Wednesday, January 27, 2016

SEO 101: The Importance of Website Structure

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]

This xample, from NothingButSharePoint.com, a blog about SharePoint and Office 365--is an unlikely candidate that nevertheless presented the most simple image of taxonomy on a Google image search.

The blog offers the example above to begin a conversation about organizing documents; the image, however, speaks to the universal appeal of taxonomy. Applied to any collection of information, a taxonomy is a simple yet powerful tool for guiding people to relevant information.

Of course, SEO works with search engines algorithms to achieve the same purpose. In SEO, we don't talk about the "best" content, per say; we speak about "relevant" content (which is, by nature, often the best). Relevance speaks to the quality of the information:

"Relevant writing is writing that feels necessary--writing that stays with the reader after the reader has finished reading. Relevant writing aims to make an impression. You want to offer something meaningful."

Please read: "How to Write Relevant Content."

Yet relevant content is useless (and, therefore, irrelevant) if no one can find it. Google and users alike need to be guided to your content. This is the function of website taxonomy.

When a website structure follows a logical taxonomy, the description, identification, and classification of content is seamless. From a search engine's perspective, a seamless structure means speedy and efficient indexing.

In case you're unfamiliar with "indexing," here's an overview from Kissmetrics:

"Indexing is the processing of the information gathered by the Googlebot from its crawling activities. Once documents are processed, they are added to Google’s searchable index if they are determined to be quality content. During indexing, the Googlebot processes the words on a page and where those words are located. Information such as title tags and ALT attributes are also analyzed during indexing."

A seamless structure also means your content can be easily shared. (For more on writing content that will inspire people to share, please read: "Three Keys to Writing SEO-Friendly Content That Inspire People to Share."

Finally, a seamless structure guarantees a website's ease of use. As you might know, "usability" is a major component of Google's ranking. As Kasia PerzyƄska wrote for Positionly last June:

"Shaping a thoughtful and engaging user experience helps readers perceive your website positively and triggers return visits. Usability and user experience provides measurable profits to a site’s visibility, which search engines interpret as being higher quality."

Read: "6 Current Google Ranking Factors You Should Keep up With.

Your structure or taxonomy, then, should be developed before you even begin building your website. As a practice, too, developing a website structure can help you refine your business offering. Again, you can create a taxonomy in any number of ways, but it can be helpful to think about a new website in terms of a home page, category page, and product pages.

A simple website taxonomy [Source: "How to create a site structure Google will love"]

Home Page: A home page is, obviously, the first page of your website, which will contain links to all relevant categories. A home page should include the most basic information about your business or website.

You want to be specific, but general about your offering. Describe your offering clearly, but remember you will go into detail later, with your category and product pages.

If you're a hair salon in New York City, for example, your home page will promote this simple fact.

Category Page: A category page is the place to use longer-tail keywords (instead of single words, phrases and/or sentences). A category page simply refines your offering into more nuanced subsections. As Hallam notes in its article on creating a website taxonomy:

"These pages should be the main focus for link building and should regularly have internal links pointing towards them whenever the topic is mentioned on a new page or post, this way they will be the most likely page to be picked and promoted by search engines for the topic they cover. Being an ideal place for people to enter the website on they act as key landing pages and can be used for paid advertising."

If you're a hair salon in New York City, your category pages might detail your services: Women's Styling or Men's Styling, for example.

Product Page:Your most specified pages, your product pages should focus on a sole product or service. You want to describe your products, one-page-per-product, explicitly. Product pages will not necessarily rank high in search engines for general queries, but they will be helpful in the context of your website, and for more specific queries.

If you're a hair salon in New York City, your product pages will detail the specific services you offer under your category pages: Keratin treatments, for example, under the category "Women's styling"

***

Much of the work of structuring a website falls upon your website developer. However, the more input you have in the process, the better. And, of course, you want to make sure your developer understands the basics of taxonomy, and how a good structure influences a site's SEO.

An SEO Company That Understands Website Taxonomy: Stepman's SEO!

To build an effective, fully-optimized website, you need a web development company that understands SEO. Stepman's SEO is the rare company that offers a host of SEO and marketing professionals to optimize your website. Contact Stepman's SEO today to learn how you can improve your website's performance: 215-900-9398.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Google Changes its Core Algorithm: What You Need to Know

Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes sent the SEO world into a tizzy earlier this week by confirming a suspicion of many webmasters: Google has made a change to its "core" algorithm. Illyes made the confirmation of Twitter:
The @Missiz_Z referred to in the tweet is Zineb Ait, another Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, who had earlier made the confirmation in French. And then, later, John Mueller, yet another Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, confirmed that the change was, indeed, not related to a much-anticipated Penguin update, but instead a "core update."

For the casual SEO observer algorithm changes might seem like a whole lot of hoopla, yet these changes do have real world impacts. In this latest change, for example, thousands of famous websites were effected--specifically news websites, like Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and our favorite, The New Yorker.

The nature of the changes is hard to pin down, but the SEO agency, Goralewicz, posed an intriguing theory about "brand bidding":

"Google is now showing different results when we search for brands. Therefore now, when you search for 'YouTube', you will be presented with results that better (in Googler’s eyes) respond to your search query."

If this theory is correct, it would appear that Google is now eschewing news articles about brands for, as Goralwicz notes, more "timeless" pages about the brands. Why? Perhaps Google believes a search for a brand is, by definition, a search for specific information about the brand--and not topical information about the brand.

Of course, this is all speculation--the type of speculation that inspires chatter in the SEO world. What should be intriguing to the wider audience of website owners and casual SEO observers is the mere fact of the change itself.

As you might know, Google changes its algorithm up too 600 times every year--so we're talking daily changes. Most of these changes are relatively negligible, but a few times each year Google makes significant update that really do influence search rankings. Over the years, Google has named these updates--Panda, for example, Penguin, and more recently, Hummingbird.

Each of these updates effected major aspects of search. Panda (released in 2011), was the first update to truly distinguish sites with high quality, original content. Penguin, released a year later, focused on eliminating bad links. Hummingbird, released in 2013, attempted to better understand each user's query by analyzing more complex search terms (such as voice-based searches).

The difference between these updates, specifically, and the "core" algorithm is largely semantic. The "core" algorithm is the nature of the search engine itself, in Google's case referred to as PageRank.

Why do we note these distinctions? By learning how and why Google changes algorithm, you can keep pace with the exact type of website Google prefers. For this latest "core" update, Goralewicz offers some interesting suggestions for keeping pace when writing, specifically, about brands:
  1. Try to write fresh content that clearly targets lost keywords.
  2. Don’t make it too specific 
  3. Create a valuable category page about the brand 
  4. Focus on the universal value for users that search for the brand 
  5. Provide a lot of useful data or a large report about the brand that you are targeting
  6. Refresh and improve the content that dropped
Some of these suggestions align with the Organic SEO Blog's general advice to create quality content that is useful for your specific audience. However, some of the other suggestions might seem counter-intuitive. "Don't make it specific," for example is generally a bad content creation strategy. Yet, if this "core" update really does prefer more timeless information about brands, this advice might be spot-on. 

The upshot of all this talk of algorithms is simple: SEO is a complex, evolving affair. To keep pace, you need to study the changes daily. Yet, SEO is not obscure. With a little patience, you can understand the basics. Unfortunately, too many website owners, perplexed by SEO jargon, avoid SEO entirely. If you're promoting your own brand online this is a terrible practice. Instead, we suggest two alternatives:

1. Learn the practice for yourself, or...

2. Find an SEO specialist who can explain SEO in simple terms.

At the Organic SEO Blog, we pride ourselves on simplicity. We democratize SEO by explaining its elements clearly. If you ever have questions about our posts, please leave a comment. Or better yet, call our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman.

Organic SEO with Stepman's PC 

If you're looking for an SEO company who explains the process clearly and effectively, contact 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.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How to Write Good Content: What is Your Point?

Over the years, the Organic SEO Blog has focused much of its attention on content--the text and images that make your website a useful or attractive destination. In the SEO realm, the goal for any website is to provide good, unique content that is relevant to its audience.

Beyond a site's functionality, good, unique content is by far the most important factor in an effective SEO campaign. (We define "good content" here).

Effective content is defined in the SEO world in many ways. Rand Fishkin of Moz, for example, writes that "good, unique" content is not enough--"Really, where I want folks to go...is 10x," he writes, "10 times better than anything I can find in the search results today."

The problem with this definition--and most like it--is the explicit focus on SEO. Fishkin, in defining 10X content, for example, focuses on keywords:

"If I don't think I can do that, then I'm not going to try and rank for those keywords. I'm just not going to pursue it. I'm going to pursue content in areas where I believe I can create something 10 times better than the best result out there."

Fishkin's article speaks about how to prepare to write content, yet offers little practical advice on how to write good content. For most writers, in fact, we believe the term itself, "SEO content," is not helpful. Analyzing your competitor's content and discovering the best keywords for your content, as Fishkin suggests, can be helpful, but this sort of research is not writing.

In a previous post, we offered helpful questions to inspire your writing:

1. "What question am I answering?"

2. "What am I adding to the conversation?"

We have also discussed the crucial difference between quality and quantity--how in the content world, less is often more.

Finally, we have also discussed how to write "relevant content" that engages your audience.

In reality, though, many website owners--and would-be content writers--need more elemental advice. To begin, we recommend turning away from talk of "SEO content."

Focus, instead, on the most essential part of any good piece of content: the writing itself.

Ernest Hemingway. To write content, you're better off following the advice of writers--not tech-centric SEO gurus.

A Basic Structure

Here is one way to create a basic structure for a good piece of content:

1. Analyze your topic precisely
2. Make an inventive point (thesis or claim) about the topic
3. Support your claim with evidence organized to make an argument

What is a Good Point?

A good point will help you and you audience understand your topic in a new way.

A good point will not be obvious.

A good point will invite debate.

Your reader might not agree with your point, but he or she might be intrigued.

How to Discover Your Point

You might not see your point until you write your content. Don’t fret too much about articulating your point precisely before you begin. Instead, sit down with an idea and explore that idea in writing. Very often, your writing process will generate a viable point. Write to discover your point, then revise.

Revision

Revision is the key to good content—to all good writing. The more time you save for revision, the better. As many writers will tell you, writing is revision.

As you re-read your writing, keep reminding yourself of your point. Ask yourself: Did I make my point? In revision, you have the opportunity to perfect your argument. If it helps, read out loud.

***

We emphasize basic writing here (instead of SEO writing) to prove a point: as Google's algorithm has evolved the best content has proved to be the best writing. More then ever, the mantra is true: write for people, not search engines.

Without a backbone of good writing, no piece of content--no matter how it is optimized with keywords--will perform well in the rankings. Of course, once you have created a good piece of content, optimization can only help. The key, however, is to focus on the quality of your writing before you worry too much about optimization. Remember: Make a good point.

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.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Top SEO Trend of 2016: Mobile App Optimization

Why do we make new year's resolutions? The beginning of a week, month, or year inspires optimism in many people. This sort of beginning is called (by the psychologist Richard Thaler, at least), a "notional boundary." The new year is the ultimate notional boundary, a cultural milestone for newness.

This milestone is celebrated and reinforced by pop culture. Brands from Nike to Whole Foods, try to monetize the optimism of the new year by selling you a fresh you.

In its "21-Days of Better for It" campaign, Nike, in Just Do It spirit, tells you "You are the resolution." Meanwhile, Whole Foods returns to a variation of prior year's catch phrase ("New Year, New You"):

Whole Foods New Year, New Start campaign tells you to "conquer your resolutions."

Unfortunately, we know that the optimism wanes; most people's resolutions fail. As the Statistic Brain website reveals, a mere 8% of people are successful in their yearly resolutions. Year over year, a full 25% of people never succeed in their resolutions.

As Marketplace Money reports, however, success is possible--with apps! For resolutionists, specifically, apps can help create reasonable goals and a list of daily actionable items--the key to resolution success.

The fact that Marketplace references apps in relation to new year's resolutions is not surprising. Apps help people navigate life. This New Year's eve, for example, we used the wonderful Waze app to find the speediest route from Philadelphia to Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, we used Seamless to order tacos from Fat Daddy and Kimchee Tacos. Of course, too, all night long we checked on friends and family on the Twitter and Facebook apps.

It might even seem outdated to name apps our top SEO trend for 2016, but in truth, SEO for apps is a relatively new phenomena that, we predict, will blossom this year into a profitable industry.

We were especially intrigued by a report from Criteo, in June, that revealed that conversions on mobile apps were higher for both the retail and travel industries when compared to the mobile website. As Marketing Land reported:

"Apps are becoming an increasingly important channel for many retailers. Retailers that have made app experiences a priority and generate over 25 percent of their ecommerce transactions come through mobile, saw their apps drive nearly 50 percent of total mobile transactions."


A graphic from a Criteo study, reported in Marketing Land, reveals the clear advantage of mobile apps vs mobile and desktop browsers

Are you in the app business?

More and more businesses, small and large, are seeing the possibilities of creating simple, streamlined apps. Although the field may seem crowded, now is definitely the time to develop a mobile app for your business. As Go-Globe reported last May, mobile apps account for 52% of all time spent on mobile digital media. To not take advantage of this trend would seem downright foolhardy.

You will, of course, be entering a competitive field, but with SEO you will have a distinctive advantage. SEO for apps field is new, so for now focusing on SEO basics will likely yield the best advantage.

To stand out, you will need to develop a truly useful app that will a) help your users live an easier life, or b) help your users interact with your brand more easily.

Once you've created a useful app, the key is to make sure you have an attractive icon and that you describe your app with relevant keywords. Of course, too, make sure you address any issues that come up in reviews. The best apps continue to improve based on user reviews. Below, you will see a visual guide to "App Ranking Factors" by David Loyd from Adobe.

App Ranking Factors (all speculation now) are similar to website ranking factors.

Need Mobile App SEO Help? Call Stepmans PC!

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 app.

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.