Saturday, July 29, 2017

Good SEO News: Flash is Dead

This Tuesday Adobe announced the end of Flash. By 2020, the company will completely stop "updating and distributing," the once famed, and now notorious, freeware software.

The end of Flash will come as no surprise to many in the tech industry. The writing has been on the wall since at least 2010, when Apple eliminated Flash from the iPhone.

"It was too insecure," Wired recently wrote, referring to Steve Job's assessment of the technology, "too proprietary, too resource-intensive, too unaccommodating."

This has been the assessment of developers (and savvy end-users) for years; yet all of these factors had other, indirect effects on website performance--and, consequently, website SEO.

Looking at the history of Flash and it's demise, in fact, is perfect way to explore some key SEO themes.

Read Wired's Article: Adobe Finally Kills Flash 

Flash: A Brief History

In the early 2000s, at the dawn of the Internet, most websites relied on simple codes to produce simple designs. Both HTML and CSS, the most popular early coding languages, produced workable sites without much, well, flash.

When Flash was introduced, around this time, designers had access to a new range of content, including the animated graphics many associate with Flash (in positive and negative ways). Soon Flash was installed on most desktop computers. People used the software to access online games, videos, and audio. YouTube, which was founded in 2005, initially used Flash to display its videos.

The problems with Flash, however, which Steve Jobs noted in his "Thoughts on Flash," and which included the fact that the software was not open-source, nor reliable or secure, soon outweighed the benefits. Websites with Flash often took forever to load; and many crashed routinely.

Over time, better codes offered better means of presenting dynamic content. The prominence of touch screens and mobile phones, too, highlighted a crucial Flash flaw, which Jobs noted in 2010:

"Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers."

The development of HTML5, a coding language that supports the same dynamic content as Flash, made Flash essentially useless. In 2011, even Adobe announced it would stop developing Flash to meet touch screen standards--and would, instead, develop HTML5-based products.

Flash and SEO: Website Usability 


The reason Flash is so bad for SEO is partly about usability. Flash makes websites run slower; it also makes sites harder to navigate. Slow, hard to navigate sites do not impress the search engines.

Usability may be of a "second order influence," as Moz notes, but it certainly effects how browsers perceive a site--and consequently, how search engines interpret a site's popularity:

"Usability and user experience are second order influences on search engine ranking success,"  Moz notes. "They provide an indirect but measurable benefit to a site's external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality. This is called the 'no one likes to link to a crummy site' phenomenon."

Read: "How Usability, User Experience, and Content Effect Search Engine Rankings"

Flash and SEO: Website Visibility 

Another reason Flash is so bad for SEO is website visibility. Writing for the online marketing firm, Custard, Sam Allock itemizes the reasons Flash is essentially incognito to search engines like Google:

"Since Flash content doesn’t have any URLs, isn’t able to be searched or indexed, uses unreadable text content and doesn’t provide any way of monitoring outbound links, it’s a nightmare for Google’s search bots."

A nightmare indeed. We know URL optimization helps a search engine find a specific page. We also know content is the cornerstone of any digital marketing campaign. And, of course, we know that backlinks are one of Google's top three "ranking factors." For Flash pages, however, these elements are invisible to search engines.

Read: SEO 101: How to Optimize URLs

Read: What is Content Marketing

Read: Google's Top Three Ranking Factors

No wonder Google warns mobile users about Flash websites.

Flash Website? What Can You Do?

As Allock notes, the best way to optimize a site with Flash is to "make sure the Flash content is not critical." The best option, however, is to hire a design and development firm who understands SEO to refresh your website--or, if needed, to build a new website.

An SEO Company That Understands Website Design: Stempan's SEO

To build an effective, fully-optimized website, you need a web design and development company that understands SEO. Stepman's PC is the rare company that offers a host of 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.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Organic SEO: Two More Timeless Strategies

Last week we discussed how SEO has evolved with the Internet to help online businesses deal with the byzantine challenge of marketing to a global audience. And yet, SEO is relevant today because it relies on timeless marketing strategies. Marketing is about communication, and from the beginning of commerce the art of attracting customers has relied on the same principles.

The content of your message, for example, including the specific words, phrases, and design elements you use to express your message, must be specific and accessible; at the same time, your content must create a sense of intrigue.

Read: Organic SEO: Three Timeless Strategies

Specificity, accessibility, and intrigue will help you attract potential customers. But attracting attention is only part of the equation.

You also must inspire potential customers to become actual customers--to purchase your product or service. And, of course, you must inspire your customers to return.

Of course, this is also a timeless view of marketing. In today's SEO parlance, a purchase is called a "conversion." And return customers are frequently referred to, simply, as "return visitors."

Below we discuss these two essential principles and how they apply to today's SEO--or more specifically, today's "organic" SEO.

This photo, from last week's post, offers a perfect illustration of the elegant simplicity of organic SEO, which is based on timeless marketing principles. [Photo Source]

Conversion Rate Optimization 

Many website owners (and certain SEO firms) portray success in rankings and traffic, but ranking, which is partly often based on traffic, is meaningless without conversions.

Successful traffic obviously implies multiple visitors, but it's important to remember: a visitor is simply that--a visitor. A visitor may click on your page, browse a bit, then leave. A high ranking site may attract many visitors who browse a bit, then leave.

In this case, a visitor is essentially worthless. The key to online success is converting visitors to customers.

A conversion is a visitor who performs a desired act, like purchasing your product or service, sharing your content, or signing up for daily emails..A "converted" visitor is a customer.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a simple measurement of the percentage of visitors who perform a desired action on a website. The higher your CRO the more successful your site.

Read: SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization 

The wrong type of visitor will have no connection to your product or service--or, in the case of  Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers, to your wedding! [Source]

Return Visitors  

One-time visitors might be incidental or accidental; many visitors may have been looking for something else. But returns indicate well-informed visitors—visitors who may become actual customers; or better yet, actual repeat customers.

The pursuit of repeat customers is, perhaps, the oldest marketing challenge. How do you engage your visitor's imagination, inspiring return visits? When a visitor first views your site, he or she will experience an emotional reaction--for better or worse. Your job is to guarantee a uniformly positive reaction.

In organic SEO, this reaction is often determined by your website's design and layout.

Read: SEO 101: Website Design

Beyond the specificity, accessibility, and intrigue, you must design a simple, streamlined site which delivers the design goods:
  • Is your website user-friendly? 
  • Do your visual elements immediately inspire confidence in your customer? 
  • Is your language enthusiastic, positive, and evocative?
  • Are your promises about customer service sincere? 
  • Are you conveying the benefits of your product or service? 
Consider the first question: Is the website user-friendly? Speed and reliability are crucial website features. For most websites, speed and reliability is as important as the actual product or service.

If your website loads quickly, visitors will easily navigate between pages, and there will be no need to visit any other website for the same product or service.

Search engines also investigate this type of website performance; even if your website has been optimized for content, you might be penalized for slow loading times.

When you deliver the goods, however, you create confidence in Google and your customers--the type of confidence that inspires repeat customers.

An SEO firm can achieve some of this work for you, but to truly inspire your customer you, the website owner, need to cultivate a well-honed aesthetic sensibility.

To do so, you might browse websites that you find visually appealing. Look at these websites with a keen eye, and try to answer the questions above.

Digital Marketing with Stepman's SEO 

Yes, SEO is based on timeless marketing strategies, but the execution of SEO is a cutting-edge science, promoted by many but mastered by only a few. Once you have a vision for exactly how your product should be presented, you must convey that vision to your website designer and/or SEO firm. Take care to choose professionals who have created naturally-optimized websites that you find visually attractive.

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote emotionally accessible websites with specific keywords and intriguing content, contact 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 content marketing campaigns.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Organic SEO: Three Timeless Strategies

Webmasters have practiced some form of SEO (search engine optimization) since the mid-1990s, when the first search engines cataloged the web. Since then, of course, the web has changed the world, escorting society into a Brave New World of inventiveness and social transformation. SEO has evolved, too, to help websites market to a global audience.

Today, SEO is often associated with cutting edge digital marketing, but it's important to remember: SEO is based on timeless marketing strategies.

From the beginning of commerce, of course, marketing has been about communication.

Below we discuss three means of effective communication and how they apply to today's SEO--or more specifically, today's "organic" SEO.

Read: What is Organic SEO?

At heart, SEO is a simple marketing strategy based on timeless principles. [Photo Source]

Specificity  

SEO essentially governs the keywords and website design elements you employ to market your business online. If you can identify your potential visitors, or if you want to build a website for a specific visitor, you must include specific words and design details that will appeal to your audience. This idea, like most marketing principles, is self evident, yet too many designers build websites for a general--and not specific audience.

For online marketing success, specificity is key.

Read: SEO 101: Industry-Specific Keywords

Accessibility 

Remember, no one understands your product like you do. You are the expert. Your challenge is to convey your expertise in a way that inspires confidence in search engines and browsers.

When you use jargon that may not be familiar to your customer, he or she may lose interest—and like that, you’ve lost a sale! If you understand your customer, adapt your text and design elements to suit his or her needs--and avoid jargon!

Unfortunately, the SEO industry itself is plagued by jargon; and the industry could do a much better job making the essential tenants of SEO accessible to more people.

Do not let the jargon, or any other obscure SEO association, discourage you from learning more.

Read: Do Not Fear the Code: Is a Tech-Centric View of SEO Holding You Back?

Intrigue 

Relevant content may attract browsers, but a website should strive to not merely attract browsers—a good website must sustain a browser's interest.

The marketing goal, of course, is to cultivate informed and involved browsers who convert to actual customers. A precise and accessible description of your offering is necessary. But you must do more than describe your product--however precisely. You must intrigue browser to purchase your product.

One of the best ways to create intrigue online is to teach your customer something new—and possibly include him/her in the learning process.

Dr. Mercola has built a successful online business by making his supplements feel like necessary by-products of his health tutelage. To read Mercola's article on astaxanthin, for example, is to want to purchase his astaxanthin: "Hailed as One of the Most Powerful Antioxidants Ever Discovered," he announces. "Are You Missing Out?"

Among Mercola's many intriguing claims here is that flamingos "only obtain their pink color once they eat food that is loaded with astaxanthin."

Mercola creates intrigue by inspiring emotional connections to his products. You can do the same.

Read: SEO and the Power of Emotions

Flamingos get their pink skin from astaxanthin--an intriguing fact that helps to sell a product. [Photo Source]

Digital Marketing with Stepman's SEO 

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote emotionally accessible websites with specific keywords and intriguing content, contact 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 content marketing campaigns.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

SEO 101: Industry-Specific Keywords

Precision is the core of SEO. We research and utilize precise keywords to attract a specific audience to a specific product or service. This is SEO. It really is that simple.

This simple view of SEO, however, is often confounded by SEO experts. A few years ago, Paul Boag wrote an articulate analysis of the problem for Smashing Magazine:

"Most website owners perceive SEO as a dark art, shrouded in mystery," Boag wrote. "They have heard phrases like 'gateway pages' and 'keyword density' or have been bamboozled by technobabble about the way websites should be built. All of this has left them feeling that SEO is the purview of experts. This is a misconception reinforced by certain segments of the SEO community."

Read: "The Inconvenient Truth"

Of course, SEO is not a dark art. Yet misconceptions about SEO endure. The misconceptions, however, do not necessarily hurt digital marketing firms; they hurt, instead, the people who stand to benefit the most from SEO: small and local websites.

In every town in America, any number of small businesses avoid SEO as a matter-of-fact. Inevitably, these businesses lose profits to other local competitors who do use SEO. Businesses who use SEO effectively come from different industry sectors, yet all share a common marketing strategy: keywords.

Industry-Specific Keywords = SEO Success

Another way to state our earlier, simple definition of SEO is to focus on audience: SEO is about defining a target audience and then striving to meet that audience's needs.

Part of the confusion around SEO is the counterintuitive notion of refinement, which is implicit in defining a precise target audience. When you engage in SEO, you limit your audience, in a way, to the browsers most likely to purchase your product or service. In the SEO world, traffic is secondary to conversions.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about real estate firms who use SEO. The article is instructive for any local business who hopes to stand apart from the competition by emphasizing precise, industry-specific keywords:

"Luxury real-estate firms are increasingly hiring specialists in search-engine optimization, or SEO," Emily Nonko writes, "to ensure that keywords used in online descriptions give their listings highest visibility and maximum reach."


Mary Tyler March writes for Construction Dive: "While certain keywords can help give a listing more online exposure to potential buyers, better SEO can also help move homes at a higher price."
In her article, Nonko quotes Christian Mezzina, a senior product-marketing manager at a New York-based brokerage firm, who clarifies why precision is key:

"You might see that a lot of people search for 'most expensive apartments in Tribeca' but those are unlikely to be your actual buyers. When you look to optimize a listing for SEO, you have to think about not what just gets eyeballs, but what will convert."

Read: When Traffic Helps Sell Homes

The first and most important job of an SEO practitioner, then, is discovering which keywords are more likely to lead to conversions. In this scenario, traffic is not as important as the right type of traffic--a mantra we repeat quite often on this blog.

Nonko notes that Mezzina "develops variations of popular keywords (luxury, penthouse and brownstone are among the firm’s most-searched terms) and analyzes which ones are most likely to generate leads rather than just page views."

This is, of course, keyword research, a simple practice that can be utilized by any number of local businesses, not simply real estate offices but any number of professional services, home repair shops, hair salons, restaurants, bars--the list is endless.

Are you using SEO to stand apart from local competition? If not, why?

Keyword Research with Stepman's SEO

If you're looking for an SEO company that understands how to effectively promote websites with precise keywords, 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 content marketing campaign.