Navigating the world of SEO can be extremely complicated, but in the end it boils down to a few major factors. One of those major factors is onsite optimization or making sure that your web pages are relevant to the search queries of your potential customers. In our last blog post we discussed how choosing the right keywords can help your new website start to generate organic traffic immediately. While optimization is essential, another major factor is the authority of your website and its individual pages.
So, what is authority? Authority is gauged by the number and quality of links that a particular page on your website has pointing to it from pages on other websites. For example if the homepage of my plumbing website has a link from the sponsors page of a local charity that I am involved with or preferred provider page from the local chamber of commerce, that helps search engines determine that my homepage is popular or has authority. As a website gains more links from different websites to its pages it increases the authority of the website and allows optimized pages to rank higher in the search engine.
A good way to look at authority is to think of it in a common SEO term called “link juice”. The concept of link juice is shown in the diagram below. When other websites (external websites) link to one of our pages they share some of their “link juice” with our website. As more external websites link to our page it’s link juice increases making it more authoritative. As more of your pages get links from external websites your websites link juice increases and your website as a whole also becomes more authoritative as well.
With authority being such a major factor in SEO it is important to spread the word about your business and find opportunities to get links from other websites. The process of building relationships that lead to links is called link building and simply said it is spreading the word about your business online.
There are many ways to start linking building and some of the easiest ways to start building authority are to make sure your business is listed in the major relevant online data aggregators. For example websites like Google My Business, Yelp, SuperPages, etc. can help spread the word about your business and give some small authority building signals to Google. To be clear these signals are small and won’t make major keywords rank on their own, but they can help spread the word about your business and drive traffic as well. Especially if you have a local address and are targeting a local customer base it is essential to get into Google My Business. Below is an example of a Google results page using Google My Business listings. In many locally based searches a series of maps listings with three or more featured companies like this appears at the beginning of the organic search listings.
As in many local searches Google uses Google Maps as another way for potential customers to find local businesses, and if you are listed you have a much higher chance of getting customer to your website. The same applies to relevant social media websites. As with online directories, social media websites only give small signals, but depending on your business type they can be very useful in spreading the word about your business which can lead to more link building opportunities in the long run.
As with most things in life the things that are harder to get or those that take more effort typically bring more value. This applies directly to link building as well. An article link from a website like Forbes will bring more value than a link you can get for free from a directory listing in Yelp. This is because online directories and social media websites use a tag on their links called a nofollow attribute. A nofollow attribute can get technical, but essentially it tells the search engine not to follow a link when crawling a website. The reason this is important is that Google gives little to no value to nofollow links. While a link in an article from Forbes is a dofollow link and carries with it the value of the Forbes website to your page. The illustration below gives you an idea of how link juice flow from a do follow versus no follow links. We can think of the larger glass “Website” as Forbes and the smaller glasses as websites it links to. If Forbes links with a dofollow link it will pass some link juice, but it uses a nofollow it will pass little to no link juice.
In most cases the more links that a particular website, like Forbes, has pointing to it the more value your website will receive if it gets a link from that particular website. That means that if you can get your website covered by a major or high authority website it can have a significant impact on your website’s authority. However, in many cases and especially for local business getting into a major website can be a bit of a challenge, but luckily local and niche websites can bring significant value as well.
As in my plumbing example above local websites like charities or chambers of commerce can be a great way to get relevant links for your business. Even if you are a brand new business building relationships can be essential in a local market. These relationships can lead to opportunities to get online exposure as well. Did you just do an awesome job fixing the frozen pipes that burst at a local school or business? Take a few before and after pictures and see if they will mention it on their blog and link to you. By being creative and building relationships it is easier to get someone to link to you. Have an interesting story or quote that the local newspaper or news station would write about, that is another great way to get a potential link. Building on and offline relationships with the local community and local businesses can lead directly to opportunities to get more links.
Similar to local businesses, niche websites can also be a great way to build links and promote your business. Niche websites are typically websites that are in some way relevant to your industry, but might differ from local websites because they aren’t in your geographic region. Niche websites include blogs that in some way talk about your business or industry, going back to our plumber example blogs that talks about DIY home improvement or a business that sells the materials you use might be perfect examples of niche websites. As a plumber I could approach the DIY home improvement blog and offer to write a blog post about tips for a specific plumbing project that would link back to my website. I could also go the my materials vendor and offer to write a testimonial or case case study that could go on their website and link back to me. Once again many times link building comes down to building relationships with the right people and being creative in our approach.
Over the last few years link building has become more difficult as Google has created penalties for websites that don’t follow their strict guidelines. Google creates these guidelines because they want to maintain a high quality search experience for their users and therefore try to push out poor quality websites that try and manipulate their search engine. We won’t attempt to cover all those penalties and pitfalls here as it would take many posts to cover. Instead we would urge websites who are starting a link building strategy to do your research and consult with a trusted SEO company or advisor who can navigate through the ins and outs of Google in both link building and onsite optimization. With that being said if you stick to building relationships and working with quality websites link building can bring huge traffic gains for your business!
The local SEO landscape has changed tremendously over the last year! Local search is now being estimated as the most effective marketing channel for local businesses. With local search continuing to have such an impact for local businesses we want to help you understand all the changes that have taken place. Below are the top 5 trends that you need to know for the year ahead.
The biggest local search change that took place in the last year by far is the change in the size of maps listings showing up in local search results. Google moved away from showing 7 business listings and are now only showing 3 listings. This has had major impacts on many local businesses. For those who remained in the top three they have seen a significant increase in click through rates, while those who missed the cut have seen significant traffic drops.
The positioning of the results has also moved down the page, in order to show more Adwords ads above the listings. This means there is even less real estate for organic rankings on the first page of local Google search results. In other words if you aren’t in the top three you are feeling the pain of lower traffic numbers. Google has changed the number of maps listings they show many times over the last few years. There is always a chance that they will increase the size again, but I wouldn’t recommend waiting for a change that might not come.
If you have been around local search engine optimization over the past few years then you know that Google has changed the name of their local maps listing service many times. What was once know as simply Google Local has been changed and referred to by many other names as well including Google Plus Local Business Pages, Google Maps, and it’s newest name Google My Business.
Google My Business is the new interface that business owners and agencies can use to manage their Google Maps listings. There has been a lot of changes in how Google deals with local especially with Google’s failed attempt at creating a social network and tying it into search results. Things like Google Authorship and +1s are now completely gone, and maybe this will bring some stability to their naming conventions, but only time will tell.
Website users are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Mobile search queries are outpacing desktop searches in almost every vertical and mobile users are typically extremely impatient. This means if your site is loading slow, not answering questions quickly, or not enticing users to stay on your site it can create issues with how you rank in local search results. Google is now tracking how users are interacting with your website and if you are seeing high bounce rates, lower click through rates, and low time on site for particular pages it could impact where you show up. Be sure to analyze your Google Analytics data. If you have any pages showing obvious issues in these areas consider reworking the content, look and feel, or meta information.
Proximity searches continue to rise on all devices but particularly on mobile comprising 80 – 90% of all proximity searches. These proximity searches automatically use the users location to determine which local search results show up. This is becoming an increasingly important ranking factor and involves a different optimization process than normal keyword optimizations. Some of the keys are to make sure that you business name, address, and phone number are correctly and clearly listed both on your website and throughout your local directory listings. All these listings should match. Also, adding schema or structured data to your website can be a huge positive indicator for Google. Finally, make sure that you are using city and state optimizations throughout your website.
In early 2015 Google announced that they would start devaluing websites that were not mobile friendly in a move that was later termed “Mobilegeddon”. Many websites scrambled to make the change before the deadline. The deadline came and went without major impacts to those not mobile optimized, but as the year went on this changed dramatically. Websites that didn’t make the change not only saw bad signals from mobile users who didn’t spend a lot of time on their websites, but they also saw their rankings drop significantly. If you aren’t mobile friendly now, make the necessary investments to get there. Mobile search is only getting bigger and if you are a local business you want to take advantage of the over 78% of searches that ended in a local offline purchase!
I hope this gave a great overview of the important local SEO trends to consider in 2016! Local Search is always changing and we will continue to keep you posted on major evolutions throughout the year.
Last month we learned that Google incorporated the now notorious Panda algorithm into it’s core algorithm. The news ignited the digital marketing community with theories of what impact this could have for the future of SEO. Today we will jump into Panda’s history and what potential impact this core algorithm change might have.
We have known for a long time that Google wants to show high quality and unique content to it’s users. Up until last month they had regulated the quality of the content showing up in their search results through updates to their Panda algorithm. This algorithm, originally released in 2011, would penalize websites that produced low quality or thin content. This meant that websites that could rank just for having matching keywords, but no real depth to their pages, would be pushed down in the search results. Examples of low quality or thin content include duplicating the same text on multiple pages, having thousands of pages with little to no content, or keyword stuffing. As the years have gone by Google has continued to refine the Panda algorithm to dive even deeper into regulating low quality and thin content.
The industry learned about the change from a guide on Google Panda that was posted by Jennifer Slegg who had been working in conjunction with Google’s PR team. In the guide there was a statement that said Panda was now included in Google’s core ranking algorithm,
“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.”
This statement was later confirmed on Twitter by Gary Illes a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. In his string on Twitter we also learned that Google Panda does not update in real time within the core algorithm as many people theorized.
For now the impact of the change is relatively small, as it hasn’t had a major impact on search results so far. However it could have future impacts on how Google works with Panda.
Depending on how Google handles the change it could mean that Google will no longer confirm Panda updates. This has become more of a trend with Google as they have increasingly given smaller amounts of information to the public regarding their search algorithm updates. This step of moving Panda into the core could give them even more reason to not update us on changes as it is lumped into the core algorithm rather than a stand alone algorithm.
The bigger potential impact of this change is that Panda updates at some point could become real time changes. This could have two impacts the first being that any adjustments to how Google treats quality issues would happen immediately instead of being rolled out over months. The other potential impact is that Google could allow websites that had been in a penalty and fixed their issues to be reconsidered in real time as well. Currently, websites caught in a Panda penalty can send in a reconsideration request, but many times they have to wait for a new Panda update to see the benefits of those changes. This is just a theory as Google obviously can chose who they handle these things. For now as I explained earlier the Panda portion of the core algorithm is not updating in real time, but as Google moves closer and closer to machine learning we can expect every aspect of its algorithm to eventually move to real time updates as well.
So you have decided to make the leap into building your own business. Your product or service is ready to sell and you finally have finished the painstaking process of building your website. As your developer sets the website live you can’t wait for customers to start visiting the site and leads to start pouring in. However, as many new businesses learn that traffic and those all so important leads don’t come so easily. For many new websites the next step is figuring out how to drive new traffic and learning about the mysteries of SEO. So, what can a new website do to start gaining organic traffic and driving customers to their new website? Over the coming months we will try to answer this question by sharing SEO tips for new websites that will help you start generating organic traffic in the short term, while also preparing your website for long term success. This month will be focusing on Keyword Selection.
Use The Google Keyword Planner
The first step to any SEO campaign is to make sure that your pages are optimized for the keywords that your potential customers are searching for. For example if you are a business specializing in providing plumbing services in Los Angeles then your website should tell your potential customers and Google that it is relevant for the keyword they are searching for. How do you figure out what relevant keywords your users are searching for? There are many tools out there but Google provides a free tool called the Keyword Planner if you set up an Adwords Account. Google asks you to provide a credit card to set up an Adwords account, but you don’t need to spend money in order to use the tool. With the Keyword Planner you can type in keywords that you think your potential customers might use to find your website, and Google will show you the average monthly search volume for those keywords and will give you other relevant keyword ideas and their monthly search volumes. This is a great way to begin your search for what keywords to target.
As you can see above Google shows you a lot of information for the keyword you searched including the average monthly search volume, different search trends, other potential keywords and their monthly search volumes, and some Adwords specific information including competition and suggested bid. Though the Adwords information can be useful it can also throw you off when optimizing for SEO as the competition levels are Adwords specific and bid prices estimates. For our earlier example the most searched keyword is “plumber Los Angeles” with an average monthly search volume of 1000 searches. Because the searches are so high we might want to optimize one of our top pages like our homepage for this keyword. However, we also need to be careful because in some cases the most popular keyword or the one with the highest search volume might also be the most competitive.
Dealing With Competitive Keywords
In many cases the keyword with the most search volume will also be the keyword that the most websites are trying to rank for, making it very hard for a new website to compete. In this case even if we optimize our homepage to target that keyword it could take us a long time to rank on the first page of Google. This is because the websites we are competing with have been around longer and have built more authority through link building over time (we will discuss the concept of authority and link building in an upcoming blog post). As someone new to SEO it can be difficult to understand when a keyword is competitive or not. Unfortunately there are not a lot of free tools to understand SEO competition. The Adwords Keyword Planner can give some insights into competition levels in Adwords (High, Medium, and Low) which can indicate that the SEO competition is similar, but this is not always the case. One great free tool that can help is the Moz Toolbar but it requires some knowledge of terms like Page and Domain Authority which we will cover in a future post. However, for the purposes of explanation it is important to understand that in most cases even if a keyword is competitive it can be worth trying to rank for that keywords in the long term, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that website traffic has to suffer until the site eventually ranks for that popular keyword. So, what can be done in the meantime?
Short Term SEO Strategies
One of the major challenges for any new website is how to drive traffic when the most important keyword or set of keywords are too competitive to gain traction in the short term. Luckily, a website isn’t stuck only targeting one set of competitive keywords. Every page of a website can be optimized for multiple keywords. This means we can build multiple pages that target niche keywords that can drive customers to our business quicker than more competitive keywords. Niche keywords are typically keywords that are longer in length sometimes called long tail keywords and represent a more specific query that a potential customer is searching for. Sometimes these keywords can actually lead to more qualified traffic as well, because these potential customers are looking for more specific answers than broader keywords. A niche keyword might tie a specific service to a large location like tying a plumber’s drain cleaning service to the city of Los Angeles with the keyword “drain cleaning Los Angeles”. Another way to create a niche keyword is to tie a less competitive location to a general service for example targeting Santa Monica a smaller city within Los Angeles to the term plumber to create the keyword “plumber Santa Monica”. This can also apply to non location based keywords where we are looking for a longer more specific keyword to explain our page. While these long tail keywords might have less search volume they are also typically less competitive, which means a new website can start gaining traffic from these types of keywords quicker than more competitive keywords. Building pages that target clusters of niche or long tail keywords can therefore help a new website gain traffic in a shorter period of time.
In this Halloween post we want to discuss the recent Penguin 3.0 algorithm update and more specifically the positive and negative impacts it is having on small businesses. This month has definitely been a spooky one with the recent Panda refresh and the subsequent Penguin 3.0 update that was released on Friday October 17th.
The Penguin 3.0 update has been clarified by Google to be more of a refresh or slight adjustment to the algorithm, and will be affecting about 1% of US English search queries. To put this in perspective the first Penguin update (Penguin 1.0) had far reaching impacts in the SEO industry and affected about 3.1% of US English search queries. Though 1% seems small it really means millions of searches and all depends on what terms and industries are being targeted by Google.
What have we seen so far?
When we think about Penguin 3.0 we automatically assume that it is going to be big update. However, so far the industry and the local Los Angeles SEO community has been pretty quiet about the update. Unlike Penguin updates in the past there doesn’t seem to be a lot of data showing huge negative impacts across the board. Instead like most refreshes we are seeing some websites drop in rankings and other websites actually increase in rankings. We will dive deeper into the positives and negatives, but it is important to note that Google has said they are rolling out this update over the next few weeks. This means that we could see some additional movement down the road, but for now Penguin 3.0 is looking like a slight refresh in the algorithm rather than a major change.
Treats? – The positives of Penguin 3.0
Like the recent Panda update if you participated in low quality or black hat link building in the past, but then went back and fixed your mistakes Penguin 3.0 could actually bring positive results for your website. Like most updates Penguin 3.0 is an opportunity for Google to reconsider the changes you made in your backlink audits and link profile cleaning. Websites that have tried to clean up their spammy links have been waiting until now to see if they did enough to regain Google’s trust. Many businesses that have worked with low quality SEO companies in the past are able to clean up their mistakes and if they did it correctly could actual see a significant boost in rankings.
Tricks? – The negatives of Penguin 3.0
For some websites the Penguin 3.0 update could come with negative impacts. Like most Penguin updates the recent update targets websites with low quality, black hat, or spammy link profiles. If you participated in low quality link building in the past and never got caught in an algorithm update Penguin 3.0 could be the one that catches your website. Google is constantly trying to perfect the algorithm to show the best search results possible. Because links are considered votes by Google if you use fake votes like paid links or blog networks Google considers this black hat and could penalize your website. Just because a site didn’t get caught in the past for bad link building doesn’t mean it is immune to updates in the future, so it is important to keep a high quality and natural link profile and clean up any spammy links.
What to do if you have been penalized?
If your website was caught in the Penguin 3.0 update it is important to run a full audit of your link profile. As link building has become very technical things like quality of links and diversification of anchor text are essential in keeping a clean link profile. In your Google Webmaster Tools account you will be able to see if your website has a manual penalty as well. If you have a manual penalty you can run a detox on your site and then resubmit it to Google with a reconsideration request. The process of detoxing a penalized site is extremely technical because not only do you want to clean the bad links, but you also want to make sure you don’t lose good links in the process. If you don’t feel comfortable running your own detox then our team at PureSEO would love to help, feel free to reach out to us here with any questions that you might have!
Another Panda refresh was announced by Google late last week. This new Panda update is being called the Panda 4.1 update and is another step in Google’s ongoing attempts to keep poor and thin content from ranking on their search engine.
Pierre Far a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google UK revealed the update in a post on Google + explaining that they had slowly begun to rollout the update early last week and that 3 to 5% of search queries would be affected based on location.
Benefits For Small to Medium Websites
With the Panda 4.1 update Google was able to find additional signals to help Panda identify low-quality content and because of this more high quality small and medium sized websites are ranking higher on the search engine.
This is great news for businesses that have steadily been focused on producing quality content and following the Panda guidelines. Focusing on user experience and building relevant quality content has now become a key part of avoiding and recovering from Panda algorithm updates. Many of the small to medium sized sites focusing on smart content creation have already seen major gains in rankings and traffic over the past week but the rollout is ongoing and is estimated to be complete sometime this week.
Good News For Websites with Past Penalties
Another silver lining with the Panda 4.1 update is that if you went through a Panda penalty in the past and took all the necessary steps to fix the issue then you might be seeing ranking and traffic increases this week. The update allows those who have been penalized in the past to undo their wrongs and be re-evaluated by the algorithm. If you have made changes and don’t see increase by the end of the week there might be additional steps that need to be taken to make sure that you are in line with Google’s guidelines.
What To Do If You Have Negative Results?
Just like any Google algorithm update some websites are also going to see negative impacts. If you have seen a drastic decrease in rankings and/or traffic over the past week you could have been caught in the Panda 4.1 update. The best thing to do if you are caught up in a Panda update is to evaluate your content. Do you have any duplicate content pulled from a manufacturer’s website or content duplicate from other websites? Do you have thin content with low word count or without much relevance to the keywords you are targeting? Is your content spammy and full of keywords that take away from the user experience? All these questions should be asked and a full content analysis should take place if you are being penalized or not recovering from previous penalties. PureSEO specializes in quality content creation so if you feel helpless and need some guidance reach out to our experienced team today!