Small Business SEO: How to Reach Your Audience

We’ve talked about search engine optimization quite a bit in the past, and with good reason. SEO is an absolutely indispensable way to reach potential customers, and in the competitive online market, small business SEO can be the difference between a thriving business and a premature bankruptcy. Today, we are going to talk about using SEO as a small business, and how you can make the most of your online presence.

What is SEO?

As stated above, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Optimizing your web pages to fit the algorithms on search engines like Google can boost your ranking when people search for terms related to your product or service. While there are a number of factors that go into this optimization, a few important ones include:

  • Using relevant keywords
  • Linking to other pages on your own site
  • Linking to pages on other sites
  • Avoiding repetitive links

We’ve talked about SEO in greater depth elsewhere, so we won’t get too deep into it here. But now that we’ve covered the basics of SEO, let’s get into what makes small business SEO different from SEO for bigger companies.

Big vs Small Business SEO

It should be pretty obvious that almost every business can benefit from SEO. That said, not every business benefits from the same strategy. Bigger businesses have far more money to invest, and typically have a wider audience.

A place like McDonald’s doesn’t really need to worry about their customers finding them on Google, as they are widely recognized throughout the world already. When a business like this engages in SEO, they’re probably going to be aiming at the highest level search terms, such as “burgers,” but they’ll also be focused heavily on their locations.

Such broad terms should not be chosen when attempting small business SEO, however. The reason is simple: competition is going to be insane. In order to pop up anywhere near the first page on a search for a broad, generic term, a company must out-compete thousands of other sites. Small businesses are rarely equipped for this.

This is an incredibly common mistake, and it ends up costing these businesses. If a business owner is working with limited resources, spending money on SEO that doesn’t get them any new attention can be a serious loss.

How to Win with SEO as a Small Business

Small business owners need to approach SEO at the local level. It is highly unlikely that a local shop is going to find its way to the first page of Google on a huge, inclusive search, but they can be mighty competitive if they get a bit more specific.

Sticking with the burger joint example, there is a very low chance a burger place in a small town is going to out-compete a corporation like McDonald’s. What they can do, however, is optimize for searches which are too specific for a huge, national corporation.

In practice, this means the local place would simply switch from optimizing for the word “burger,” to the search term “burger place Fort Collins.” Barrowing in will allow the local restaurant to slip through holes in the nets bigger businesses cast and show up higher on search engines.

If you are a small business owner trying to build SEO into your strategy, think about what your customers are likely to search. The more specific you can get, the better, as this will allow you to show up on the screens of those most likely to buy from you.

Don’t forget the people who are easy to reach and already want your product because you’re distracted by all the “maybes” out there. Hone in on your specific area and audience, and cater your content to their searches.

Of course, if you want to skip all the test runs and research, you could always hire a marketing team with tons of small business SEO experience. Who knows, finding a great team might be easier than you think.

 

Topical SEO: 7 Advanced Concepts of Link Relevance & Google Rankings

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Links matter for SEO. A lot.

Most marketers understand that links to websites count as “votes” on the web. Google — and other search engines — use these votes to rank web pages in search results. The more votes a page accumulates, the better that page’s chances of ranking in search results.

This is the popularity part of Google’s algorithm, described in the original PageRank patent. But Google doesn’t stop at using links for popularity. They’ve invented a number of clever ways to use links to determine relevance and authority — i.e. what is this page about and is it a trusted answer for the user’s search query?

To rank in Google, it’s not simply the number of votes you receive from popular pages, but the relevance and authority of those links as well.

The principals Google may use grow complex quickly, but we’ve included a number of simple ways to leverage these strategies for more relevant rankings at the bottom of the post.

1. Anchor text 

In the beginning, there was the original PageRank patent, which changed the way search engines worked. It talked about anchor text a lot:

“Thus, even though the text of the document itself may not match the search terms, if the document is cited by documents whose titles or backlink anchor text match the search terms, the document will be considered a match.”

In a nutshell, if a page links to you using the anchor text “hipster pizza,” there’s a good chance your page is about pizza — and maybe hipsters.

If many pages link to you using variations of “pizza”— i.e. pizza restaurant, pizza delivery, Seattle pizza — then Google can see this as a strong ranking signal.

(In fact, so powerful is this effect, that if you search Google for “hipster pizza” here in Seattle, you’ll see our target for the link above ranking on the first page.)

Anchor Text

How to leverage Anchor Text for SEO:

Volumes could be written on this topic. Google’s own SEO Starter Guide recommends a number of anchor text best practices, among them:

  1. Use (and seek) descriptive anchor text that describes what your page is about
  2. Avoid generic anchor text, off-topic anchor text
  3. Keep anchor text concise – no more than a few words

While some Google patents discuss ignoring links with irrelevant anchor text, other Google patents propose looking at the text surrounding the anchor text for additional context, so keep that in mind.

A word of caution: While optimizing your anchor text is good, many SEOs over the years have observed that too much of a good thing can hurt you. Natural anchor text on the web is naturally varied.

Check out the variety of anchor text to Moz’s page on Domain Authority, illustrated here using Link Explorer.

Link Explorer Anchor Text

Over-optimization can signal manipulation to Google, and many SEOs recommend a strategy of anchor text variety for better rankings.

Additional Resources:

2. Hub and authority pages

In the early days of Google, not long after Larry Page figured out how to rank pages based on popularity, the Hilltop algorithm worked out how to rank pages on authority. It accomplished this by looking for “expert” pages linking to them.

An expert page is a document that links to many other topically relevant pages. If a page is linked to from several expert pages, then it is considered an authority on that topic and may rank higher.

Authority Pages for SEO

A similar concept using “hub” and “authority” pages was put forth by Jon Kleinberg, a Cornell professor with grants from Google and other search engines. Kleinberg explains:

“…a good hub is a page that points to many good authorities; a good authority is a page that is pointed to by many good hubs.”
Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment (PDF)

While we can’t know the degree to which these concepts are used today, Google acquired the Hilltop algorithm in 2003.

How to leverage Authority Pages for SEO:

A common practice of link builders today is to seek links from “Resource Pages.” These are basically Hub/Expert pages that link out to helpful sites around a topic. Scoring links on these pages can often help you a ton.

Additional Resources: Resource Page Link Building

3. Reasonable Surfer

All links are not created equal.

The idea behind Google’s Reasonable Surfer patent is that certain links on a page are more important than others, and thus assigned increase weight. Examples of more important links include:

  • Prominent links, higher up in the HTML
  • Topically relevant links, related to both the source document and the target document.

Conversely, less important links include:

  • “Terms of Service” and footer links
  • Banner ads
  • Links unrelated to the document

Because the important links are more likely to be clicked by a “reasonable surfer,” a topically relevant link can carry more weight than an off-topic one.

“…when a topical cluster associated with the source document is related to a topical cluster associated with the target document, the link has a higher probability of being selected than when the topical cluster associated with the source document is unrelated to the topical cluster associated with the target document.”
United States Patent: 7716225

Reasonable Surfer Google

How to leverage Reasonable Surfer for SEO:

The key with leveraging Reasonable Surfer for SEO is simply: work to obtain links that are more likely to get clicked.

This means that you not only benefit from getting links from prominent areas of high-traffic pages, but the more relevant the link is to the topic of the hosting page, the more benefit it may provide.

Neither page topics/anchor texts have to be an exact match, but it helps if they are in the same general area. For example, if you were writing about “baseball,” links with relevant anchor text from pages about sports, equipment, athletes, training, exercise, tourism, and more could all help boost rankings more than less relevant links.

4. Topic-sensitive PageRank

Despite rumors to the contrary, PageRank is very much alive and well at Google.

PageRank technology can be used to distribute all kinds of different ranking signals throughout a search index. While the most common examples are popularity and trust, another signal is topical relevance, as laid out in this paper by Taher Haveliwala, who went on to become a Google software engineer.

The original concept works by grouping “seed pages” by topic (for example, the Politics section of the New York Times). Every link out from these pages passes on a small amount of Topic-Sensitive PageRank, which is passed on through the next set of links, and so on.

Topic-sensitive PageRank

In the example above, 2 identical pages target “Football”. Both have the same number of links, but the first one has more relevant Topic-Sensitive PageRank from a linking sports page. Hence, it ranks higher.

How to leverage topic-sensitive PageRank for SEO:

The concept is simple. When obtaining links, try to get links from pages that are about the same topic you want to rank for. Also, get links from pages that are themselves linked to by authoritative pages on the same topic.

5. Phrase-based indexing

Phrase-based indexing can be a tough concept for SEOs to wrap their heads around.

What’s important to understand is that phrase-based indexing allows search engines to score the relevancy of any link by looking for related phrases in both the source and target pages. The more related phrases, the higher the score.

In the example below, the first page with the anchor text link “US President” may carry more weight because the page also contains several other phrases related to “US President” and “John Adams.”

Phrase-based Indexing

In addition to ranking documents based on the most relevant links, phrase-based indexing allows search engines to consider less relevant links as well, including:

  1. Discounting spam and off-topic links: For example, an injected spam link to a gambling site from a page about cookie recipes will earn a very low outlink score based on relevancy and would carry less weight.
  2. Fighting “Google Bombing”: For those that remember, Google bombing is the art of ranking a page highly for funny or politically-motivated phrases by “bombing” it with anchor text links, often unrelated to the page itself. Phrase-based indexing can stop Google bombing by scoring the links for relevance against the actual text on the page. This way, irrelevant links can be discounted.

How to leverage phrased-based indexing for SEO:

Beyond anchor text and the general topic/authority of a page, it’s helpful to seek links from pages with related phrases.

This is especially helpful for on-page SEO and internal linking — when you optimize your own pages and link to yourself. Some people use LSI keywords for on-page optimization, though evidence that this helps SEO is disputed.

Solid keyword research typically provides a starting point to identify related keyword phrases. Below are closely related phrases to “best SEO tools” found using Keyword Explorer.

Related keywords Keyword Explorer

6. Local inter-connectivity

Local inter-connectivity refers to a reranking concept that reorders search results based on measuring how often each page is linked to by all the other pages.

To put it simply, when a page is linked to from a number of high-ranking results, it is likely more relevant than a page with fewer links from the same set of results.

This also provides a strong hint as to the types of links you should be seeking: pages that already rank highly for your target term.

Local Inter-connectivity

How to leverage local inter-connectivity for SEO:

Quite simply, one of the easiest ways to rank is to obtain topically relevant links from sites that already rank for the term you are targeting.

Oftentimes, links from page 1 results can be quite difficult to obtain, so it’s helpful to look for links that:

  • Rank for variations of your target terms
  • Are further down in Google’s results pages
  • Rank well for different, but still topically-related terms

7. The golden question

If the above concepts seem complex, the good news is you don’t have to actually understand the above concepts when trying to build links to your site.

To understand if a link is topically relevant to your site, simply ask yourself the golden question of link building: Will this link bring engaged, highly qualified visitors to my website?

The result of the golden question is exactly what Google engineers are trying to determine when evaluating links, so you can arrive at a good end result without understanding the actual algorithms.

Link Building Golden Question

How to leverage the golden question for SEO:

Above all else, try to build links that bring engaged, high-value visitors to your site.

If you don’t care about the visitors a link may bring, why should Google care highly about the link?

SEO tips for topically relevant links

Consider this advice when thinking about links for SEO:

  1. DO use good, descriptive anchor text for your links. This applies to internal links, outlinks to other sites, and links you seek from non-biased external sites.
  2. DO seek relationships from authoritative, topically relevant sites. These include sites that rank well for your target keyword and “expert” pages that link to many authority sites. (For those interested, Majestic has done some interesting work around Topical Trust Flow.)
  3. DO seek links from relevant pages. This includes examining the title, body, related phrases, and intent of the page to ensure its relevance to your target topic.
  4. DO seek links that people are likely to click. The ideal link is often both topically relevant and placed in a prominent position.
  5. AVOID generic or non-descriptive anchor text.
  6. AVOID over-optimizing your links. This includes repetitive use of exact match anchor text and keyword stuffing.
  7. AVOID manipulative link building. Marie Haynes has written an excellent explanation of the kinds of unnatural links that you likely want to avoid at all costs.

Finally, DO try to earn and attract links to your site with high quality, topically relevant content.

What are your best tips around topically relevant links? Let us know in the comments below!


Note: A version of this post was published previously, and has since been substantially updated. Big thanks to Bill Slawski and his blog SEO by the Sea, which acted as a starting point of research for many of these concepts.



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Now Live for Your SEO Learning Pleasure: The NEW Beginner’s Guide to SEO!

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It feels like it’s been a king’s age since we first began our long journey to rewrite and revamp the Beginner’s Guide to SEO. For all the long months of writing and rewriting, of agonizing over details and deleting/replacing sections every so often as Google threw us for a loop, it’s hard to believe it’s finally ready to share:

The new Beginner’s Guide to SEO is here!

What makes this new version so darn special and sparkly, anyway?

I’m glad you asked! Our design team would breathe a sigh of relief and tell you it’s because this baby is on-brand and ready to rock your eyeballs to next Tuesday with its use of fancy, scalable SVGs and images complete with alt text descriptions. Our team of SEO experts would blot the sweat from their collective brow and tell you it’s because we’ve retooled and completely updated all our recommendations to ensure we’re giving fledgling learners the most accurate push out of the digital marketing nest that we can. Our developers would tell you it’s because it lives on a brand-spankin’-new CMS and they no longer have to glare silently at my thirteenth Slack message of the day asking them to fix the misplaced period on the fourth paragraph from the top in Chapter 7.

All joking aside, every bit of the above is true, and each perspective pulls together a holistic answer: this version of the Beginner’s Guide represents a new era for the number-one resource for learning SEO, one where we can update it at the drop of a Google algorithm-shaped hat, where it’s easier than ever to access and learn for a greater variety of people, where you can rely on the fact that the information is solid, up-to-date, and molded to best fit the learning journey unique to SEO.

I notice the structure is a little different, what gives?

We can’t escape your eagle eyes! We structured the new guide quite differently from the original. Everything is explained in our introduction, but here’s the gist: taking inspiration from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we built each chapter based on the core foundation of how one ought to go about doing SEO, covering the most integral needs first before leveling up to the next.

A pyramid of SEO needs mimicking Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs theory of psychology.

We affectionately call this “Mozlow’s Hierarchy of Needs.” Please forgive us.

A small but mighty team

While it may have taken us a full year and a half to get to this point, there was but a small team behind the effort. We owe a huge amount of gratitude to the following folks for balancing their other priorities with the needs of the new Beginner’s Guide and putting their all into making this thing shine:

Britney Muller, our brilliant SEO scientist and the brains behind all the new content. Words cannot do justice to the hours she spent alone and after hours before a whiteboard, Post-Its and dry-erase notes making up the bones and muscles and soul of what would someday become this fully-fleshed-out guide. For all the many, many blog comments answered and incorporated, for all the emails and Twitter messages fielded, for all the love and hard work and extra time she spent pouring into the new content, we have to give a heartfelt and extremely loud and boisterous THANK YOU. This guide wouldn’t exist without her expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to excellence.

Kameron Jenkins, our SEO wordsmith and all-around content superheroine. Her exquisite grasp of the written word and extensive experience as an agency SEO were paramount in pulling together disparate feedback, finessing complicated concepts into simple and understandable terms, and organizing the information in ways most conducive to aiding new learners. Again, this guide wouldn’t be here without her positive attitude and incredible, expert help.

Trevor Klein, editor extraordinaire. His original vision of organizing it according to the SEO hierarchy of needs provided the insight and architecture necessary to structuring the guide in a completely new and utterly helpful way. Many of the words, voice, and tone therein belong to him, and we deeply appreciate the extra polish and shine he lent to this monumental effort.

Skye Stewart, talented designer and UX aficionado. All the delightful images you’ll find within the chapters are compliments of her careful handiwork, from the robo-librarian of Chapter 2 to the meat-grinder-turned-code-renderer of Chapter 5. The new Beginner’s Guide would be an infinitely less whimsical experience without her creativity and vision.

Casey Coates, software engineer and mystical CMS-wizard-come-miracle-maker. I can safely say that there is no way you would be exploring the brand-new Beginner’s Guide in any coherent manner without his help. For all the last-minute additions to CMS deploys, for calmly fielding all the extra questions and asks, for being infinitely responsive and helpful (case in point: adding alt text to the image block less than two minutes after I asked for it) and for much, much more, we are grateful.

There are a great many other folks who helped get this effort underway: Shelly Matsudaira, Aaron Kitney, Jeff Crump, and Cyrus Shepard for their integral assistance moving this thing past the finish line; Rand Fishkin, of course, for creating the original and longest-enduring version of this guide; and to all of you, our dear community, for all the hours you spent reading our first drafts and sharing your honest thoughts, extremely constructive criticisms, and ever-humbling praise. This couldn’t exist without you!

Y’all ready for this?

With tender pride and only a hint of the sort of naturally occurring anxiety that accompanies any big content debut, we’re delighted and excited for you to dive into the brand-new Beginner’s Guide to SEO. The original has been read over ten million times, a mind-boggling and truly humbling number. We can only hope that our newest incarnation is met by a similar number of bright minds eager to dive into the exhilarating, challenging, complex, and lucrative world of SEO.

Whether you’re just starting out, want to jog your memory on the fundamentals, need to clue in colleagues to the complexity of your work, or are just plain curious about what’s changed, we hope from the bottom of our hearts that you get what you need from the new Beginner’s Guide.

Dive in and let us know what you think!



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How to Diagnose and Solve JavaScript SEO Issues in 6 Steps

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It’s rather common for companies to build their websites using modern JavaScript frameworks and libraries like React, Angular, or Vue. It’s obvious by now that the web has moved away from plain HTML and has entered the era of JS.

While there is nothing unusual with a business willing to take advantage of the latest technologies, we need to address the stark reality of this trend: Most of the migrations to JavaScript frameworks aren’t being planned with users or organic traffic in mind.

Let’s call it the JavaScript Paradox:

  1. The big brands jump on the JavaScript hype train after hearing all the buzz about JavaScript frameworks creating amazing UXs.
  2. Reality reveals that JavaScript frameworks are really complex.
  3. The big brands completely butcher the migrations to JavaScript. They lose organic traffic and often have to cut corners rather than creating this amazing UX journey for their users (I will mention some examples in this article).

Since there’s no turning back, SEOs need to learn how to deal with JavaScript websites.

But that’s easier said than done because making JavaScript websites successful in search engines is a real challenge both for developers and SEOs.

This article is meant to be a follow-up to my comprehensive Ultimate Guide to JavaScript SEO, and it’s intended to be as easy to follow as possible. So, grab yourself a cup of coffee and let’s have some fun — here are six steps to help you diagnose and solve JavaScript SEO issues.

Step 1: Use the URL inspection tool to see if Google can render your content

The URL inspection tool (formerly Google Fetch and Render) is a great free tool that allows you to check if Google can properly render your pages.

The URL inspection tool requires you to have your website connected to Google Search Console. If you don’t have an account yet, check Google’s Help pages.

Open Google Search Console, then click on the URL inspection button.


In the URL form field, type the full URL of a page you want to audit.

Then click on TEST LIVE URL.

Once the test is done, click on VIEW TESTED PAGE.

And finally, click on the Screenshot tab to view the rendered page.

Scroll down the screenshot to make sure your web page is rendered properly. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the main content visible?
  • Can Google see the user-generated comments?
  • Can Google access areas like similar articles and products?
  • Can Google see other crucial elements of your page?

Why does the screenshot look different than what I see in my browser? Here are some possible reasons:

Step 2: Make sure you didn’t block JavaScript files by mistake

If Google cannot render your page properly, you should make sure you didn’t block important JavaScript files for Googlebot in robots.txt

TL;DR: What is robots.txt?

It’s a plain text file that instructs Googlebot or any other search engine bot if they are allowed to request a page/resource.

Fortunately, the URL Inspection tool points out all the resources of a rendered page that are blocked by robots.txt.

But how can you tell if a blocked resource is important from the rendering point of view?

You have two options: Basic and Advanced.

Basic

In most cases, it may be a good idea to simply ask your developers about it. They created your website, so they should know it well.

Obviously, if the name of a script is called content.js or productListing.js, it’s probably relevant and shouldn’t be blocked.

Unfortunately, as for now, URL Inspection doesn’t inform you about the severity of a blocked JS file. The previous Google Fetch and Render had such an option:

Advanced

Now, we can use Chrome Developer Tools for that.

For educational purposes, we will be checking the following URL: http://botbenchmarking.com/youshallnotpass.html

Open the page in the most recent version of Chrome and go to Chrome Developers Tools. Then move to the Network tab and refresh the page.

Finally, select the desired resource (in our case it’s YouShallNotPass.js), right-click, and choose Block request URL.

Refresh the page and see if any important content disappeared. If so, then you should think about deleting the corresponding rule from your robots.txt file.

Step 3: Use the URL Inspection tool for fixing JavaScript errors

If you see Google Fetch and Render isn’t rendering your page properly, it may be due to the JavaScript errors that occurred while rendering.

To diagnose it, in the URL Inspection tool click on the More info tab.

Then, show these errors to your developers to let them fix it.

Just ONE error in the JavaScript code can stop rendering for Google, which in turn makes your website not indexable.

Your website may work fine in most recent browsers, but if it crashes in older browsers (Google Web Rendering Service is based on Chrome 41), your Google rankings may drop.

Need some examples?

  • A single error in the official Angular documentation caused Google to be unable to render our test Angular website.
  • Once upon a time, Google deindexed some pages of Angular.io, an official website of Angular 2+.

If you want to know why it happened, read my Ultimate Guide to JavaScript SEO.

Side note: If for some reason you don’t want to use the URL Inspection tool for debugging JavaScript errors, you can use Chrome 41 instead.

Personally, I prefer using Chrome 41 for debugging purposes, because it’s more universal and offers more flexibility. However, the URL Inspection tool is more accurate in simulating the Google Web Rendering Service, which is why I recommend that for people who are new to JavaScript SEO.

Step 4: Check if your content has been indexed in Google

It’s not enough to just see if Google can render your website properly. You have to make sure Google has properly indexed your content. The best option for this is to use the site: command.

It’s a very simple and very powerful tool. Its syntax is pretty straightforward: site:[URL of a website] “[fragment to be searched]”. Just take caution that you didn’t put the space between site: and the URL.

Let’s assume you want to check if Google indexed the following text “Develop across all platforms” which is featured on the homepage of Angular.io.

Type the following command in Google: site:angular.io “DEVELOP ACROSS ALL PLATFORMS”

As you can see, Google indexed that content, which is what you want, but that’s not always the case.

Takeaway:

  • Use the site: command whenever possible.
  • Check different page templates to make sure your entire website works fine. Don’t stop at one page!

If you’re fine, go to the next step. If that’s not the case, there may be a couple of reasons why this is happening:

  • Google still didn’t render your content. It should happen up to a few days/weeks after Google visited the URL. If the characteristics of your website require your content to be indexed as fast as possible, implement SSR.
  • Google encountered timeouts while rendering a page. Are your scripts fast? Do they remain responsive when the server load is high?
  • Google is still requesting old JS files. Well, Google tries to cache a lot to save their computing power. So, CSS and JS files may be cached aggressively. If you can see that you fixed all the JavaScript errors and Google still cannot render your website properly, it may be because Google uses old, cached JS and CSS files. To work around it, you can embed a version number in the filename, for example, name it bundle3424323.js. You can read more in Google Guides on HTTP Caching.
  • While indexing, Google may not fetch some resources if it decides that they don’t contribute to the essential page content.

Step 5: Make sure Google can discover your internal links

There are a few simple rules you should follow:

  1. Google needs proper <a href> links to discover the URLs on your website.
  2. If your links are added to the DOM only when somebody clicks on a button, Google won’t see it.

As simple as that is, plenty of big companies make these mistakes.

Proper link structure

Googlebot, in order to crawl a website, needs to have traditional “href” links. If it’s not provided, many of your webpages will simply be unreachable for Googlebot!

I think it was explained well by Tom Greenway (a Google representative) during the Google I/O conference:

Please note: if you have proper <a href> links, with some additional parameters, like onClick, data-url, ng-href, that’s still fine for Google.

A common mistake made by developers: Googlebot can’t access the second and subsequent pages of pagination

Not letting Googlebot discover pages from the second page of pagination and beyond is a common mistake that developers make.

When you open the mobile versions for Gearbest, Aliexpress and IKEA, you will quickly notice that, in fact, they don’t let Googlebot see the pagination links, which is really weird. When Google enables mobile-first indexing for these websites, these websites will suffer.

How do you check it on your own?

If you haven’t already downloaded Chrome 41, get it from Ele.ph/chrome41.

Then navigate to any page. For the sake of the tutorial, I’m using the mobile version of AliExpress.com. For educational purposes, it’s good if you follow the same example.

Open the mobile version of the Mobile Phones category of Aliexpress.

Then, right-click on View More and select the inspect button to see how it’s implemented.

As you can see, there are no <a href>, nor <link rel> links pointing to the second page of pagination.

There are over 2,000 products in the mobile phone category on Aliexpress.com. Since mobile Googlebot is able to access only 20 of them, that’s just 1 percent!

That means 99 percent of the products from that category are invisible for mobile Googlebot! That’s crazy!

These errors are caused by the wrong implementation of lazy loading. There are many other websites that make similar mistakes. You can read more in my article “Popular Websites that May Fail in Mobile First Indexing”.

TL;DR: using link rel=”next” alone is too weak a signal for Google

Note: it’s common to use “link rel=”next’ to indicate pagination series. However, the discoveries from Kyle Blanchette seem to show that “link rel=”next” alone is too weak a signal for Google and should be strengthened by the traditional <a href> links.

John Mueller discussed this more:

“We can understand which pages belong together with rel next, rel=”previous”, but if there are no links on the page at all, then it’s really hard for us to crawl from page to page. (…) So using the rel=”next” rel=”previous” in the head of a page is a great idea to tell us how these pages are connected, but you really need to have on-page, normal HTML links.

Don’t get me wrong — there is nothing wrong with using <link rel=”next”>. On the contrary, they are beneficial, but it’s good to combine these tags with traditional <a href> links.

Checking if Google can see menu links

Another important step in auditing a JavaScript website is to make sure Google can see your menu links. To check this, use Chrome 41.

For the purpose of the tutorial, we will use the case of Target.com:

To start, open any browser and pick some links from the menu:

Next, open Chrome 41. In the Chrome Developer Tools (click Ctrl + Shift + J),  navigate to the elements tab.

The results? Fortunately enough, Google can pick up the menu links of Target.com.

Now, check if Google can pick up the menu links on your website and see if you’re on target too.

Step 6: Checking if Google can discover content hidden under tabs

I have often observed that in the case of many e-commerce stores, Google cannot discover and index their content that is hidden under tabs (product descriptions, opinions, related products, etc). I know it’s weird, but it’s so common.

It’s a crucial part of every SEO audit to make sure Google can see content hidden under tabs.

Open Chrome 41 and navigate to any product on Boohoo.com; for instance, Muscle Fit Vest.

Click on Details & Care to see the product description:

“DETAILS & CARE

94% Cotton 6% Elastane. Muscle Fit Vest. Model is 6’1″ and Wears UK Size M.“

Now, it’s time to check if it’s in the DOM. To do so, go to Chrome Developers Tools (Ctrl + Shift + J) and click on the Network tab.

Make sure the disable cache option is enabled.

Click F5 to refresh the page. Once refreshed, navigate to the Elements tab and search for a product description:

As you can see, in the case of boohoo.com, Google is able to see the product description.

Perfect! Now take the time and check if your website is fine.

Wrapping up

Obviously, JavaScript SEO is a pretty complex subject, but I hope this tutorial was helpful.

If you are still struggling with Google ranking, you might want to think about implementing dynamic rendering or hybrid rendering. And, of course, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter about this or other SEO needs.



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Drag & Drop WordPress Page Builders

Visual Composer WordPress Page Builder

When WordPress page builders became big a while back, I was skeptical to say the least. How could these page builders compete with clean HTML and lean code? What I learned is WordPress page builders have come a long ways and continue to improve. Once you realize some of their web development benefits you might find yourself using one in the near future. Below I highlight a few of the benefits of using these visual page builders and why we use WPBakery in a majority of our sites.

CSS Control

Many page builders allow you to assign ID’s and classes to the page elements, rows, and columns. This allows you to do styling and CSS updates outside of the editor, saving time when applying styles across several pages. Don’t have a child theme stylesheet? You can still style elements using the builder including colors, fonts, margins, padding, borders, columns, backgrounds, and more.

Mobile Friendliness

A big time saver I’ve found in these visual builders is the ability to quickly display or hide page elements based on the user’s screen size. For example, you can set items to show or hide on desktop, tablet, or mobile with the click of a checkbox. You can also quickly adjust spacing and padding of items to appear differently depending on device. Page columns are responsive out-of-the-box so page designs stack beautifully on phones. All-in-all, you can layout and design a page for both computers and mobile devices in less time.

SEO Features

In viewing some of our websites’ source code, we realized the page builder plugin was adding the appropriate ALT and Title tags to images dragged on the page. This alone is a time saver. Builders also allow you to assign ID’s and other SEO-related items to your page content. Need more control? You still can access the built-in WordPress ‘Text’ editor for adding or modifying HTML/CSS.

Page Load Speed

One of my biggest hesitations with WordPress page builders was fear it would slow down my sites. After testing and building sites with and without page builder plugins these past few years, I learned a lot. First off, web servers are much faster today so extra inline CSS doesn’t seem to phase speed much. Second, themes with page builders are getting better at minifying code and caching items. Third, the proof is in the pudding – many of our new sites with page builders score in the high nineties on Pingdom, not an easy feat.

In summary, I think page builders started out with a bad rap and were seen as clunky drag & drop editors. They’ve come a long way since then. Many of our sites are now built in a third to half the time by utilizing these great plugins. I invite you to try one out on your next WordPress site. Who knows, you may end up using it on all your future sites.

6 Content Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

content-marketing-tips-crowd

Smart content marketing tips like those in this post can help you stay ahead of your competition and increase the profitability of your small business. Publishing targeted, informative, and entertaining content should be one of the key elements of your overall digital marketing strategy.

All forms of digital marketing require high-quality, relevant content. This includes SEO articles and blog posts (like this one), YouTube video descriptions, captions for Instagram pics, the meta-tags in your website code, social media posts, and much more.

This article looks at some low-cost content marketing tips that you can use to improve your Google ranking, generate fresh leads, build trust with potential and active customers, and increase your short- and long-term advertising ROI.

6 Content Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

To keep visitors coming back to your website, you need to provide them with more than subpar content that’s been thrown together unprofessionally. Remember that they are turning to your business as a source of quality and accurate information that provides answers to some of the questions they have. Here’s how to give ‘em what they’re looking for!

Tip 1: Approach Content Writing with Storytelling in Mind

Your visitors need more than just factual answers to questions. They need entertainment and an emotional connection. Storytelling can give them that connection, entertain and educate them at the same time, and build their trust in your business as an industry authority that cares.

So, the first content marketing tip is to embrace the art of storytelling. Take your visitors on a journey into the imagination as you give them the information they seek. Make it fun for them or make them laugh. Laughter feels good, and making people feel good is what you should be focusing on.  Honestly, my personal motto is to occasionally make you laugh so hard you pee a little.

Tip 2: Be the Expert

If you want to provide the best information for your customers, then you need to become an expert in your industry. Don’t try to fake it. Stay on top of the latest developments. Become the source of authoritative information that you want your visitors to perceive you as.

Even if you don’t want to give away a bunch of free information, you should be broadcasting the fact that you know your stuff.  I wouldn’t hire a roofer without some sort of validation that he/she is good at what they do (and offers the products I want).  You can do this with blogging, vlogging, social campaigns, or portfolio pieces and case studies.

Remember the old school adage for math?  Show your work, so highlight testimonials, case studies, images of your work, etc.

Tip 3: Know Your Audience

This one’s fun, right?  It’s like people-watching at the mall.  To optimize the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts, you must know definitively who you’re marketing to. Research and define your demographic targets. Base your content creation of the things that matter most to your targeted audience.

Create a comprehensive buyer persona or profile for at least three different customers.  Include things like:

  • Name (make it personal to build your bond with this kind of customer)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Country/state
  • Ethnicity
  • Education
  • Work position
  • Family (Married? Children?)
  • Charities
  • Hobbies

Think about your ideal customer.  Who’s your favorite of them all? If you’re still unsure, try customer surveys, participating in social groups, and reviewing your competitor social profiles.

Tip 4: Cater to the Needs of Your Readers

Once you define your demographics, then it’s time to understand them as deeply as you can. The better you understand what they want and why they want it, the better you’ll be able to give it to them. To give the best answers and solutions, you must truly care about what they are asking you, so listen actively.

Tip 5: Develop Your SEO Skills

SEO (search engine optimization) is the science/art of creating evergreen content that meets the needs of a targeted audience. SEO experts know how to please the Google gods that determine how well content places in organic search engine results for selected keyword phrases. Better organic rankings mean more cost-free, targeted leads for your business.

Tip 6: Grow Your Company Blog

Niche-specific blogging is one of the best ways to increase your industry authority, customer trust, organic search engine rankings, and overall ROI. Do not overlook the power of the blog! Your digital marketing strategy cannot be complete in today’s online space without including blog resources.

If you’re working on crafting SEO blog content yourself instead of hiring a writer, then check out Your Imprint’s free blogging template! It can help you to save time, stay organized, beat deadlines, and maximize productivity.

The content marketing tips above can help you streamline your productivity and establish your online company as an authority in your industry. Content marketing is one of the most important elements of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy.

Increase customer loyalty by telling captivating stories that educate and entertain!

 

Sources
WordStream – 22 Low-Budget Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses
Nationwide – Content Marketing
Wikipedia – Storytelling

Attract and Delight Customers with a Content Marketing Plan

content-marketing-plan

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1533664399016{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]A content marketing plan is one of the most cost-effective ways to help potential customers find your website. But that’s only half the battle. Once you get them there, you need to provide high-quality, relevant information that answers their questions and keeps them engaged with your brand.

What is Content Marketing?

It’s the behind-the-scenes script. A content marketing plan is a strategic approach for providing valuable, reader-friendly information to a targeted audience who’s expecting something. Fresh, compelling content keeps them coming back to your website and spending more time on each visit.

Everything is content and can involve things like:

  • Article writing
  • Business blogging
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Free reports
  • eBooks
  • Whitepapers
  • Social media posts

Regardless of the form, the content you put out needs to be high-quality, easy to read, helpful, and most of all, entertaining.

People turn to Google for information. Google’s goal is to provide the freshest and most relevant answers to its users’ questions. If you publish relevant, accurate content, then Google will notice, and subsequently, award it higher organic search engine results.

High-quality and compelling content is more likely to be shared. They will send it to their contacts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other popular social networking platforms. News and deals travel fast in the social realm, so make sure it’s good news and the best deals.

Content Marketing Plan Implementation

Implementing a Content Marketing Plan helps businesses:

  • Improve organic Google search engine results (SEO is the broadcaster!)
  • Increase the number of targeted people that visit your website
  • Help visitors arrive at your site with presold mindsets
  • Decrease the amount of money you fork out for lead generation
  • Increase your industry authority
  • Get free referral traffic to your website
  • Increase your fan base on social media platforms
  • Improve brand recognition
  • Make it easier to turn new prospects into actionable customers
  • Build better relationships with your customers

You have probably heard or read that Content is King. Some don’t agree, but in our experience, this has been, still is, and will continue to be TRUE! In fact, it would be all but impossible to achieve any degree of online (or offline) success without a compelling story, which is told through content.

You can’t get on a stage without a microphone. Websites, social pages, branding, SEO, and content marketing plans all play a role in directing and managing your brand show.

That means that the content you publish needs to be targeted, well-written, personable, and informative. But, most importantly, content needs to be entertaining. You have a lot of competition out there, and content marketing will help you find a way to stand out.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1533664392188{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

Content Marketing Plan Checklist

Here are the key elements to a stellar content marketing strategy.

1) Define Your Audience

You won’t do very well developing targeted content for your customers if you don’t know who they are, or you assume too much. You must identify your target audience, and then make it your business to understand what they need, what they’re looking for, and what you can provide.

However, remember that you’re not the customer and your audience may be different from what you expected. Keep an eye on your sales and most profitable leads. Who’s buying from you? Be ready to modify this audience persona regularly. They change their behaviors and attitudes as often as a teenager.

2) Research Your Competition

That’s right. Be a spy. Check out the type of content your competitors are publishing on their websites and social media pages. Are they doing ads? What kinds are working for them? SpyFu is an incredible tool that will help you with research! Ask yourself how you can do a better job of providing what your customers need.

3) SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

It’s the Golden Snitch of the digital marketing world. Catch it, and you’ll likely win the game. Search engine optimization is a core element of any successful content marketing plan. Knowing how to please your customers without irritating the search engines is the name of the game.

SEO experts know how to craft content that answers relevant questions which boost them to the top rankings in Google, Bing, and other search engines. A good content marketing plan decreases advertising costs and increases ROI. If you want to develop high-performing content, we can help you build and implement your content and SEO strategies.

 

Sources
Sprout Social – 17 Tips for Creating a Content Marketing Plan
BDC – 10 tips for attracting customers with great online content
Bidsketch – 10 Ways to Attract More Clients with Content Marketing
Marketing Agency Insider – How to Use Content Marketing to Attract Clients[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1533664465698{border-top-width: 2px !important;border-right-width: 2px !important;border-bottom-width: 2px !important;border-left-width: 2px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 5px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;background-color: #fff1db !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;border-left-color: #ffbe00 !important;border-left-style: solid !important;border-right-color: #ffbe00 !important;border-right-style: solid !important;border-top-color: #ffbe00 !important;border-top-style: solid !important;border-bottom-color: #ffbe00 !important;border-bottom-style: solid !important;border-radius: 10px !important;}”]

Bonus Tip

Don’t underestimate your customers. They’re savvy, sometimes fickle, and they do their research. Be honest with them and don’t try to hard-sell them. Provide them with information and make them feel appreciated and heard. Ask them questions and learn from them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Responsive web design is an integral part of your ranking (popularity)

responsive-web-design-ranking

Hopefully, you understand the importance of quality website design. People judge your website based off of its design and how well it works, and they make decisions about your company based on their experience on your website.

Responsive web design makes the browsing experience better for customers. We’ve written about why (and how you can improve your web design) here. However, responsive web design isn’t just good for the sake of your users. It also helps your SEO and general ranking. In other words, it attracts more people to your site and retains them.

A brief overview of responsive web design

The opposite of a responsive website is a “fixed” website. A fixed website might look great on your standard computer screen, and it is probably easy to read. However, when a user tries to open the site on their phone, they must awkwardly zoom in and scroll to read the content.

As opposed to this, a responsive website automatically adjusts to whatever screen it is on so that the viewer can easily read the information. For example, a responsive website changes photo sizes and converts multiple columns into one long column.

Responsive web design is nuanced, and we’ve written more about how it will improve your business.

Responsive web design and Google’s preference

There’s no doubt about it: Google prefers responsive web design to fixed design. In fact, they explain why in their Developer Guides. They write many reasons, including, “(Responsive web design) helps Google’s algorithms accurately assign indexing properties to the page rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop/mobile pages.”

Despite this, preference doesn’t automatically mean higher SEO. Google executives have claimed that they don’t use responsive web design in their ranking system directly. However, such design is easier for Google’s algorithms to navigate, which could have an impact on SEO.

Finally, Google does give preference to mobile-friendly sites when users are searching on mobile. Users are using mobile more now than ever before. Make sure you aren’t missing out on these views.

Responsive web design avoids common mobile design mistakes

Mobile design mistakes can impact your user’s online experience and hurt your ranking. For example, mistakes can:

  • make your site load slowly.
  • display unplayable content.
  • cause duplicate content.
  • show text that is too small or too large.
  • place elements too close together on a page.
  • cause high bounce rates.
  • create irrelevant cross-links.

These mistakes hurt your SEO ranking, but — guess what — responsive web design often helps you avoid these pitfalls automatically.

Social media and responsive web design

Users are more like to share content on social media when they are on a phone or tablet. Sites that are easier to use on mobile are thus more likely to be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

Social media is an important way to build relationships with your audience and your industry. It can also help you generate new leads, and become an established expert in your field. In fact, a bigger social audience often means more website views. It can also create a higher demand for your services and products.

Social media isn’t a direct factor in SEO. However, it can improve your ranking indirectly. For example, social media:

  • creates the potential for more links.
  • helps generate higher click-through-rates.
  • gives you a known brand, which users can then search.

You might be just starting out, or perhaps your current website needs some work. Either way, responsive web design should be one of your top web priorities.

At Your Imprint, we never stop having fun. Web design is one of the best parts of our jobs. If you need help building a stunning, functional website, get a quote. We’ll help you put on a show! 

What is a link profile? And how do you get a good one?

link-profile-networking

Think about link profiles like a network. On our YourImprint blogcast, we link to other sources frequently. Sometimes, other websites link back to our content. These links are inbound links. When they do this, they are inadvertently helping us develop our link profile.

Link profiles are an essential part of SEO. In fact, Google ranks websites higher if other reputable websites link back to them. In addition to this, inbound links push users back to your site organically. With a good link profile, your site will rank higher and attract more views.

What makes a link profile “good”?

Google analyzes link profiles based on their quality, their anchor texts, and their honesty.

  1. Quality. Links to your site shouldn’t come from just anywhere. You want reputable, non-spammy websites to link to your content. Otherwise, you might start to experience negative SEOrel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”. Your links should also come from relevant content. For example, if you write about hair products, sites related to hair should be linking to your site.
  2. Anchor texts. Anchor texts are the words that contain a hyperlink to another site. For example, in the above paragraph, the words “negative SEO” are anchor texts because they link to another site. Anchor text should be relevant. If an anchor text contains the words “Colorado,” you expect to visit a site about the Centennial State.
  3. Honest links. Google is strict about how links are acquired. In fact, they say that links that are bought or traded for money will negatively affect your site. Some people still do this. It isn’t illegal or outright banned. However, buy link space still might hurt your site.

How do you build a link profile?

  1. Write quality content on a regular basis. This will give your website constant content that people will want to link back to.
  2. Link back to yourself. Every webpage and post you put on your site should include 2-3 links back to other places on your website.
  3. Get to know other people. Are you a small business owner? Connect with other business owners in your area. Link to their site when appropriate.
  4. Post on social media. These are links too, and they also expose your site to audience members that may not see your content otherwise.

How do I check my link profiles?

Check your link profiles regularly to make sure you aren’t the victim of spammy links. The following sites analyze your website:

Are you confused about this or other SEO problems? Do you need help building or fixing your website? Our experienced team is eager to help. Contact us to learn more about our marketing services! 

How to Improve Your Site’s SEO: A Checklist

Improve Your Site's SEO

Improving your site’s SEO involves taking an in-depth look at your site and why it functions the way it does. Look beyond your site’s keywords. Yes, they are important, but your site’s usability, mobile friendliness, and page load speed matter too.  And don’t even get us started on proper and ethical link building.  We love SEO, and we love to show our clients how to see, understand, and use SEO to their benefit.

Here’s how to improve your site’s SEO:

Check your site’s load speed.

Take load speed seriously. Your users will leave your site if they have to wait for a page to load, and both Google and Bing take load speed into account for their algorithms when ranking.  Some things that slow down page load speed are:

  • Site host
  • Image sizes
  • Amount of Javascript and CSS
  • CDN (Content delivery network; from which server your information is pulled, based on location)
  • Site cache (PC Mag defines browser cache as “a temporary storage area in memory or on disk that holds the most recently downloaded Web pages.”

A good free tool to check your site’s speed is Pingdom.

Add outbound links to improve your site’s SEO.

Linking to reputable sites will increase your site’s SEO because doing so gives your site validity. According to the site Shout Me Loud, outbound links tell search engines what your blog is all about.

Find outbound links by conducting your own industry research. However, one easy way to do this is by searching “related:(your domain name).com” on Google.

Remove broken links.

Nobody wants to click on a link only to end up on a 404 page. And Google knows this. Sites with broken links rank lower than those without them.

Check to see if your site has broken links by visiting Screaming Frog SEO Finder, W3C Link Checker, or Dead Link Checker.

It’s not enough to just find the broken links, but you have to go and find them and fix them.  Often, this requires looking at the source code.  This part can be tricky. Let us know if you need some help figuring this part of the process out!

Marketing Tips

Add a contact page.

Google sees pages with sufficient contact information as more trustworthy than those with poor information.

Plus, a contact page encourages users to connect with you. That’s what we all want at the end of the day.  Build trust with your audience and add all necessary information to your contact page, including a Google Map, address, phone number, email, fax, social media pages, and contact name.

Improve your images.

Sites with images that are too large load slowly, but sites with images that are too small look equally unprofessional. Most images in a blog post, for example, should be about 20Kb-30Kb. Learn more about image sizing here.

Additionally, Google loves connecting the dots, so include your site, page, or post keywords in the images’ file names, alt tags, titles, descriptions, and captions.

Don’t just use photos.

Yes, use photos. But also engage your audience with slideshows, infographics, videos, and most importantly, captivating written copy. Multimedia and relevant information make a site more appealing.

In fact, a recent study shows that videos keep people on your site for longer. Get this: websites with video have an average 4.8% conversion rate, compared to the 2.9% rate of sites without video.

Improving your site’s SEO ranking takes dedication, patience, and expertise. We provide SEO Services that improve your business and brand.  We’re experts, but don’t take our word for it. Visit some of our past work instead.