Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Mobile SEO in 2017: Six Key Questions

In March, 2014, we posted our first full report on Mobile SEO, the "new" SEO strategy set to "upend conventional notions of traditional SEO." Our report was based on a Search Engine Journal infographic, "The 2014 Mobile Landscape: 25 Statistics That Will Drive The Future of Mobile Marketing," as well as Google's recent major algorithm update, Hummingbird, which was made, in part, to accommodate the voice-based searches common on mobile devices.

Since 2014, of course, mobile has dominated search news, and more digital marketing agencies have promoted the value of "Mobile SEO." In 2015, the SEO world was abuzz with talk of "Mobilegeddon," a dramatic shift in Google's algorithm that would destroy any site not optimized for mobile. As we reported earlier this year, Mobilegeddon was a non-event, at least according to Mark Munroe, who wrote an analysis of the numbers for Marketing Land:

"I have direct access to several sites that are extremely mobile unfriendly to the point of being mobile-nasty," Munroe wrote. "And yet … I can barely discern a difference."

However, Munroe did admit the chance of future changes: "I do expect more mobile updates — and perhaps they’ll have a far more significant impact."

Perhaps this is why some in the SEO world predicted a new Mobilegeddon in 2016, when Google announced that it would begin to increase the effectiveness of its mobile-friendly ranking factor.

Of course, Google was calm in its announcement:

"And remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content."

Even then, the new Mobilegeddon was soon eclipsed by another big mobile development. In October, 2016, Google announced that its primary index, traditionally based on desktop websites, would now be based on mobile websites.

These changes, especially the recent "mobile-first" announcement, have inspired a flurry of questions from concerned website owners. We've compiled six of the most common--and pressing--questions below.

Mobilegeddon did not significantly change rankings, but it did force many websites to optimize for mobile devices. This infographic from Smash Magazine shows the uptick in optimized sites.

What is Mobile SEO? 

Traditionally, SEO firms optimized websites based on a desktop layout. Obviously, websites look (and work) differently on mobile devices, so mobile SEO is the process of optimizing your mobile website for mobile devices.

Why Optimize for Mobile? 

In a word, user experience. Without mobile optimization, a website will appear on mobile devices, but it may look and perform poorly.

When we first wrote about Google's mobile friendly ranking signal, before the signal significantly effected rankings, we performed a basic search for summer blazer. Among the results, we noted, the first two had the "mobile-friendly" designation and the third did not:

The first two sites here, Brooks Brothers and Pinterest, received the Mobile-Friendly tag (noted below the address before the description). The third result, Lifestyle Mirror, had not received the tag.

The third site, Lifestyle Mirror, which had not yet been optimized for mobile offered a poor mobile experience. In the screen grab below, you'll notice the tiny print and poor scrolling options: hallmarks of a website not optimized for mobile.


Lifestyle Mirror's not-so-mobile-friendly page for "Summer Blazer."

Of all the disadvantages of such a site, the prime problem was likely poor user experience. This is no longer an acceptable mobile experience; most users would simply navigate to another site. In early 2015, Google recognized this problem and acted accordingly, preferring sites with mobile-friendly designs.

In 2016, this type of mobile experience is exceedingly rare, but some websites--especially local websites--continue to display desktop designs for mobile devices.

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

The simplest way to tell if your website is optimized for mobile is to Google your site from a mobile device. Does it look like the Lifestyle Mirror site above? If so, you are not optimized for mobile.

Google also offers a Mobile-Friendly Test.

What is the Mobile-First Index?

Traditionally, Google looked to desktop sites to determine search results. Now when crawling the web Google will look to mobile websites to answer queries.

Google has said the new mobile-index will not significantly effect rankings. However, this could change. And, of course, as we noted above, mobile-friendly is not simply about rankings--it's about user experience.

My Website is not Optimized for Mobile: Will it be Included in the Index?

Even websites that have not been optimized for mobile will be crawled: “If you only have a desktop site," Google writes, "we’ll continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if we’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.”

What if My Mobile and Desktop Sites Are Different?

Of course, websites appear different on each device, so the nature of the information may differ slightly. For example, mobile sites often offer less content. This could be a potential problem for a website if the desktop site offers more possibilities for a customer to make a conversion.

The solution is a "responsive design," which simply formats a website's content for any device.

Need Mobile SEO Help? Call Stepman's SEO!

We believe that ecommerce is now a mobile game! To navigate the new rules of mobile SEO, you might need to hire an SEO specialist like Stepmans PC. If you sell a high-quality product that deserves customers, you also deserve a well-optimized mobile website.

Do not let the changing search landscape compromise your sales. Now, more than ever, you need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional.

Stepmans PC is now offering a free mobile website audit. Contact Stepmans PC today to learn how you can improve your website's mobile performance: 215-900-9398.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Organic SEO Blog: Top Posts: 2016

Forecasting is a major part of an SEO firm's work. On any given day, a good SEO asks himself: How will search change in the coming months and years--and how can I help my clients evolve and compete?

Another major part of an SEO firm's work, however, is about perfecting the work of the past. What have we done and how can we make it better?

In the spirit of perfecting past work, we offer our top posts of 2016--all SEO tutorials. Our SEO tutorial posts offer fundamental SEO lessons for newbies and pros alike. It's no surprise, then, that our SEO 101 posts attract the most readers. People want to know how to perform SEO.

SEO 101: The Importance of Website Structure 

Learning about website structure is a great way to sharpen your SEO skills. This post offered a basic view of website structure, with helpful definitions...

A good website is not simply a series of pages, but a carefully-plotted structure that describes, identifies, and classifies pages by topics and sub-topics.

 The word "taxonomy," often associated with biology, is also often used to describe website structure; to better visualize a good website, then, we suggest viewing an actual biological taxonomy.



A simple biological taxonomy [Source]



Perhaps the most basic and useful method for optimizing any page is to write keyword-specific title tags and meta descriptions. This post offers simple tips for optimizing both...

SEO is part technical, part creative. When optimizing a website, we focus on technical aspects first, but the real the work of SEO is in content marketing--creating and sharing your message. Even then, however, the technical work of SEO never really ends.

Each piece of content stands to benefit from SEO technical know-how. Without this technical know-how, in fact, any new content--no matter the quality--will likely fail to rank.

 Today we will speak about two crucial technical strategies for optimizing each and every page on your website. Before you publish any new page to your website, make sure you optimize your title tags and meta-descriptions.

SEO 101: Keywords

There are hundreds of guides of keywords. We take a creative view of the most popular SEO topic...

The best brands understand how to evoke a singular emotion with a simple word or phrase. Think of Nike's "Just do it." Or Apple's "Think Different." The slogans are famous. More famous, however, are the brand names: Nike and Apple.

When you Google "Apple" for example, Google understands you're looking for the company--not the fruit. The brand has become so noteworthy its fame exceeds the world's most famous fruit. (You won't even find mention of the fruit on the first SERP).

We're noting these examples to illustrate a simple point: the power of simple words--or, in SEO parlance, keywords.  

Organic SEO with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with carefully chosen keywords, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Relevant Content: How to Satisfy and Delight Browsers

Relevant content is the cornerstone of a good content marketing campaign. Beyond a site's functionality (usability), relevant content is also the most important factor in a good SEO campaign. In both cases, the purpose of relevant content is clear: to attract a specific audience.

Naturally, search engines prefer relevant content. In a page warning webmasters about "little or no original content," Google advises "relevant keywords":

"One of the most important steps in improving your site's ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content."

Relevant content satisfies a browser's keyword search. For each query, Google's goal is to produce only relevant results. Yet relevant content is much more than keywords.

To think of relevant content strictly in terms of keywords--as many SEO specialists do--is to limit what the best content can do. Yes, relevant content should "satisfy a browser's query," but the best content--to borrow a phrase from America's favorite "organic" grocery store, Whole Foods Market--satisfies and delights.

Whole Foods Market aims to not only satisfy, but delight, customers. [Photo source].

How to Satisfy a Browser's Query

The SEO world offers many guides on creating "relevant content," and many suggest optimizing the technical aspects of your content, such as the meta tagsalt tags, and the heading.

Keyword research is also crucial. Before researching keywords, however, SEO guru Neil Patel suggests discovering your ideal user's "intent": user's goal when performing a query. This goal can be defined, as Patel suggests, in three ways:

  • Do something – commercial queries: “Buy a lawn mower online” 
  • Know something – informational queries: “2015 gas lawnmower customer reviews” 
  • Go somewhere – navigational queries: “Craftsman website”

What does your ideal customer want to do? And how will your content meet this desire? When writing content, the goal for a good website is to produce content relevant to an specific audience. What is "relevant" for one brand's audience is necessarily irrelevant for another. Specificity is key.

After discovering user intent, keyword research is a relatively straightforward process that begins with common sense and ends with strategic thinking.

The point is to position your new content to compete against the current top ranking content. To do so, we suggest starting with a few working keywords, Googling the competition, using a keyword research tool, refining your keywords, and finally, Googling the competition for your new, refined keywords.

For more, read: SEO 101: How to Perform Keyword Research

How to Delight a Browser: Purpose

It is important to match browsers with accurate queries--to give them what they're looking for. Yet, most people in the SEO community are merely focused on satisfying a browser's query.

To delight a browser is the true purpose of content. Delightful content speaks precisely to a brand's core audience, defining, explaining, or meeting the audience's needs and desires. Relevant content is purposeful.

To create relevant content think about the element of the content itself: language, video, or pictures.

Think about content that performs several functions at once.Very good content might convey information about a product and make a connection to the reader.

Take a look at this deceptively simply copy from the clothing retailer, Bonobos: "Premium selvage denim with a touch of stretch so you don’t have to break them in."

This line tells us something unique about the product (makes us see): it's  premium selvage denim. Yet it also invites the reader to feel a connection to the product: you won't have to break them in!

To create relevant content, make sure each and every piece of content serves a purpose--or, better yet, multiple purposes.

How to Delight a Browser: Surprise

Relevant content feels necessary--content that stays with the browser after the experience. While being timely, relevant content aims to make an impression. To stand out from a surplus of timely content, offer meaning.

To do so, we believe, you must give the browser more then what they're looking for. Delight, like the best comedy, is a surprise. While satisfying, and even delighting, great content can also transcend, or even upend, user's expectations.

You can, obviously, tick all the SEO boxes--the tags and headers and keywords--while also offering an element of surprise. But here's the thing: Surprise should not be some artificial gesture; surprise can come from the content itself. The key is to be one-of-a-kind. Offer a fresh take on a common theme. Say something new. Or, if you can, say it in a new way.

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with 10x content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Friday, December 9, 2016

SEO Content Density: How to Write Like a Pro

In last week's post, urging readers to ignore SEO "trend" articles, we noted an egregious example of the genre: 3 Unstoppable SEO Trends To Look Out For In 2017.

The article, written by Sam Oh for Entrepreneur, cloaked three familiar SEO tactics--quality content, personal branding, and user experience--in the esoteric language of "trends."

Like many SEO trend writers, Oh failed to explain how or why familiar SEO tactics have become trends. To prove his points, Oh used bogus claims that defy conventional SEO wisdom. Writing on the "trend" of "increased quality content" and a new term, "content density," for example, Oh lies: "Every major SEO authority agrees that 2017 will be the year where we see the rise of content density across the board."

Oh defines "content density" obliquely, so it is hard to understand what he's talking about:

"Content density can be described plainly," he writes "as content’s 'per word value.' So for example, even though you might write a 3,000 word article that explains all the nuances of Snapchat marketing, the actual amount of value you deliver per-word might be very low. However, by providing denser content that is focused more on function than form, you can deliver the same value in only 300 words."

Is he suggesting that a 300-word article can replace the "function" of a 3,000-word article?

If so, he seems to misunderstand the functions of shorter and longer content. Both serve specific functions. To  conflate short content with long content is to miss this point entirely.

Even then, we can't find one "SEO authority" that agrees with Oh's assessment that "2017 will be the year when we see the rise of content density." This statement is pure flim-flam.

In fact, most SEO authorities believe the opposite to be true. For 2017, the prevailing SEO wisdom is the same: Longer pieces provide the most value and offer the best opportunity to attract clicks. The top result for "best content length 2017," from Snap Agency, confirms this wisdom:

"Regular content strategy: 1,000 word general blog posts. Heavy hitters, high competition, definite opportunities: 2,500 word blog posts."

The top result is presumably a major SEO authority, right? So does Snap Agency agree with Oh's idea?

Well, maybe. Snap Agency might agree with Oh's idea--but not as Oh has presented it in his article. Note the top of the Snap Agency post on content length for 2017:

"Size does matter, but quality matters more. When you’re writing a blog post, remember that length is secondary to the quality of your post, the structure of the article, its readability, and its engagement level. In other words, focus on how long people actually spend on your post checking out images, video, or eye-catching lists and stats."

Quality is more important than quantity. Perhaps this is Oh's point. After all, "per word value" is essential in any writing. Raymond Carver famously offered this writer's credo in The New York Times:

"That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say."

So Oh's idea, at root, is gold. Yet he fails to explain the idea in a convincing way. Since "content density" is such a crucial idea, though, we thought perform Oh's work for him.

How do you create impeccable "per word value"? What does content density actually look like?

Raymond Carver. As his quote implies, "per word value" is an essential writer's credo. [Image Credit]

Write a Succinct, Precise Title 

Clickbait rules the Internet because people follow enticing titles. To keep your audience's attention after the click, though, you need to answer the promise of your title. Clickbait titles are often misleading, yet some are clever.

Learn from click bait's successes and failures: Write a precise title--around seven words--that describes exactly what your article is about; if possible, be clever.

Don't Bury the Lede

In journalism the "lede" is simply the lead part of a story. The famous advice, "Don't bury the lede" describes a failure of many online articles: the tendency to offer secondary details first, delaying the point. Human attention spans are declining. After the click, you have a short amount of time to hook your reader. Dispense with the unnecessary preamble. Get to your point.

Cite Your Sources Clearly

Readers want to trust content. If Sam Oh had cited some source proving "every SEO authority agrees" we might feel differently about his article. As it is, his claim is dubious conjecture.

Citations--often in the form of links--trace your claims back to authoritative sources. The more you cite your claims, the more your reader will trust you.

Write Active Prose

Passive voice is the hallmark of bad writing. In a passive sentence, the object of the sentence becomes the subject.

Remember: The subject of a sentence is the noun or pronoun doing something. The subject is the noun or pronoun having something done to it. We like Grammar Girl's easy explanation:

"Just remember the sentence I love you. I is the subject of the sentence. You is the object of the sentence and also the object of my affection. How’s that? You are the object of my affection and the object of my sentence. It’s like a Valentine’s Day card and grammar trick all rolled into one."

Two more examples:

Passive Sentence: The article was written by Sam Oh.

Active Sentence: Sam Oh wrote the article.

Passive voice can lead to awkward sentence structures and excessive words. Remember, as Sam Oh writes, the key is "per word value."

Choose Your Adverbs Wisely

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs--as in "Please run quickly," where "quickly" modifies the verb "run." In many cases, adverbs can seem redundant: "Please hurry quickly" is fairly ridiculous. That said, adverbs can spice up your prose. I'm seriously not joking! The key is to choose wisely. Too many adverbs and your writing feels awkward, even laborious.

The Hemingway App is a good tool for catching excessive adverbs and passive sentence constructions. 

For more simple writing tips, read: "How to Write Good Content"

Content Marketing with Stepman's PC

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with good content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Why You Should Ignore SEO "Trend" Articles

The core principles of SEO are timeless. For a website, online success requires a superior user experience and high-quality, relevant content.

Yet, SEO is also about identifying trends. Search evolves with the algorithms, which change frequently. And ever so often, new technologies, like Google's RankBrain, change search in a fundamental way.

Unfortunately, the SEO world often inflates the importance of trends. In fact, "trend" is one of the most abused and misused words in SEO. Many SEO writers use the word trend to describe "developing or changing" without paying heed to the transitory nature of the word.

"Trend" means "a general direction in which something is developing or changing." The word denotes a lack of permanency. A trend is mere fashion. But the only trends that matter are the game-changers, like RankBrain--not fashionable changes, but solid truths about the evolving nature of search.

1980s fashion--like clothing, SEO "trends" come and go. Organic SEO focuses on timeless principles. [Photo Source]
A Google search for "2017 SEO Trends" yields an embarrassment of click-bait, including relatively innocuous titles like Top 5 SEO trends for 2017 from Google and the experts and 39 Experts Share Their Top 3 SEO Trends for 2017 and Beyond as well as a few titles that veer to pomp, 7 SEO Trends That Will Dominate 2017, and 3 Unstoppable SEO Trends To Look Out For In 2017.

Dominate. Unstoppable. To be sure, these articles offer valuable insights. Yet the click-bait nature of the headlines--and much of the content--is antithetical to organic SEO, which requires patience and clear-sighted, evidence-based strategizing.

Most of the trends discussed in these articles are not trends at all, but different ways of interpreting timeless SEO principles. The "unstoppable" article, for example, offers three "trends" that sound suspiciously familiar: "quality content," "personal branding," and "user experience," all long-time SEO staples.

To be fair, the author of this article, Sam Oh, tries to put a new spin on each. But his spin is misguided.
Speaking of "quality content," for example, Oh asks, "Have you ever noticed how in a given day, you can go to a dozen different websites and read the same content over and over with slightly different wording?"

Oh's question is anecdotal, of course, so we'll offer an anecdotal response: We have not noticed.

Yes, many sites write about similar topics, but the sites that rank write uniquely different content. Even then, Oh's point is well taken. So much content is similar enough. In response to this similarity, Oh believes, we've seen "the meteoric rise of long-form, detailed 'uber-guides' that cover topics in extensive (borderline excruciating) detail."

To explain "uber-guides," Oh links to an article by Neil Patel: "Why 3000+ Word Blog Posts Get More Traffic (A Data Driven Answer)."

Patel is one of the most prominent advocates of longform posts, generally considered by the SEO community to be the best way to attract traffic for any given keyword.

This was not always the case. In 2012, SERPIQ performed a much-quoted analysis that seemed to upend the conventional wisdom. As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in 2013:

"When readers started moving to the internet, media analysts thought longform journalism was in trouble. Attention spans were going to shrivel. Readers wanted short, they wanted snappy, they wanted 140 characters and not much more (though a listicle on the side couldn’t hurt). Who would want to scroll through an 8,000-word article on an iPhone screen?"

SERPIQ and others, like Moz, proved the opposite to be true: posts averaging 1,500 words (in Moz's estimates) and 2000+ words (in SERPIQ's estimates) performed best.

Since 2012, then, the SEO world has put much more emphasis on longform posts. Is longform a trend itself? Sam Oh seems to believe so. He sees today's content as a choice between two bad options.

"People are either subjected to bite sized remakes of the same boring filler that you have seen plastered across websites for the past several years," Oh writes, "or they are forced to endure guides and articles that are so long and drawn out that they make Tolstoy’s War and Peace look like a children’s bedtime story."

The solution, Oh believes, is "content density", which can be described as "per word value."

Like content length, keyword density is another hotly-debated SEO principle. How many keywords (compared to the total number of words) should you use for any given piece? Currently, the vogue is a relatively low density: maybe 1-3%. But keyword density is not what Oh is talking about. He's seemingly inventing a new term, "content density," to describe a meaningless concept.

"Even though you might write a 3,000 word article that explains all the nuances of Snapchat marketing," Oh writes, "the actual amount of value you deliver per-word might be very low. However, by providing denser content that is focused more on function than form, you can deliver the same value in only 300 words. Every major SEO authority agrees that 2017 will be the year where we see the rise of content density across the board. And this is a good thing. The world of content marketing is adapting its standards to the decreasing attention spans of the American populace, meaning that you get to spend less time writing and your audience gets to receive more value."

Nonsense. This is pure conjecture fueled by flim-flam. For example, what does Oh mean by "more function than form?" And how does this translate to delivering "the same value in only 300 words"?

And who are these "SEO authorities" Oh speaks of?

A quick Google search for "SEO content density" reveals a SERP full of articles on keyword density with one mention of "content density" from 2012. This is a far cry from "every major SEO authority." Surely Patel--the SEO authority--is not one of these authorities.

And can we please dispense with the myth of the "decreasing attention spans" of Americans? There is no verifiable proof this is the case.

Next week, we will provide an in-dept overview of what real "content density" might look like. Essentially, we'll take Oh's bait, and do his work for him. For now, though, we use his example here to illustrate the inanity of trend-based SEO click bait.

Our advice? Ignore it--all of it. Yes, there can be real value in these articles, but for the most part all SEO prognostications belie the true purpose of organic SEO: To be natural.

 Organic SEO with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with carefully chosen keywords, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Local SEO: Tips for Online and Brick and Mortar Success

Today is Small Business Saturday, the second of three "shopping holidays" in the long Thanksgiving-weekend that includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday (or Cyber Sunday, if you will).

We first wrote about Small Business Saturday, in 2014, when ABC News reported that the holiday was "still very much in the shadow of Black Friday," at least according to some small-business owners, who felt Black Friday continued to be the dominant sales day for all businesses.

Read: It's Small Business Saturday: Do You Know Where Your Customers Are?

Yet American Express, who sponsors the day, has reported steady sales growth for small businesses: "$16.2 billion in 2015," NBC News reports, "up from $14.5 billion the year prior, with 95 million customers reporting shopping small at local retailers, salons, restaurants and more.

Perhaps you've even seen the "Shop Small" logo, a ubiquitous feature at brick and mortar shops across the nation.

The Small Business Saturday Logo

Despite the folksy intimations of the logo, Small Business Saturday is actually a slick promotion, first marketed by AMEX in 2010, as a way to "show your love at a small business near you."

This year, AMEX created a short jaunty video; we were sad to see, though, that the video misses the folk appeal from last year's video, when one shop owner excitedly said, "We had a line for the first time ever!"

Another (anonymous voice) said, "It's not just a shopping experience; it's really more of a social experience. It makes the neighborhood more vibrant."

Of course, shopping local benefits your community financially and culturally. You meet the people who produce your goods; you put a face to your purchases. Also, most local businesses offer unparalleled customer service and unique goods and services.

Despite the emphasis on local, though, we know a majority of this weekend's sales will actually occur online. As NBC News reported today:

"Online sales on Friday hit $1.70 billion as of 3 p.m. EDT, according to Adobe Digital Index, after reaching $1.13 billion for the day on Thursday, up almost 14 percent from a year ago.

The National Retail Federation has said it expects total sales this holiday season to increase by 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, mainly due to the rise in online shopping."

Small, local shops may read this as bad news: more online shopping = less brick and mortar shopping.

But this does not have to be the case.

To a degree, the Internet equalizes the competition, giving even the smallest shops a fighting chance against, say, Amazon, who led the pack this year with the deepest average discounts at 42%. (Source: NBC News).

The greatest tool in any business arsenal is online marketing. As we wrote last year, small businesses can use SEO to compete against Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Of course, not all businesses have the facility to sell products online. For these businesses, however, local SEO is the best way to attract business to brick and mortar locations.

So how can a small business use SEO to compete locally and nationally?

Tell Your Unique Story

Organic SEO is a natural fit for a small business. Most brick and mortars attempt to limit prices by limit marketing costs, and by definition, organic SEO is free.

The key for any small business is to use organic SEO to tell a unique story that differentiates itself from bigger retailers. For a a local brand, quality content is crucial. And, of course, a local brand must emphasize service and experience in all content.

If your content can inspire an emotional response, you're doing the right thing.

Read: SEO & the Power of Emotions


Find Your Niche Market Online

A small business will not compete against the outstanding variety of products offered by Amazon. A small business can, however, offer well-curated products that exceed the quality and value of Amazon's products.

It can be hard for a smaller business to compete for a variety of products--in SEO parlance, keywords. For most smaller businesses, a better option (by far) is to specialize in a few key products--and a few keywords.

The more effort you put into promoting a smaller amount of keywords, the more likely you will attract specific visitors that will be interested in your product.

Read: To Compete, Discover Your Niche

Stay Local

The essence of Small Business Saturday is local shopping. As a small business, you can leverage your accessibility to locals by optimizing your website for this specific audience. Instead of competing against a national audience--and all the big retailers--you compete against local companies.

To optimize for a local audience, create hyper-specific content for your local town or audience and seek local reviews. As we wrote before:

"You can perform all the website optimization you like, but if you're local reviews do not reflect a good customer experience--well, then, your optimization efforts will be for naught."

Read: The Importance of Reviews for Local Business

Of course, too, you can take specific steps to optimize your brick and mortar location. Google My Business, for example, is an easy step. As we discussed last week:

"Essentially, Google My Business asks you to fill out your business info, paying special attention to details like your business category, so that Google can connect you to browsers who are looking for your type of product or service. The information you give to Google My Business is used to populate the local map as well as the knowledge graph, two powerful SEO tools."

Read: SEO 101: How to Partner with Google

Small Business Marketing with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites for specific local areas we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective SEO campaigns that can attract your ideal local customer.

Friday, November 18, 2016

SEO 101: How to Partner with Google

We write a lot about Google here, and for good reason. Google is doubtlessly the most popular search engine. In October, 2016, for example, Google accounted for 75% of the total search engine market share.

This colossal market share, of course, translates to tremendous profits. As eMarketer reported earlier this year, in 2016, "Google will generate $57.80 billion in total digital ad revenue worldwide, an increase of 9.0% over last year [and] 30.9% of the total worldwide digital ad market."

To survive (and thrive) online a website must play the Google game. Fortunately, Google is fairly transparent about its expectations for websites. Success on Google, we know, requires the same time-tested, straight-forward marketing techniques that have propelled the world's best companies to success.

More to the point, success is defined by your ability to tell your story in an engaging, unique way. What purpose does your company serve? What distinguishes you from your competitors. Why do you deserve a top Google ranking? What value do you provide to Google's users?

The role of organic SEO is simple: To ensure your answers are noticed--by Google and its browsers. Despite rumors to the contrary, SEO is not a way to game the system. In fact, Google endorses ethical SEO:

"Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site."

As we've noted before, Google and organic SEO are dynamic partners.

So how do you partner with Google? On this blog, we've written page after page about optimizing your website for Google. However, before you perform the most intricate details of website optimization, you can easily partner with Google in simple ways. Below we list three actionable steps to TAKE NOW.

Of all your business relationships, your partnership with Google might be the most important. [Photo Source]


Sign up for a Google My Business Account

A Google My Business account is mandatory for any business, especially local businesses, yet many website owners do not even know this tool exists.

Essentially, Google My Business asks you to fill out your business info, paying special attention to details like your business category, so that Google can connect you to browsers who are looking for your type of product or service.
The information you give to Google My Business is used to populate the local map as well as the knowledge graph, two powerful SEO tools.

Beyond your website, your Google My Business account will likely offer your most visible presence on the web. So make sure you keep your information current: phone numbers, images, and hours should all be updated frequently.

Sign Up for a Google+ Account

All Google+ business pages are now managed by Google My Business. If you have a Google My Business account you will also have access to a Google+ business account. However, a well-maintained Google+ page is a necessary compliment to any Google My Business account.

Google+ offers exposure opportunities not available via Google My Business. By maintaining a Google+ page, your business feeds the search engine more information--essentially the content you choose to post on the platform.

You can also control your "connections" on Google+. by segmenting different types of audiences and sharing relevant content to each. As Hootsuite notes: "A study conducted by Hubspot showed that sites using the +1 button get 3.5 times more visits on Google Plus. This is a great opportunity for you to join the discussion or get engagement on your own content."

Sign up For a YouTube Account

You might know, Google owns YouTube, the worlds second largest search engine. The website receives 350,000 new video uploads a day, so standing out is tough.

Yet, by downloading videos to YouTube with unique video keywords you necessarily optimize for Google's search engine, too. Essentially, YouTube, like Google+, offers another means of feeding the search engine information about your company.

Stepman's SEO Can Help You Optimize Your Relationship with Google 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively partner with the world's biggest search engine, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's SEO: 215-900-9398.

Stepman's SEO combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective marketing campaigns.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How to Find a Reliable and Reputable Online Marketing Firm: Four Simple Questions

Last week we discussed a simple, yet crucial question for a website owner: Do you need SEO?

Although SEO can benefit any site, not every site requires professional website optimization. Unfortunately, of the many websites that do require website optimization, many fail to seek professional help.

As we noted last week: "Our experience...reveals that a majority of online businesses...looking for new customers, profits, and success, are not performing website optimization--are not, in fact, engaging in any Internet marketing whatsoever."

Internet marketing. Website marketing. Digital marketing. Whatever the name, marketing is a necessity for any business that hopes to profit online. If your website promotes a good product, and your price is right, you deserve a well-executed marketing campaign.

So why do so many businesses fail to seek professional help? The problem is partly about indecisiveness. The inability to make a decision plagues even the most successful business leaders.

Read: Is Indecisiveness Costing You Money?

But indecisiveness is merely a symptom of a more insidious problem: many online business owners do not understand the value or purpose of digital marketing. Worse, many online business owners are suspicious of online marketing strategies, like PPC or SEO.

We write this blog, in part, to dispel misguided ideas about organic website optimization--organic SEO--and Internet marketing. We understand, though, that the best way to ease suspicion is to guide online business owners to honest, reliable, and skillful online marketing professionals.

If you've decided you do need website optimization, or any form of online marketing, but have not yet found the right firm, this post is for you. How do you find the best firm for your business? The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Digital marketing can be an engine to profits--if you partner with the right firm. [Photo Source]

Define Your Goals

The goal of any online marketing campaign is a conversion.

Of course, in a sense, all online marketing is about attracting visitors to your site. More important than any number of visitors, however, is a single conversion--when a visitor performs an action, like buying your product, sharing your content, or signing up for your newsletter.

To define your goal precisely, then, answer this question: How do I define a successful conversion? Your answer will help guide you to the most appropriate online marketing options. Remember, though: be specific.

The chart below, for example, shows 2015 organizational goals for companies who engage in content marketing. The problem with this chart, however, is that goals like "brand awareness" and "engagement" are not specific enough.

Instead, define a precise conversion, then find the best options to fulfill that conversion.

Know Your Options

As we noted above, online marketing firms go by many names, and many offer a variety of diverse services, including SEO, link building, content marketing, website audits, reputation management, and PPC management.

By defining a successful conversion, you hone your strategy. Now ask yourself: What is the best online marketing strategy to achieve my conversion goals? 

Most firms use a combination of strategies to achieve multiple goals. To discover the best strategy for your conversion goals, you might have to perform some research.  Learn about SEO and PPC and other strategies--at least enough to understand how each inspire conversions.

Find a Firm That Specializes in Your Chosen Marketing Options

Online marketing firms are a dime a dozen. One way to limit your choices is to find industry leaders for specific marketing strategies. If, for example, you've decided you want to generate leads with a robust content marketing campaign, you should find five of the best content marketing firms.

If you want to increase brand awareness with SEO, find five of the best SEO firms.

What does "the best" mean? In a sense, the answer is arbitrary. Again, you must research different firms. Look at reviews and portfolios. Ask yourself: Which firms offer the best services for my conversion conversion strategy?

Once you've answered this question, you should narrow your list of options to three to five firms. Speak to each firm. Your consultations should be free and informative. If an SEO firm tries to charge you for a consultation, run for the hills.

Find a Firm You Trust

Like any business relationship, you want to work with an online marketing firm you can trust. If a firm cannot communicate clearly, you should try another firm.

In the online marketing world, trust can be defined, simply, by communication. A trustworthy firm will explain its process lucidly. A trustworthy firm help you hone your specific conversion goals and strategy.

Of course, too, once you have interviewed a few firms, ask for references. A trustworthy firm will supply references on demand. Experience is important. Finally, ask yourself: Can I trust this firm? 

If you have any reservations, you should continue your search. Don't give up! The right online marketing firm is out there waiting for you.

Is Online Marketing Worth Your Money?

To navigate the complicated challenge of digital marketing, you might need to hire an marketing firm like Stepman's PC. Do not let the changing search engine algorithms compromise your sales. You need the astute wisdom of a professional who can help you answer the question honestly: Is online marketing worth your money?

Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Are You a Part of the $65 Billion SEO Economy? Should You Be?

Earlier this year, we cited a report by  Borrell Associates, a local media forecaster, that estimated SEO spending for 2016 to be just over $65 billion; by 2020, the report said, SEO spending will grow to $80 billion. The report--which must be accessed with a subscription--argued "the two categories that businesses spend the most on--web hosting and design--are switching positions with SEO and social media management."

The Internet, Borrell argued, has entered a new phase: "advertisers have finished the basic structure of their digital storefronts and are venturing out into their SIMS-like communities to find virtual customers."

As Search Engine Land noted at the time, the report may cause skepticism, and we tended to agree. True SEO spending numbers, we believe, are nearly impossible to quantify. The industry is simply too complex to define, let alone measure. Borrell's $65 billion estimate for 2016 may exaggerate or underestimate "total SEO spending."

The second part of Borrell's assertion quoted here, that most websites have moved beyond design and development and are now investing in SEO and social media management, also may or may not be true. On the one hand, new website growth has definitely slowed. Although the web welcomes new websites every day, the overall number of websites remains relatively stable at one billion. On the other hand, many of these websites never progress beyond design and development.

A chart from Internet Live Stats,
which says that the number of websites seems to have stabilized at one billion--for now.
It's no secret, of course, that in today's local, national, or global markets a a good website is standard operating procedure. But, as our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, often says, "Most of these websites are nothing but high-priced business cards." Stepman's implication is that many websites do not perform  marketing or optimization. These websites are often hard to find without a direct address. Like a business card, the website address must be revealed prior to discovery.

With good optimization, the opposite is true: a website is revealed after a relevant search--preferably on Google's first SERP (search engine results page). Of course, optimization cannot guarantee a first page result. If you're engaged in the $65 billion SEO economy, though, your website should be outperforming competitor's websites.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, even with SEO. Too often, SEO expenses are wasted on bad firms.

This was, essentially, Mike Templeman's assertion in his Entrepreneur article, which also cited the Borrell report.

Read: "Companies Will Spend $65 Billion on SEO in 2016, Much of it Will Be Wasted."

First, we must say, Templeman seemingly takes Borrell's finding as a matter of fact--odd, we thought, for an article that attempts to derail the SEO industry as "snake oil salesmen."

"I believe that the SEO industry, and the digital marketing industry in general is full of snake oil salespeople," Templeman wrote.

"I run a marketing agency," he added. "I have to hear dozens of horror stories every week about wasted budgets, sites damaged beyond repair, digital campaigns that produce zero results and everything else business owners and marketers are terrified of."

We agree with Templeman's sentiment here, although we have to say, his article is short on specifics, draws sweeping conclusions from singular examples, and fails to note a single example of an honest, hardworking SEO firm that utilizes budgets effectively, improves sites, and produces real results.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Templeman's implication is that his marketing agency, Foxtail Marketing, which he links to quickly, is the example of an honest, hardworking SEO firm; "much" of the other agencies however will "waste" your money.

In a way, we agree with this assessment, too. Too many SEO firms peddle in snake oil, making false claims in a spammy way. Yet a reputable SEO firm is not entirely rare. As Templeman implies, you need a process for finding a good match.

SEO is a straight-forward process. You don't want to waste your money on "snake oil salesmen."
Instead, find a firm that can explain SEO to you in a straightforward way
. [Photo Source].
Whatever the true SEO spending number, we know for certain one simple fact: Website optimization is an engine to new customers, profits, and success. If you sell a high-quality product, with a good price, a well-planned and well-executed online marketing campaign, which includes organic SEO, will deliver success.

However, we understand, not every website is necessarily looking for new customers, profits, and success. Of the billion or so websites, in fact, most are not looking for customers, profits, and success.

Unfortunately, our experience also reveals that a majority of online businesses that are looking for new customers, profits, and success, are not performing website optimization--are not, in fact, engaging in any Internet marketing whatsoever.

Borrell estimates the total number of digital marketing spending to be close to $613 billion.

Should you be a part of this digital marketing economy? Should you hire an SEO firm to perform website optimization? The answer is dependent on your goals.

Many businesses really do use websites as business cards. Brick and mortars, especially, use websites as simple information portals.

Of course, even if your website is not a storefront, you can profit from your online presence.

How do you drive customers to your brick and mortar? Traditional advertising? Today, online advertisement is much more effective than traditional advertisements--especially for local brick and mortars.

The problem, we understand, is simple: Many business owners are dissuaded by the cost of  digital marketing. For many businesses, though, the costs of doing nothing exceed the expense of marketing.

And perhaps this is the ultimate qualification for any website. Do you need marketing to survive? Do you need new customers? If so, you need digital marketing. You need SEO.

Is your indecisiveness costing you money? Call Stepman's PC!

If you sell a high-quality product that deserves customers, you also deserve a well-optimized website. Do not let the changing search landscape compromise your sales. And do not fall for the charms of SEO snake oil salesmen. Find a firm that can speak to you about SEO in simple, precise terms.

Now, more than ever, you need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional. You need Stepman's PC.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): Everything You Need to Know

Google changes the layout of its desktop and mobile SERP (search engine results page) periodically. You may or may not notice these changes, but even the most seemingly mundane SERP calibration can influence website rankings.

That is, if any change to the SERP can be viewed as "mundane." At the Organic SEO Blog we tend to view all SERP changes as vitally important.

Last February, Google announced two important changes to the desktop and mobile SERPs, respectively. At the time, we reported on the desktop change, which limited the number of paid advertisements on the SERP:

"Traditionally, a Google SERP included up to eleven paid advertisements and eleven (or more) organic results," we reported. "The search engine...will no longer display ads on the right side of the page. The change now limits SERP ads to a maximum seven-per-page--three (or four, in cases of highly "commercial queries") above the organic search results and three below the organic search results."

This change had implications for both paid advertisement and organic SEO campaigns. To read more about the change, read "Google is Changing the SERP: What You Need to Know."

Around the same time, Google announced a change to the mobile SERP, which predominantly effected news sites. The search engine would now display Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on the top of the SERP.

AMP is a Google-backed open-source initiative that empowers website to create pages that "render fast," as the AMP site says.

"For many," the site also states, "reading on the mobile web is a slow, clunky and frustrating experience - but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project is an open source initiative that embodies the vision that publishers can create mobile optimized content once and have it load instantly everywhere."

With AMP, sites strip down pages to the essential content. In highlighting AMPs, Google was trying to advance its perennial goal: to improve the browser experience, or as Google's vice president of news, Richard Gingras, puts it, "to drive the ecosystem forward."

Great news for browsers! The AMP style, however, has not necessarily worked for the news sites. As The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, some news organizations are seeing a loss in ad revenue:

"For some publishers...AMP pages do not currently generate advertising revenue at the same rate as their full mobile sites. Multiple publishers said an AMP pageview currently generates around half as much revenue as a pageview on their full mobile websites. That’s largely because of limitations related to the types of ad units AMP pages will allow and the ad technology providers that are currently integrated with the platform."

In simplifying the browser experience, then, Google is "advancing the ecosystem" at the expense of certain news organizations revenues. Now, not all news organizations have lost revenue. CNN, for example, has noted that visits to both the AMP pages and the full mobile site monetize at the same rate.

The takeaway, however, is that Google's relentless pursuit of an optimized browsing experience will not yield, even at the news of lost revenues--for other companies, that is. As always, to compete on Google, you must evolve.

You may have noticed AMP results at the top of your search results on your mobile device (first picture above). The AMP pages are intended to offer a cleaner, faster browsing experience (second and third pictures above). [Photo Source]

The AMP pages are here to stay, and news organizations are not the only sites that need to pay attention to the changes. Just this week, Search Engine Journal reported that AMP pages will be included in organic search results worldwide:

"When people are searching on a mobile device," Matt Southern writes, "Google search results will automatically default to displaying the AMP version of a page (if one is available). This change means a significant amount of new exposure for AMP pages; possibly leading to more traffic, revenue, and so forth."

The key here for your business is the quote in the parentheses: if one is available. Again, AMP is an open source code, available to any web developer. AMP optimization is not automatic for your site. You'll need to create new AMP pages to take advantage of this new change to the SERP.

As always, our advice is simple. If your site is dependent on mobile visits for income, you must adapt to compete.

If you have a developer in-house who can code AMP pages, you're a step ahead of the game.

If not, now is the time to partner with an enterprising developer, preferably with SEO knowledge.

Website Optimization AMP Coding with Stepman's PC

To create a fully-optimized website, with AMP pages, you'll need the help of many experienced professionals to perform different tasks.

Or you can call one multifaceted company. Stepman's PC is the rare company that offers a host of  development, SEO, and marketing professionals to optimize your website.

Contact Stepman's PC today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The True Purpose of Content and Technical SEO

To optimize a business website, you must perform two distinct, but equally important, roles: content marketing and technical SEO. Most online business owners and marketing professionals presume to know the purpose of content.

However, when we ask our SEO customers the question--"What is the purpose of content?"--we often hear vague answers that miss the point.

"To promote my brand." "To share my message." "To advertise our products."

Of course, in a simple sense, all of these answers are viable. Yet the true purpose of content for an online business must be more specific.

The Purpose of Content

Simply put, the purpose of content must be to create conversions. You're running a business, after all, so your content must achieve a specific goal, and that goal must be focused on not merely attracting customers, but making customers.

This is why promotion, sharing, and advertising miss the point. These definitions focus on attracting customers, but not necessarily making customers.

So how do you create content that inspires conversions?

Our experience has taught us a valuable lesson about content marketing: There is no magic bullet for creating content that inspires conversions. This is why we write so extensively about content. We try to present content marketing from different perspectives.

You might create content that inspires emotions. We've reported, for example, on the work of Kelsey Libert and Kristin Tynski, who writing for The Harvard Business Review, reviewed 30 of the top 100 images from imgur.com "to understand the best emotional drivers" of viral content.

The pair offered a valuable insight: "Think carefully about how your company, product or service is related to a topic or topics that taps into deep-seated human emotions within your target demographic."

Read: "Like Attracts Like: SEO and The Power of Emotions."

Or you might create content that answers a specific question or adds a new element to our existing understanding of a product or service.

Read: "Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content"

Whatever strategy you assume, though, your purpose must be the same: to create a conversion. After all, this is the only purpose that speaks to the elemental purpose of your online business: to make money.

Customers at a drug store. The purpose of business has always been the same: to make customers. This must be the purpose of your content, too.

The Purpose of Technical SEO

If many business owners and marketing professionals presume to know the purpose of content, many more presume not to know the purpose of technical SEO. Most website owners, for example, admit total confusion when confronted by the technobabble of the SEO community.

"What is structured data?" "What is a gateway page?" "What is keyword density?"

In one sense, these questions are beside the point. If you're working with an SEO company, for example, you really do not need to understand technical SEO--unless, of course, you have the time and need to understand a variety a different language. In our view, however, website owners only need to understand the simple purpose of technical SEO.

Simply put, the purpose of technical SEO is to lay the foundation for a successful content marketing campaign. In the past, technical SEO played a more direct role in online success. As Neil Patel writes: "With some solid pages, good structure, keyword-stuffed page titles, and heavy keyword saturation on your main navigational pages, you were set for SEO success."

This is not the case anymore. Today's technical SEO is about following the careful requirements of search engine algorithms. Technical SEO is about adapting to algorithm changes. Technical SEO is, simply, about compliance.

In this way, many--but not most--websites have successfully optimized for technical SEO. Many websites play on a relatively level playing field.

So what differentiates one website from another? Content, of course.

The problem is that too many website owners, fearing technical SEO, have completely avoided optimization in favor of content creation. Without technical SEO, though, even the best content will fail to fulfill its purpose. As we've noted before:

"Do not fear the code. And do not fear SEO. Far more fearsome is your competition--how the top sites use content to craft exquisite, attractive titles, descriptions, and headers that attract audiences...When you fear the technical aspects of SEO, you distract yourself from the true work of optimization: crafting precise content. All else is techno-babble."

Read: "Do Not Fear the Code"

Some Simple Advice

Our advice for any new website owner is two-fold:

1. If you feel you cannot optimize the technical aspects of your site, partner with an SEO firm.

2. Once you have optimized the technical aspects of your site, create content that inspires conversions. Again, if you feel you cannot create purpose-driven content, partner with a content marketing firm.

Technical SEO and Content Marketing with Stepmans PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively perform technical SEO and content creation, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepmans PC: 215-900-9398. 

Stepmans PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective content marketing campaigns.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Big News: Google's Primary Index Will Now Be Mobile-Based

Every new website or blog must be crawled and indexed before appearing in search engine results. For most search engines, this process is similar:
  1. A web crawler (aka: a web spider or bot) follows links within websites and between websites to copy pages for search engine processing. 
  2. The search engine then indexes the copied pages, sorting each page by certain keywords and/or metadata to make the page available to browsers.
For a search engine like Google, this process is exhaustive. According to Google's own numbers, the search engine now includes over 60 trillion pages; the index is over 100 million gigabytes.

Even then, of course, 60 trillion does not represent the total number of pages on the Internet. Writing for the Tennessean, JJ Rosen claims: "Google's index represents only an estimated 4 percent of the information that exists on the Internet."

The rest of the pages, Rosen writes, exist in the "Deep Web," which "consists of everything from unpublished blog posts to public websites that require use of a search field to get information back."

So why are some sites indexed and some are not? As the crawler follows links across the Internet, it should confront specific instructions from each link:
  1. Index and follow the link 
  2. Follow the link but do not index 
  3. Do not index and do not follow
These instructions are built into links by webmasters. However, even with these instructions, a a search engines may or may not index the page.

If the crawler discovers spam, for example, it removes the offending page. As Google notes in its How Search Works infographic, the search engine "fights spam 24/7 to keep your results relevant." However, the search engine also takes steps to allow webmasters to remedy the spam: "When we take action," Google says, "we attempt to notify the website owners." Site owners can then fix the offending pages and let Google know about the fix.

Yet spam is not the only reason a website might not be indexed. The process of crawling and indexing, in fact, highlights the importance of using knowledgeable web designers and web developers. A simple mistake can prevent Google from crawling and indexing your site.

When performing SEO, you must ensure that no page contains any mistakes or spam elements. Good SEO specialists understand how to work with Google's algorithm to meet the search engine's quality standards.

Is your site in the index?

To  perform a Google index check, search for "site:mywebsite.com".

Does your site appear?

If Google is missing some of your pages, your webmaster can create and submit a sitemap. Again, however, you want to make sure you're dealing with a knowledgeable webmaster. Mistakes can be costly.

For more information on proper design and development, read our guide to building a website as well as our companion articles on website development.

Also, Google's Webmaster Guidelines are an invaluable resource for website owners and webmasters alike.

Google's index isn't much different, in spirit, from a library card catalog [Photo Source]

Google Announces New Mobile-Only Index

We're talking about the Google index today because the search engine recently announced a major change. Until now, Google has had a single index for search results. However, as Search Engine Land reported this week, Google will now divide its index in two, between desktop and mobile, and mobile will be the primary index.

The SEO world is full of speculation about how this change will effect Google's efforts to crawl and index sites. As Search Engine Land writes:

"The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings."

Of course, as above, success in this new environment will be dependent on the quality of your design, development, and SEO efforts.

Is your site optimized for mobile? We've been asking this question since at least 2014, when Google began to place an increasing preference on "mobile-friendly" sites.

Read our article from that time, "Mobile SEO in 2014: What You Need to Know." The information is still valid--more valid and important in light of Google's recent announcement.

Need Mobile SEO Help? Call Stepmans PC!

Search is now a mobile game! To navigate the new rules of mobile SEO, you need an SEO specialist that understands Google's guidelines. If you sell a high-quality product that deserves customers, you also deserve a well-optimized mobile site.

Do not let the changing search landscape compromise your sales. Now, more than ever, you need the astute wisdom of a professional search engine optimization professional.

Stepmans PC is now offering a free mobile website audit. Call Stepmans PC today to learn how you can improve your website's mobile performance: 215-900-9398.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Google's Top Three Ranking Factors: Links, Content, and RankBrain

In Google's recent Penguin algorithm update announcement, the search engine referred to its ranking factors as "200 unique signals or 'clues' that make it possible to surface what you might be looking for."

These "signals" have long been a rich source of speculation for SEO experts, yet we still have no precise view of the ranking factors. Even the top result for "Google ranking factors," Backlinko's "complete list" of 200 ranking factors admits: "Some are proven. Some are controversial. Others are SEO nerd speculation."

The most important ranking factors are self evident. In the recent announcement, Google stated, for example, "These signals include things like the specific words that appear on websites, the freshness of content, your region and PageRank."

So keywords, updated content, local SEO, and authority: SEO experts have long celebrated these crucially important factors.

It's the 196 or so other factors that lead to "nerd speculation." And really, that's all it is, speculation, of relatively little importance. We might never know the majority of the 200 ranking factors. Thankfully, we know the most important.

In 2015, in fact, Google confirmed that RankBrain was the "third most important factor."

Last year, Google confirmed the top two. As Search Engine Land reported at the time, "In a Q&A with Google, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors were links and content."

"I can tell you what they are," Lippattsev said. "It is content. And it’s links pointing to your site."

What of the 197 or so other factors? Who knows, for sure? Any successful optimization campaign, should start (and continue) with special attention to the top three.

Below we discuss each factor in detail.

Google's Top Three Ranking Factors: Links, Content, and RankBrain [Photo Source]
Quality Inbound Links

Google counts incoming links from reputable sites as a primary "clue" to determine the quality of  your content. The more reputable links your content receives, Google believes, the better your site.

In the past, Google's algorithm counted incoming links without focusing on the link's provenance. A website might've attracted an abundance of links, however, from exchanges or from bogus websites.

As we reported last week:

"To Google, a 'good' link is a one-way link: a link that points from one site to another. Before the Penguin algorithm, many sites exchanged links, a practice Google penalized. To avoid penalties, Black Hat webmasters created multiple websites, a hundred or more, all owned by one website, and built to create links to the primary website. Flooded with incoming, one-way links, the primary website leapt in the rankings."

The Penguin algorithm was created, in part, to punish these link schemes. Now that Penguin is "real time," the emphasis on quality links may have more immediate consequences--good or bad--for websites.

So how do you attract quality links? Let Google's advice guide you:

"The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it."

In other words, "Don't Just Build Links--Inspire Links!"

Quality Content

You do not need to an SEO expert to know that content dominates the Internet. From listicles to polls to op-eds, we have a seemingly insatiable appetite for all types of content.

The good news, so to speak, is that our appetite requires endless fresh content. The bad news, though, is that the endless appetite for content inspires an equally endless competition.

To compete, you must create "quality" content--or as Rand Fishkin has said, "10x content."

How do you create quality content? Again, Google's advice is helpful: Create content that is "high quality" and "engaging" as well as "useful and informative," yet also "more valuable and useful than other sites." You must also display a certain level of "credibility...by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials."

The Organic SEO Blog is devoted, in part, to exploring the nature of quality content. We have written extensively on how to write and share quality content.

Remember, despite the abundance of content on the Internet, your personal content strategy should always focus on Quality above Quantity.

RankBrain

In a way, RankBrain, Google's new "machine learning" system, which uses artificial intelligence to sort queries, is an algorithm itself. However, right now RankBrain does not sort every search, and is merely a part of Google's core algorithm, Hummingbird.

The intent of RankBrain is to take Google's 3.5 billion daily searches and learn from each by noting connections between the search and where the browser finally clicks.

In the past, all of Google's "learning" has been performed by coders, which creates inherent bias: "We end to think about algorithms as neutral," we wrote on algorithm bias before, "but really, although engineers base algorithms on mathematical principles, most of the judgments about those principles are exactly that--judgments, made by biased humans."

Please Read: "On Algorithm Bias and the Important Work of Organic SEO"

Now that Google uses artificial intelligence, the algorithm should, in theory, choose the most precisely optimized sites pages available for each and every query. Of course, as above, optimization here means "quality"--a hopeful sign for new websites trying to compete. In theory, if you follow Google's advice of how to inspire links and write quality content, your page should get a fighting chance against more established sites.

Natural Website Optimization with Stepman's PC

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively create relevant and engaging content, we suggest contacting our sponsor, Stepman's PC: 215-900-9398 Stepman's PC combines traditional marketing methods and organic SEO--with an emphasis on natural website optimization--to design thoughtful, inspiring, and effective marketing campaigns.

And for more information about how you can optimize your content, read our posts about content.