January 2013

How to Increase Site Speed and Boost Your Rankings

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On April 9, 2010, in its own Webmaster Blog, Google announced the following:

“You may have heard that here at Google we’re obsessed with speed, in our products and on the web. As part of that effort, today we’re including a new signal in our search ranking algorithms: site speed.”  

As SEOs, we don’t know to what degree site speed is incorporated in Google’s search rankings, but we do know Google prefers websites that offer a great user experience.  And one thing users will always want is websites that load fast.

If you use Google’s PageSpeed Tool, Google analyzes your site and tells you exactly what your score is.  Ideally you receive a score of 90 or above.  If your score isn’t quite what you want it to be, there are a number of things you can do to improve it.

How to Increase Your Site’s Load Speed

For purposes of this post, I’ll give you tips for websites that have a CMS, and for those that don’t.  If your site isn’t powered by a CMS like WordPress, you should get one, because it makes the management of your website much, much easier.

Here are a few things you can do to increase your site’s load speed:

Compress images – Images chew up much of the bandwidth when any site loads.  Do use images on your site, but keep their use to a minimum.  When you do use images, make sure they’re compressed.  You can reduce the size of an image by 50 – 60% while not hurting the image quality at all.

Avoid flash – For some big-name websites, using flash is okay.  They’re super-popular, have a dedicated audience, and the load-time of their sites isn’t so long that too many people will never visit again.  But for smaller websites floating below the radar of most people, avoid using flash.  Flash takes a fair amount of bandwidth up, and it’s also difficult to optimize websites with flash.

Use the W3 Total Cache plugin – This one applies to WordPress users only.  This plugin helps automate complex processes like:

  • Browser caching (keeps a copy of the web page on your hard disk for faster access)
  • Page caching (stores posts/pages as static files instead of loading on each visit for much faster access)
  • Minimizing scripts (plugins like to use a lot of them and this plugin reduces their usage)
  • Cache database functions (updating your WP DB and accessing can chew up significant bandwidth, and this plugin minimizes that)

It Seems Strange In the Era of High Bandwidth…

But, this still makes a large difference in terms of user experience.  Desktop bandwidth is consistently fast, but you have to keep in mind more people are using mobile devices.  Mobile bandwidth, on average, doesn’t download at the same speed as desktop bandwidth.  So, it’s just good that you accommodate all devices.  Someday, bandwidth will be much faster and these things won’t be such a big deal, but until then…do everything you can to keep your site’s load speed fast!

Dan StelterHow to Increase Site Speed and Boost Your Rankings
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How to Protect Your Site’s Content

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police exiting police car 300x220 How to Protect Your Sites ContentIf it wasn’t all about content in the past, Google is certainly all about content now.  Websites with rich, informative types of content and readerships that keep coming back for more rank higher than “plain-jane” websites that blend in by offering something similar to everyone else.

Developing stellar content is challenging, but much of your ability to develop compelling content revolves around your knowledge of the subject matter.  If you’ve taken the time to create your own content, or if you’ve had someone else create unique content for you, the last thing you want is someone who takes it for themselves and presents it as their own.

If someone hasn’t stolen your content already, they will.

Strategies to Use to Protect Your Content

Even though anything goes on the internet, there are many actions you can take to protect your content. Here are a few to try:

  • Do nothing!  Believe it or not, if someone steals your content and uses it on their own site, Google is actually remarkably adept at identifying the original author.  If the site that stole your content appears low-profile and like nobody reads it anyway, don’t worry too much about your content appearing there.
  • Use Google Authorship.  First, you have to set up a profile with a pic at Google Plus.  Then, on any pages where you create the content, use this code:  <a rel=”author” href=”https://plus.google.com/u/0/your-google-plus-unique-profile-ID/”>  When your content appears in the search engine results pages, your picture appears in the SERPs right alongside it like so:how to protect your sites content How to Protect Your Sites Content

If you don’t know how to insert the code into your website, you can download a plugin for most CMSs like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla that does it for you.  If you write the content for another site, you can still enter in the code anywhere on the page to make sure you get credit.

  • Use Copyscape.  If you don’t monitor your content, you can use Copyscape to check to see if your website’s content appears anywhere else on the web.  Copyscape checks to see if the exact same characters appear somewhere else.  It can detect sections of copied content.  If someone copies your idea but uses different wording, however, Copyscape doesn’t do the job.
  • Use the Tynt plugin.   Tynt is a totally free plugin for WordPress that monitors all of your site’s text and images.  It lets you know how many times your content has been copied and pasted by others.  Then, when they paste the content onto their own site, a back link to your original content is created.  Pretty cool, huh?

Those are the most effective ways to protect your content in 2013 – what do you think will happen in the future?

Dan StelterHow to Protect Your Site’s Content
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Is Your Business Local? Learn How to Optimize Google Places

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Google rewards local searches more than ever.  Why?  Because people want relevant results, and if Google provides local results instead of national ones when people actually have that preference, it gives them one more reason to use their search engine instead of others.

According to a report by reputed research firm ComScore, around 3 billion local searches happen each month.  If you’re a local business, you can’t afford to miss out on the action.  In most cases, optimization is more difficult and because it takes time and patience to perform, rather than skill.  Some skill is required, but you don’t have to be a super-genius to do the work.

Simple Tips for Optimizing Google Places

Consistency – Your business might already have a number of profiles across different social media outlets.  If you do, make sure you have the same representation of your business at each.  Otherwise, people become confused and aren’t sure they want to interact with your brand.  Some things to check are:

  • Your brand’s name
  • Consistent imagery
  • Linking all profiles together
  • Ensuring each profile reflects current employees and management

Use a local phone number – Because the point of Google Places is to show local search results to area searchers, it’s important to use a local phone number to show Google you are in fact local.  This maximizes your search rankings.  If you use a toll-free number, Google gets the impression you might not be local.

Fill out all of the information – Some of the information may seem not to apply to your business, or you might not want to give out.  Provide all of the information Google requests, just to be on the safe side.  If you can, produce content such as photos or videos.  Not only does Google like a diverse content base, but it gives you an opportunity to share more about your company, and online, people purchase from businesses they know, like, and trust.

Get 5 positive reviews – Google loves instant marketing feedback like this.  You can bet that better ratings give you better rankings.  Once you get 5 reviews, Google shows them online.  Searchers will trust your business much more because of the positive reviews they see.  As soon as you get a satisfied customer, follow up with them via e-mail and give them a link to the location to leave the review.

But, don’t attempt to manipulate them to make yourself appear better than you are by making up 5 reviews.  If you do get some negative reviews, follow up with the customer and resolve the situation.  When you make them happy, ask them to update their review.

Talk in extra detail about the problems your services solve – You don’t have to tell searchers every last detail of your services, but do tell them the common problems yours solves.  Most Google Places business listings aren’t doing this, so that gives you a little extra edge.

Follow these 5 tips, and you’ll get yourself off to a good start to ranking high for local searches.

Dan StelterIs Your Business Local? Learn How to Optimize Google Places
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The Secret to SEO Success

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I’m so excited to share this secret with you.  As a company, we’ve been studying SEO carefully for years.  Dozens of clients, thousands of keywords, and much higher rankings for every one of them have allowed us to finally share the top secret to our company’s success.

seo success The Secret to SEO SuccessIt’s so startlingly simple that you won’t believe you missed this one, magical secret!

So, without making you salivate anymore, here it is:  consistent hard work.

A little surprised?  We’re not.

Why Does Hard Work Succeed When it Comes to SEO?

If you follow common sense thinking, try thinking about it this way:

  • Google is a business
  • How do businesses stay in business?
  • By giving their market what it wants
  • What does the search market want?
  • Interesting, useful content from easy-to-use websites

That’s all it really boils down to, and if you work to these principles, your SEO won’t be good now – it’ll be good forever.

Why do People Make it Sound so Complicated?

At its lowest level SEO becomes somewhat complex.  But, people often exaggerate the complexities in order to make a sale.  If you’re not a computer person, then you could say SEO is pretty complex.  But, if you’re fairly familiar with technology, then SEO really isn’t all that complicated.

If It’s Not That Hard, How Come SEO Becomes Costly?

It really boils down to a time factor.  While SEO isn’t that difficult, for even a small business of just a couple employees, it takes a full-time effort by 1 person to do all of the work.  For larger companies, the time costs scale.

In comparison to traditional marketing methods, SEO is actually very inexpensive.  Evaluate the current cost-per-lead for the marketing methods you have in place now and compare it to the typical SEO strategy, and you will find that the cost-per-lead for SEO is much, much lower on at basis.

Additionally, the returns you generate from the average SEO campaign are fairly significant.  These costs may seem expensive at first, but later on, when you tally the total revenues from your online efforts, the costs for even the most challenging SEO campaigns are quite reasonable compared to traditional marketing methods.

The truth is that SEO will only cost more in the future, and here are a few reasons why:

  • Google is developing its algorithm to include more link juice from a variety of sources to increase your rankings
  • More companies are realizing SEO’s effectiveness and are willing to put more money into it
  • People will increasingly search the web first for the products, services, and information they need

If you are having a hard time finding the funds for SEO or want to go with a “cheap” company, consider this question:  Would you hire a handyman or an experienced carpenter to repair your roof?

The same idea applies to SEO.  The secret to success is hard work, and you get what you pay for.  So, find someone you trust to do what they say they will do, and let them do the hard work so you can focus on running your business instead of building links and making social media posts all day long!

Dan StelterThe Secret to SEO Success
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How to Build Back Links

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3d word seo inside zero one blocks 300x228 How to Build Back LinksGoogle test 15,000 changes to its algorithm per year and implements somewhere around 200 of them.  Since its founding in 1998, you can imagine how much different the search engine is now, many years later.  However, links to your site are still the largest of many factors Google considers when determining how highly you should rank for particular keywords.

In reality, you can’t just build links to any old place on the internet, although you could in the early days of Google.  Well, you can, but there are much better ways to get links than others.  A single high-value back link counts as much as hundreds or even thousands of low-value links.  With all of that information in mind, here are some tactics we use and recommend use for building links to your site:

The Higher the Page Rank (PR), the Better

PR has nothing to do with how highly you rank.  A PR 5 page for example, can be outranked by a PR 2 page and this often happens on Google.  Page Rank, in fact, is a term coined in honor of Larry Page, one of the founders of Google.  Generally, SEO professionals view Page Rank as a measurement of the quality of links to a certain page.

When it comes to sites you want to get Page Rank from, the higher the PR, the better.  It’s easiest to get links in the 1-3 range, with 4-6 being difficult, but more achievable.  Sites with a PR of  7 or more can be found, but the ones easiest to land are typically on very niche topics that have little to do with your site’s topic.  In many cases, a PR of 7 or more usually indicates a website with a great reputation – usually a blog with hundreds and thousands of readers, or a prominent corporation.

Links from these sites are exceedingly difficult to land, and typically they require a strong relationship with someone in a position of power at the site.

Related Sites Work Better

Google wants to see sites linking to you that cover a topic similar to yours.  If you are an auto company, for example, having a link from a sports website would be valued lesser than links from a classified ads auto site or a do-it-yourself auto repair blog.  Links from sites not as closely related to yours in terms of topic simply count less.

All Anchor Texts Match Your Keywords Exactly

If you are targeting the keyword “auto glass repair New York City,” then the text your links actually display should read the same.  Many SEOs believe in a diversity of similarly-related anchor texts, but we’ve found exact-match text works well for helping you rank.

Links Must Come from a Diversity of Sites

The more sites your links come from, the better.  In the past, you could have created a ton of links on a few forums and shot your rankings up through the roof.  You can still keep most of your links coming from just a few sources, but you climb up the rankings higher and faster by using a diverse base of websites to create your linking structure.

Building Must Happen at a Natural Pace

If Google sees 1 link one day, and then 1,000 the next, it will be somewhat suspicious of your website.  If these links are all built, then your rankings will suffer. But, the exception to the rule no one discusses is that if these links are legitimately provided by a variety of websites and users, it can be seen as natural.  Think about “Psy,” who does his thing on YouTube called “GangNam Style.”  Even though the number of links to his content exploded over night, it would still be seen as natural because people would actually be looking for his stuff when Google keywords related to his content.  Google wants to provide relevant results people are looking for, not sites manipulated up the search results.  So, this type of content would rank well right off the bat.

For most businesses, however, we don’t capture the fascination of the public at large like Psy.  For us, it makes more sense to build links at a steady, natural rate.  If we built a million links in a week for an auto repair site, Google would be awfully suspicious, and probably would reduce the effectiveness of those links and that site’s rankings.

It Takes a Ton of Time You Don’t Have

While link building is one of the most critical factors in ranking your site highly on the search engines, it’s a very time-consuming process.  And, Google is only going to make it harder because it wants to return only the most relevant results to its searchers.  You see, link building is becoming the traditional form of marketing, and therefore, it’s a separate profession, just like someone who creates radio or television ads for a living.

If you need help with pushing your site up the search engine rankings, Devenia handles all types of link building.  Contact us and let us know how we can help.

Dan StelterHow to Build Back Links
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