their marketing teams began to see fully the immediate value of adding content regularly to their website in the form of blogging.

I predict that this trend will continue; we will see more and more businesses jumping on the bandwagon.  With the influx of content being published online, search engines will adjust their algorithms to filter out the filler content and get to the good stuff. We’ve already seen the start of this with the Quality Update in May 2015.  

I also predict that mobile usability, on both smartphone and tablet devices, will continue to influence rankings.  2015 was the year mobile web usage surpassed desktop, making computers the accessory device and smartphones and tablets the primary platform customers are connecting with brands on.  Mobile first visual apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, will continue to grow and drive business.

Lastly, with all the high-profile hacks that have been reported in the past year, user security, especially user information, will be recognized as a significant ranking advantage.  Google has already made the recommendation that websites are on a secure domain (starting with HTTPS rather than HTTP).  Search engine optimization is a growing and changing thing, as consumer behaviour changes we must (and will!) continue to adapt to meet their preferences and needs.

Auditing Your SEO? Use This Free Tool

Emma Sadonick-Carriere

Dec072015

The web is full of tools you can use to audit the search engine optimization (SEO) of your website, but how do you pick the right one; how do these SEO audit tools know what ranking factors to check for? 

Rather than giving away specific ranking factors search engines are looking for, they prefer to tell us what they don’t like and leave the rest for us to guess.  We know the meta keyword tag isn’t used in ranking a website because Google said so.  We also know that deceptive hidden text or “cloaking” can be seen as a violation of webmaster guidelines and is likely to get your site penalized.  Anything that has a negative impact on the user experience, like keyword stuffing, will more than likely drive down your rankings.  

So, why not go right to the source to audit your SEO?  The Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, provides a wealth of data tracked directly from your website.  In the Google Search Console you find reports broken down into 4 key areas to monitor: Search Appearance, Search Traffic, Google Index, and Crawl.  

Search Appearance

The Search Appearance section of the Search Console dashboard contains several reports regarding the appearance of your website in search results.  This includes sitelinks, the links to internal pages of your website often found in Google Search results when you search for your domain.  Google does not allow website owners to specify which pages appear as sitelinks, they are generated based on various factors, one of which is page popularity.  If a sitelink appears for a page on your site you no longer want users to find you can request it be removed from the Search Console.  Other areas tracked under Search Appearance include:

  • structured data or rich snippets 
  • duplicate meta descriptions 
  • long/short meta descriptions 
  • duplicate title tags 
  • missing title tags 
  • long/short title tags 
  • non-informative title tags 

Monitoring these items and ensuring they meet the guidelines noted by Google can help increase your rankings in search results. 

Search Traffic

Search Console can be connected to the Google Analytics property for your website, the Search Traffic Search Analytics report shows the performance metrics Clicks, Impressions, Click Through Rate (CTR), and Position.  This section also tracks how many links to your website there are, who the links are from, what content is most often linked to, and the anchor text that is used in the link.  You can also see if any manual webspam actions (violations of Webmasters Guidelines) have been found on your site and what needs to be done to resolve them.  This section also includes a Mobile Usability report that provides recommendations to improve the user experience on mobile and tablet devices.      

Google Index

These reports show you how your website appears in Google as a whole.  You can see how many pages within your website have been added to the Google index, and a summary of keywords and variants used in your content sorted by significance as perceived by Google.  Ensuring the content on your website aligns well with the keywords you’re aiming to rank for improves your chances of ranking highly in Google search results. 

If you often update your website with information that does not necessarily need to be available indefinitely, you can request old or outdated urls be removed from the Google index from this area of the Search Console.  The requests should be made once you have removed them from the source of your website, as it is only a temporary removal request.  The content must be removed from the source of your website and blocked from crawling to have it permanently removed.  

Crawl

These reports show how your website appears in Google at the individual page level.  Crawl Errors reports any issues found by Google as they crawl your website, this is important to monitor as it can indicate an issue with your website that may be missed in simple day to day use.  Out dated pages that should be blocked and removed are often found in this report.  

The fetch as Google tool allows you to see exactly what Google sees when they crawl your website.  This is important for monitoring how easily Google and end users can access your website.  Slow load times and redirects can cause issues for both crawlers and users; this report will tell you if any action should be taken to improve the user experience.  You can also submit the “fetched” page to Google for indexing.  This is useful if you have made changes to your homepage, or a specific page, that you would like Google to start showing to searchers as soon as possible.    

Sitemaps in this section allows you to submit your xml sitemap to Google.  This tool is particularly useful if you have made major changes to the information architecture of your website and would like for the whole thing to be recrawled, not just a specific page.  These is no guarantee how soon after you submit your website it will be recrawled, but alerting Google a change has been made has been known to expedite the process.

Lastly, the robots.txt tester can be used to make sure the correct pages are available to be crawled across your website.  You can also confirm pages you don’t want to be included in the Google Index are not accessible by search engine crawlers. 

A good SEO Audit tool will check commonly accepted ranking factors like page titles, url structure, user accessibility, and content keywords.  The Google Search Console reports on all of these areas, and more.  Monitoring your website and reviewing the Google Webmasters Guidelines to ensure you meet or exceed them can only be beneficial to the search appearance of your website.

Nov302015

Month end and the upcoming end of the year have many of us thinking about our budgets; what’s been used, and what remains.  Focus on productivity, and utilizing leftover budgets is nearing its peak.  If you find that you haven’t quite used up your budget allocated to search engine optimization for your website, here are 5 valuable ways to make sure none of it goes to waste:

1. Run a Website Content Review

Reviewing your content regularly for keyword density can sometimes seem like a low priority.  As your business changes and grows, your search engine optimization focus should too.  Regularly reviewing the content of your website to ensure it aligns well with your primary keywords is one of the many vital steps to a successful search engine optimization program.  If you find that your content doesn’t align well with the keywords you want  your website to rank for, contact a content writer with a background in SEO.  A good source will be able to review your existing content and find opportunities for optimization, or will offer to write fresh content that is optimized for both readers and search engines.   

2. Purchase a Blog Post Package

Blogs are always started with the best of intentions, and often an equal amount of excitement.  As other tasks take priority, writing your weekly blog post may fall off your list of things to do.  Many content writers now offer their services in the form of blog posts too.  Provide them with a list of titles and bullet points of the important information to be included, and you can “catch up” on your blogging in no time.  The nice thing about a service like this is you can use it as a way to supplement (or get ahead of) your blogging schedule, so you’re not left feeling overwhelmed when you look at all the posts you have to write. 

3. Directory Submissions

Directory submissions, both paid and free, are a quick way to increase links to your website - one of the many search ranking factors.  Make sure they’re from reputable, high-quality domains.  Directories that let you include a short and long description of your business are more useful since they give you the opportunity to optimize your listing.  Include keywords in the description of your business, and choose the categories that align closest with your business offering. 

4. Review Incoming Links

Tools like the MOZ open site explorer give you a comprehensive overview of the inbound links to your site.  Their free report provides details on the title and URL of the linking page, the anchor text used in the link, and the Page and Domain Authority of the linking site.  With information like this you can contact the webmaster of the linking site with the goal of improving their link to your site, whether that means improving the anchor text that is used, or optimizing the link title tag.   

With a Pro Subscription to MOZ, or their free 30-day trial, you also get a list of Link Opportunities for your website which you can then pursue in a similar fashion.   

5. Run an On-site SEO Audit

A full audit of the search engine optimization on your website is a great way to see where you’re doing well in your efforts, and where budget should be allocated moving forward.  Contact Modern Earth Web Design today and we will complete a free SEO Checkup on your website, scanning for several top ranking factors including 

  • Broken Links, both internal and external
  • Meta Page Title Optimization
  • Meta Page Description Optimization
  • Headings and H1 Tag Optimization 

With the details found in our SEO Checkup, we provide a list of recommendations for potential improvements to the optimization of your website.  

Putting remaining budget towards the optimization of your website is not only beneficial now but in the long run too.  Search engine optimization is an ongoing process that requires attention at varying frequencies, depending on the nature of your industry.  Search Engines are constantly changing their algorithms to meet the needs of search users.  As user needs and search algorithms change, so should your SEO strategy, and how you use your SEO budget.

If you are interested in utilizing any of the opportunities mentioned above, please Contact Modern Earth Web Design to discuss how we can help your Winnipeg business optimize your online presence.  We are a full-service web shop offering web design, application development, search engine optimization, and online marketing services.  Our offices are located just minutes East of downtown Winnipeg on Provencher Boulevard.  

Thanks to phablets, tablets, phones, computers, dual-screens, game consoles and e-readers we have more than just one way of browsing the internet. Responsive Web Design is about making your site look good and providing the user a great experience on every device and screen size. Here are 8 signs that it’s time you invest in responsive web design.

 

1.) You Can’t Use Your Site On Your Phone. 

If you can only see a quarter of your website at a time, it’s not mobile friendly. Anyone attempting to use your website most likely won’t be able to find what they’re looking for, and they definitely can’t use the navigation to see your contact information. For those familiar with web design best practices, this seems like an obvious sign to invest in responsive design. Those doubting the need to access a website on a smartphone can look at these statistics compiled by mobiForge

 

  • 25% of overall search queries are now on mobile devices
  • 58.7% of smartphone users and 73.9% of tablet users access search
  • 42% of calls to businesses are driven by mobile search
  • 80% of local searches on mobile devices turn into purchases

 

 

2.) Mobile: Yes. Desktop: Yes. Tablet: Maybe? 

You’re using a phone or your computer and your website looks and works great, but look at it on a tablet and you’ll be constantly zooming in saying to yourself, “What is this, a website for ants?!?” With phone sizes increasing drastically and tablets coming in full and mini versions, the target screen display sizes are always changing. The wonderful part of responsive design is that you’re building one structure and then styling it to make it fit for every screen size. No need to develop and update separate mobile and desktop sites, just one set of content adjusted to work for every tablet, phablet, and phone screen.

 

3.) Your Site’s Getting Less Traffic Than It Used To. 

Google started considering mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in April of this year. What does this mean for you? If someone uses their phone to search Google for your keywords and your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you will lose ranking to other sites that are optimized for viewing on a mobile device. This shouldn’t affect your ranking for someone viewing your site on a desktop computer, but since 25% of search queries are done on mobile devices it’s a huge drop in traffic for your website. If you’re unsure how your website performs, check how Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

 

4.) You Lose All Of Your Key Info On Mobile.

While you website may appear on a small device clearly, you might have a lot of unnecessary content to dig through in order to get to the key information the user is looking for. The average person only spends 15 seconds looking for information on your site. That means that if they can’t find your phone number, hours, or whatever they came looking for they may go back to their search and move on to the next result. Having a responsive design enables you to choose which information and what order you want a user to view for each screen size. On a small screen there’s a limited area to display your information to the viewer and you have to be conscious of what brought them to your site in the first place.

 

5.) Your Site Takes A Long Time To Load. 

In reality we usually only wait 2 seconds, maybe 4 seconds if we know we have a really bad data connection. This can lead to people abandoning your website because they didn’t get the service they wanted. Load time has also been a factor in Google search ranking since 2010. As we covered in #4, a responsive site allows you to trim the amount of content displayed to the viewer. Having the ability to limit the content on a mobile device can help you eliminate the excess items that may increase your site’s load time.

 

6.) You Liked Your Website, But Now You’re Thinking BIGGER. 

You used to like your website, but now you have a bigger monitor and want to take advantage of that empty space you see on the side. Responsive design isn’t just about mobile. Most websites that were built in the last 5 years have a fixed width and work just fine. Once you see it on a larger screen you may realize how much real estate you could be capitalizing on. One of my constant resources that has taken advantage of this is Smashing Magazine. By adjusting the position of their navigation, they developed an immersive experience for a visitor who is using a larger screen size. Just because your site works on a standard screen, tablets, and mobile, doesn’t mean you’re taking advantage of responsive web design. 

 

7.) Your Competitors Are Investing. 

When looking for a new business to work with, be it needing a new water heater, insurance, or purchasing a home, a quick Google search is my first stop to get a good overall impression of the company. Even if your company is in the top three search results for your category, a poor online experience can easily translate into a missed or negative experience with your company. It may even cause a client who was recommended to your company to go with your competitor whose website was optimized for a mobile experience.

 

8.) You Want To Reduce Maintenance Costs. 

If your website is aging, you might be feeling the effects of technology developing at a rapid pace. A Flash banner that you may have been excited about when you first constructed the site won’t work on mobile or tablets, and that’s as much as 60% of all internet access. While your skilled development team can certainly keep your website running, it will likely have the stability of a patched tire - it will hold air for a while, but soon you’ll have to refill it and patch it again. All of those patches add up in cost and you may reach a place where it can’t be mended anymore. The development of a responsive site allows you to build a site better equipped to handle the ever changing world of technology and cuts down the cost of site maintenance.

 

If you think that you’re ready to invest in responsive design, give us a call. We’re happy to help figure out the best solution for you, whether it’s converting your current design or building a new online experience.

Nov162015

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a well known, yet often misunderstood topic.  As someone who works on SEO for multiple clients daily, I have come across various myths and misconceptions of what it is and how it works.  Before you can really understand SEO, you need to understand search engines.  

The goal of a search engine is to provide users with the most relevant and accurate result related to their search.  Good SEO implementation accurately describes the information contained in your website.  Poor SEO misleads search engines, and users, into expecting one “thing” and getting another when they click on your result.

To set the SEO record straight, here are the top 8 most common SEO myths I have encountered in my time in the industry.

  1. “SEO only applies to websites”

    You may not realize that images, products, events, and even locations can be optimized to appear highly in search engine results pages.  Optimizing the different elements of your website makes it easier for search engines to locate and index the information searchers are looking for.  This gives you a two-fold advantage when trying to rank for certain terms: you make it easier for search engines to find what they’re looking for which makes them more likely to put you at the top of their list, and it and creates more opportunities for your business to appear as a result because more of your information is easily crawled and indexed.  
  2. “SEO Keywords are all that matter for rankings”

    Google rarely explicitly confirms or denies what factors are taken into account when ranking a website.  The most notable instance where Google has spoken up is the Keywords meta tag.  Early versions of search algorithms used the keywords meta tag as a ranking factor for search results.  Over time this method was phased out because webmasters would take advantage of this knowledge and include terms that did not accurately represent the content of their website.  In a post on the official Google Webmaster Blog from September 21st, 2009, Google stated that their search algorithm “disregards keyword metatags completely”. 
  3. “Search Engine Optimization is a fad”

    Since search engines have been around, SEO has been what some see as a necessary evil.  As long as businesses have websites and want them to be found by potential clients SEO should be a requirement of any successful online marketing plan.  Why design and build a website you love, if no one will find it?  Which leads me to the next myth.
  4. “Web design has no effect on the organic SEO of your website”

    User experience has always been important to the design of a website.  The issue here is often that the website was built for the site/business owner and not their end client.  Designing a website with clear navigation, specific calls to action, and an easy to use interface create an enjoyable user experience, and lowers bounce rate (the percentage of users who view only the landing page of your website and leave almost immediately).  Users who enjoy using your site are likely to spend more time there, and view more pages overall - both factors that we at Modern Earth Web Design have found increase website rankings in search results.  
  5. “Anyone can implement SEO on a website”

    Implementing SEO on a website requires many things.  An understanding of code and how a website works, a strong attention to detail, and patience will benefit the person doing the actual implementation work.  There are so many small elements that make up the larger task that is implementing SEO on a website, an inexperienced person can easily miss several of these key elements.  

    Most importantly an understanding of SEO, and the desire to implement SEO properly will benefit the website owner and end user.  Marketers with an interest in providing a good service to their client know the frustration that comes from a poorly optimized website.  With all the information that is available online about SEO, and both the financial and time investment made in the design and build of a website, the reasons to leave your website un-optimized website are few and far between.
  6. “There’s no wrong way to optimize a website”
     
    SEO falls under two categories: White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO.  The later, as you may have guessed, is the wrong way to optimize a website.  Similar to a crash diet with fast results, the Black Hat method is not sustainable.  It may provide a quick boost in rankings, but after this brief period Search Engines catch on to the sneaky tactics and just as quickly penalize the website - often removing it from search results entirely.  Black Hat optimization methods like hidden text and keyword stuffing also negatively affect the user experience on a site.  Spammy looking content is a big red flag for users and will cause them to quickly bounce from your website. 
  7. “A good SEO provider will guarantee results”

    The exact elements of the Google Search Algorithm and most other search algorithms are unknown.  As such, any reputable SEO provider will never guarantee specific results.  Algorithms constantly change, and search result rankings fluctuate from week to week, day to day, and even user to user.  
  8. “Organic SEO is a “set it and forget it” thing”

    Search Engine Optimization is like a living, breathing thing.  Ranking factors and algorithms can change, as do search trends and user behavior.  Depending on your business, the search terms that are important to you will change from year to year, or season to season.  As a benchmark, we at Modern Earth Web Design recommend reviewing your SEO strategy every 6 to 12 months.   

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding organic SEO and all the moving parts that make it work.  I hope this post has given you some insight into the value that an investment in SEO implementation on your website can bring.  If you’ve already invested in SEO but aren’t seeing the results you would like, contact us today for a free SEO implementation review of your website and to discuss how Modern Earth Web Design can help improve your rankings.

Aug102011

Yesterday, it was once again my privilege to speak to participants of the YMYWCA Self Employment program on how to launch and market their new business ventures online. I visit the YMYWCA offices several times a year to speak to each group of new entrepreneurs who are starting up businesses here in Manitoba.

In addition to the 7 deadly sins of web design, I also talk about how to use social media effectively, as well as the value of search engine optimization. There is the occasional misconception that because Winnipeg is a small market, a website doesn’t have to be optimized – that there are few competitors (especially if we are counting bricks and mortar locations that do something similar). So I spend a bit of time explaining the benefits of optimization, the key things to look for when being quoted for an SEO project, and why being fully SEO’d for Winnipeg as a key term can help bring their business to the top of local search results.

It’s always a pleasure to hear about the great new business ideas that are being prepared for launch. On behalf of all the Earthlings, we wish each participant much success. We understand the challenges of growing a small business – and it’s great to see this new start-ups joining the Manitoba economy.

If you would like to have someone from Modern Earth speak at your conference, workshop, or other event, or arrange a training session for your team on social media, blogging for business or online marketing, we’d be happy to talk to you to see what might be a good fit for your event and your budget.

Call me at 204-885-2469, or email me at susan@modernearth.net.