Google Mobile-First Indexing: Optimize Your Mobile Site

mobile-first SEO

Most searches are made on a mobile device.

Earlier this year, Google announced that it was beginning to transition sites to mobile-first indexing. Increasingly, Google will crawl, rank and index the mobile version of a site instead of the desktop version, as was previously the case. Google Search Console will notify you when Google enables mobile-first indexing on your site.

What Does Mobile-first Indexing Mean for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Directly, not much; indirectly, a lot. There will continue to be just one index that Google uses for serving search results. As well, mobile-first indexing has no bearing on ranking in itself. However, since the mobile version will now be the primary version, it will also be the one that is ranked in most cases. A site that is mobile-friendly is more likely to be ranked higher.

Most Google searches are now made on a mobile device. Mobile-first indexing is one step towards forcing web development to respond to these new conditions and even to future scenarios that will likely involve AI. The amount of information on the web is increasing at an exponential rate. Google needs more efficient methods to catalogue information in order to respond to and prepare for the ways we access and consume information.

In the short term, it makes sense to optimize your website specifically for mobile devices. Looking further ahead, web development may move away from an organization based on URLs in favour of using Schema, on-page structured markup and XML feeds and with a greater reliance on Google cloud hosting. To read more about these concepts, Cindy Krum of MobilMoxie wrote an interesting series in 2017.

SEO Optimization for Mobile Devices

mobile-first indexing

Geotargeting is important since people often search using their cell phone for facilities and resources that are near them.

Mobile users want to find the information they need quickly and easily. These four tips will help optimize the mobile version of your site so it performs better:

    1. Make sure your mobile site loads fast. This criteria has become even more important since July when Google announced it’s Speed Update. Google will now focus on the loading speed on mobile devices to influence ranking. Try running your site through Google’s updated mobile speed test that measures the mobile speed of your website and compares it with standards in your industry.
    2. Pay attention to user experience (UX) on your mobile site. Make sure the page displays properly, with plenty of room to navigate by touch and with content that is legible and comfortable to read.
    3. Understand the mobile context. Users are often searching for facilities and resources such as stores, events or services that are near them. Geotargeting is important.
    4. Include meta titles and descriptions that take into account the mobile context.

Need help optimizing your mobile site?

If mobile-first SEO seems overwhelming or you simply don’t have time to do this on your own, we’re here to help. Drop us a note today.

Tips for Securing your Site without losing SEO

Securing your site without losing SEOEver since Google announced having a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certification was a ranking signal back in 2014, more and more organizations have prioritized migrating from http to https. If you haven’t yet, we recommend doing so soon. But how exactly do you ensure getting a SSL will boost your SEO? Follow our tips to learn how to secure your site without sacrificing SEO.

1) Make Sure Google Can Index Your New Site

Moving from HTTP to HTTPS will change your URL (from HTTP to HTTPs, naturally). Thus, you will need to add the HTTPS property to your Google Search Console. However, Search Console treats HTTP and HTTPS as separate properties; they are not shared among the pages that make up your website. If you are using both HTTP to HTTPS protocols on your web pages, you will need to have a separate Search Console property for each one. We talk more about this later, but if you are looking for more insight here are a couple great resources from Google:

For more information on what is meant by a site move, see this helpful page:

For more information on site moves and URL changes, get answers here:

2) Purchase An SSL Certificate

You are going to want to get your certificate from a reliable certificate authority (CA). Your best bet is to start with domain registrar, who should be able to get you the certificate your site will need. You will also need to decide what kind of certificate you will need. For example:

  • A single certification for a single secure origin (e.g. www.example.com).
  • A multi-domain certificate for multiple well-known secure origins (e.g. www.example.com, cdn.example.com, example.com.uk).
  • A wildcard certificate for a secure origin with many dynamic subdomains (e.g. a.example.com, b.example.com, c.example.com, and so on).

3) Setup Server-Side 301 Redirects

Redirect your users and search queries to your new HTTPS pages and resources with server-side 301 HTTP redirects. If you need help, we can do this for you.

4) Make Sure To Update All Links To Your Site’s Resources

You will need to ensure your new site can locate all css files, javascript files, images, files accessed by a content delivery network (CDN), and so on. Search your code and templates and update all existing links. In addition, check how your content management system (CMS) stores its URL information. For example, WordPress stores the main URL for a site in a field that you will need to manually update.

5) Update Your Google Search Console

You will need to add your site as a new property to Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). Create a new account for your site and verify your property in Google Search Console as needed.

6) Update Your Google Analytics Account

Go to the settings section of Google Analytics (https://www.google.com/analytics/) and update the listed protocol to HTTPS. Then relink the Analytics to your new Webmaster Tools account.

7) Update Other Tracking Modes Accordingly

Update any other code you are using to track SEO and site performance accordingly. This includes such tools and social media as Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Also, make sure any logos, business cards, badges, and links contained in sites and accounts you operate have the proper URL.

8) Test And Verify That Your HTTPS Pages Can Be Indexed By Google

You want your new site to be found and indexed by Google as quickly as possible. With that in mind, avoid the following 3 mistakes:

  1. Do not block access to your HTTPS pages by using robots.txt files. This will prevent Google from crawling your site and indexing the information contained within.
  2. Do not include metadata noindex tags in your HTTPS pages. This will also prevent Google from indexing your site, making it nigh-impossible to be located by search engines.
  3. Use Fetch as Google (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/googlebot-fetch) in order to test Googlebot can access your page(s).

Need help with any aspect of migrating from HTTP to HTTPS? Get in Touch

If this seems overwhelming or you simply don’t have time to do this on your own, we’re here to help. Drop us a note today.

Penguin 3.0’s Action and Reaction Guide

Penguin_3.0

As you know, the digital marketing world is a big, fast-moving place. It seems that every channel evolves every day. So one of the biggest parts of any digital marketer’s job is to keep up with headlines in their area.

At North Studio, a number of people work on SEO, but it is mostly my specialized area of knowledge, so it’s my job to keep up with trends, best practices and updates by Google.

Recently, Google has released major updates to their antispam algorithms. However, the biggest headline was the update to the Penguin algorithm.

(more…)

Eye-Tracking Study: How Searchers View SERPs on Google

The SERP (or "search engine results page") is the Holy Grail of all SEO and SEM professionals. (Well, the first page is.) And deciphering how ordinary people read and analyze these pages is golden information for anyone who's concerned about his or her business' rank on the Google results page.

I really like eye-tracking studies; they've informed a lot about how I write my content–and how I teach others to write content as well. So whenever a new one's out, I take a close look, because it could potentially change the way I do my job. (more…)

3 Great Reasons to Spring Clean Your Content

Spring cleaning: clearing up the cobwebs and dust, washing and opening the windows, bringing fresh air to the house. And you can also do that with your website. Okay, so it’s officially spring only for a few more days, but it’s never too late to spring clean your website content.

One part of the content management cycle that doesn’t really get its due when we talk about content strategy: archiving and removal. Because you posted it back in the day doesn’t mean it should be there forever. Actually, cleaning up old, stale, irrelevant or inaccurate content is something you should do regularly. Why? I thought you’d never ask!

#1 Old content can damage your SEO

We put a lot of work in SEO. We spend hours optimizing tags, revising our content and making sure that we rank for the right keywords. But are these keywords those that you used a year or two years ago?

Like with every good business strategy, your content strategy changes with time. Your objectives may have changed; your services or products may have mutated into something different. Do you still want to rank for old, irrelevant keywords?

One secret to SEO is keeping your site fresh and up to date. Don’t ruin your current efforts by letting old content fight for your SEO ranking.

What you can do:

  • Revise the post for your current keywords
  • Block robots from crawling your post
  • Remove the post entirely

#2 Old content can work against your marketing

Sometimes, old content can screw with your marketing efforts. Take ours for example. A long time ago, a co-founder of Stikky Media (who isn’t with us anymore) wrote a blog post about the history of CGI in movies. While that’s great and everything (and the post was even used as a source on Wikipedia), the post has very little (i.e. nothing at all) to do with digital marketing. The post has quite a bit of traffic and lots of comments.

“But how is that a problem?” you ask. Well, first, it doesn’t put our firm in a very serious or professional light. It’s a company blog, not a personal one. This post can lead to potential clients questioning our expertise (if they’re digital marketing experts, why are they making such an obvious error?).

The post also attracted a lot of traffic that we didn’t want on our site; i.e. people who aren’t interested in digital marketing. This post skewed our efforts at analyzing our traffic and seeing what visitors are really interested in. It has an effect on bounce rates, time spent on site, and number of pages visited, at the very least.

What you can do

  • See where your traffic goes and where it is possibly diverted
  • Remove irrelevant content that doesn’t fit with your goals or your brand
  • Filter all content through your campaigns and objectives

#3 Old content can frustrate users

Whenever you talk about websites, you need to consider the user experience. Whether it’s through slick graphics or excellent content, the user is really the one you should please–not yourself.

Old content, especially popular old posts that still get traffic, can become frustrating if the content becomes out of date or inaccurate. Even if that out-of-date post still gets a ton of traffic to it, and fits your SEO and marketing goals, it still needs to be revised, archived or removed. If you have old posts that provide information that is no longer useful or accurate, you might want to review how you can update the information and bring traffic to it instead of your old post.

What you can do:

  • Write a new post that updates the information
  • Link the old post to the new one
  • Point people to your new post

Ready to clean?

I like to do a content cleanup at least every year–it’s the very minimum. I set aside a day or two to review all the content–blog posts, landing pages, site pages–for accuracy, timeliness, spelling errors (they ALWAYS sneak in), broken links, etc. It’s a bit boring, but it’s necessary. Kind of like cleaning your house.

When’s the last time you cleaned up your content? How often do you do it? How has it improved your digital marketing results? If you need help with your content marketing, get in touch with our experts.

SEO: A Newbie’s Perspective

SEO newbie tips

Hi, my name is Daniel. I’m the new intern here at Stikky Media. If you’re like me a few weeks ago, you may have heard the term SEO for the first time. There are so many acronyms in the business world, it can be hard to keep track. ROI, ROE, B2B, RFP, SEO: these are just a few that are slung around the office daily. Unless you know what they all mean, you are left feeling like an alien on a foreign world. Just know you’re not alone – read on for some SEO newbie tips!

You might know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but what does that actually mean? I sure didn’t know before I started here. For my interview, I did some basic research on the terms that I would be working with, but that didn’t prepare me for the sheer depth that is behind SEO. I’m still wrapping my head around how it works and what it touches. (Here’s a hint: Everything).

We’ve already established that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which at its very core means to work within the rules that search engines establish to get an edge over your competitors online. This can be as simple as creating great content to build your site’s popularity with your target market. In fact, if you read nothing else, this is perhaps top among my SEO newbie tips.

“If you build it, they will come…” but not on the internet. Like with any business, you can have the best product or service in the world, but a lot of good that will do for you if nobody knows you’re there. SEO is the way to make your company known in the ocean of websites on the WWW.

The Master Key

When I first started, keywords meant single words that are relevant to a topic. What I didn’t know was that when you search a phrase, it search counts as a single keyword. “Hockey Rinks In Victoria” is actually one keyword, despite it being four words. I never really thought about what was behind a keyword, and like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I was surprised when I looked behind the curtain to see what was really going on.

A keyword is any phrase typed into a search engine, and these keywords are compared to millions of sites by relevance. For example, searching “jeans” won’t bring up a site selling computer hardware, but it will surely return plenty of sites offering information and comparisons of different brands of jeans. Every site that shows up in that search for jeans is optimized for a variety of specific keywords that the person behind that site’s SEO believed a customer looking for jeans would search for.

So why don’t you target your keywords to play with the big boys? It sounds easy, right? Enter the Search Demand Curve! As you can imagine, the popularity of the keyword “Jeans” is much greater than “Vintage 1980 Stonewashed Jeans”. This means that increasing your ranking for “Jeans” is much more difficult than increasing your ranking for “Vintage 1980 Stonewashed Jeans.”

The Search Demand Curve shows that 30% of all monthly searches are done for popular keywords, like groceries, movie theatres, etc. 70% of all monthly searches are done on less popular, more exact words. This is called the Long Tail. In almost all cases, it is more cost-effective to target keywords on the Long Tail rather than try to battle in the crowded 30%.

So how can you possibly compete with the big sites? It certainly sounds like David vs Goliath, but Google doesn’t just judge a site based on keywords. If your site offers jeans and is deemed useful, it will rank higher in the search engine.

Pandora’s Useful Box

But now, you might ask: “how does Google know whether or not my site is useful?” Well, usefulness isn’t as objective as you might think. I never really thought about usefulness in a search engine context. I didn’t consider how Google found exactly what I was looking for in a fraction of a second; I just took it for granted.

As a SEO rookie, one of the first things I learned about SEO is that usefulness is judged on a variety of factors, which include how your site relates to a user’s search, and how much content is present on your site. Something else that impacts your usefulness is your site’s popularity. If nobody visits your site, Google assumes that it isn’t useful. That is why when you search for cats, you see information about cats, and not Sally’s cat picture blog that was last updated in 2003.

All Roads Flow Through Content

There is a shadow war taking place in the office; some say it has been fought since the beginning of time. What came first, effective SEO or relevant content?
Being an aspiring writer myself, I always thought that content was important. Why would anyone visit a site more than once if the site didn’t offer engaging, relevant content? I was happy to learn that this is exactly what drives content creation. That old saying that everyone has heard about first impressions lasting the longest remains true, especially on the internet.

My perspective as a SEO newbie is that both content and SEO feed into each other. Each is both the chicken and the egg. You need great content in order to build your reputation online and keep people coming to you, and you need great SEO in order to get those first time visitors to see you in the first place.

One of the things Google ranks your site on is how many other sites on the internet are linking to you. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but you want it to be because people are sharing your awesome content with their friends. This is how sites that have existed in obscurity for years, eventually catch fire and finally explode into popularity in a month. Impressive content is the spark.

Morning Spiders, evening Spiders

But how does Google know if your site is good or not? Do they have an army of interns sitting in some dimly lit bunker in a Nebraska cornfield, searching and ranking every site?

Although that would work (but not very fast….), Google actually uses a brigade of digital robots, called Spiders. These Spiders follow links through the web, indexing and tracking different websites. They then compare what each site offers against Googles algorithmic scorecard. Nobody knows exactly how everything is weighted, but we do know what is on the list through long campaigns of trial and error.

To me, a good website is one that is interesting and isn’t difficult to use. A mobile version is always helpful as well. You can imagine how smart I felt when I learned that Google and I share the same opinion!
For a website to be successful, it needs to have information that is relevant to your target market, and it needs to be easy for them to use. On more than one occasion I have gone to a competitor to buy a product because the first two sites I visited had little information, or that information was too difficult to find. Gone are the days when customers would buy a more expensive product from you because buying the cheaper product would require driving across town.

Cat In the Black Hat

How many times in the past have you visited a website and found weird phrases stuffed into its content? I’m talking about things like “Our Victora Car Lot has the Cheapest, Most Reliable Cars of any Victoria Car Lot that sells Cars in Victoria”. The sentence is strange, broken, and doesn’t make sense. This practice is called “keyword stuffing”.

We know that practices like keyword stuffing are a big no-no. When Google finds out that you’ve been using bad practices (otherwise known as “black hat”) like keyword stuffing or spamming your site around the web, or even participating in link exchange programs, you will receive large penalties in ranking. This can be avoided by using ethical practices (“white hat”) and playing within Google’s guidelines.

Knowing that Google’s algorithms are smart enough to detect any black hat practices, content creators are forced to play within the rules and compete on an even field. It boils down to needing talented content creators and excellent SEO people to earn popularity on the internet. Cheap tactics like keyword stuffing that were prominent in the early days of search engines no longer work.

Final Word on the Most Important SEO Tips

Obviously, SEO is such a huge subject that it can be difficult to sum it up within one blog post. I had no idea what big a role SEO played in shaping the internet, and I still have a lot to learn. By the end of my internship here I hope to be able to discuss SEO in-depth with other digital marketers. I certainly have a lot to learn and I eagerly look forward to it.

Need more SEO newbie tips? Get in touch with Stikky Media’s digital marketing experts.

On-page optimization tips

on-page optimization tipsIf you’re a SEO beginner, optimizing a web page or web site for search engines perhaps seems like a daunting task. There’s on-page SEO, off-page and a ton of other terms to remember. However, if you keep our fundamental on-page optimization tips in mind, it will make your life much easier. Read on for what you need to know about on-page search engine optimization, starting with the basics and concluding with the most important on-page optimization tips to remember.

First thing’s first. What is HTML?

For those of you who don’t know, HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. There, now you have an interesting tidbit for your dinner party this weekend. HTML is the markup or code of a website that tells browsers how to interpret words and images as well as how to display them or in other words, the skeleton of your website. That’s a lot of work if you ask me but without all of this the internet would just be full of text, and we all know that can get a little boring these days. The fact is, HTML is important and is vital to your website’s search engine results because this is what search engines read to understand your website.

What is on-page optimization?

When you build a website for your company, you want it to be found easily. To do this, you have to create a website design that caters to the way search engines interpret your webpage and the content on that web page. There are a couple of on-page optimization tips I want to tell you about that will make your website more accessible to search engines which, in turn, makes it more accessible to your users.

Where should I start when optimizing my web page or web site?

The first step is to review the status of the SEO on your website. I recommend requesting a free SEO audit from Stikky Media as it’s an easy way to quickly find out what is helping or hindering your SEO efforts.

What are H-Tags?

There is paragraph formatting that creates a class system for information on your webpage. These are refereed to as h-tags or headings, ranging from h1 to h8. The most common are h1, h2, and h3. One webpage should have only one h1-tag; this usually contains your primary keyword. You will then have 2 to 3 h2- and h3-tags which are going to be within the body of the text and will repeat your keyword once or twice.

The biggest gem to give you about h-tags is to refrain from using them for formatting. You do not want several h-tags that do not relate to the subject matter. For instance, you will not want the title, menu, appearing as an h2-tag. So, be sure styling is done on a separate class system than your h-tags.

Nofollow my links please. Wait, what is a nofollow link?

When you put a link on one of your webpages you want to ensure the link will not affect your place in the page ranks. A solution to this is making the link “nofollow”. Any links that are required to be on your web page that contains content that doesn’t relate can become a “nofollow” link. Nofollow signals that there is no association between the two websites. Although, the links will appear on one another’s site. For example, paid advertisements should be marked up as “nofollow”. Below is an example of how to implement a “nofollow” link:

<a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://stikkymedia.com” >honeycomb</a>

Why is the meta description important?

Meta, meaning before, refers to the information that will appear about your website, i.e. in the search engine results, that in some cases can help users decide whether or not they want to visit you website. For search friendly design, there are several types of meta tags including meta robot tags (these can be used to control search engine spider activity), meta keywords, meta refresh, and meta description just to name a few. What I will focus on is the meta description. Having a proper meta description can make the difference of someone clicking on your web page or not.

A meta description is that short blurb about the page that shows up in the search engine results. It should be a maximum of 150 characters and if written strategically, will entice people to visit your site. The trick here is making sure the information in this description explains exactly what is on the page. This can be tough when you only have 150 characters. Use the title of the page and make sure they know what format the page is (i.e. if it’s a blog post, a schedule for an event, a review, etc.). It’s also helpful to have a call to action (CTA), such as “learn more” or “visit”, that succinctly explains the benefit of your page for the visitor.

What is a Title Tag?

A title tag is just as it sounds. It is the title of your page surrounded by the tags “<title>”. Here is an example for clarity:

<title>The Basics of Search Engine Friendly Design</title>

Once you have tagged your title it will show up in the search engine results. It will also show up at the top of some internet browsers and in tabs when multiple pages are open. When you are creating your title, note the length and include keywords. 70 characters is the maximum that will display in the search results. Because of this, you want to have your keywords at the beginning of your title if you can. A person will be more likely to click on your page if they see the keyword in your title as it’s close to their query.

Last but not least of our on-page optimization tips…

One final tip would be to check your SEO work using Inspect Element. You can do this by right-clicking on, for instance, a sub title you made an h2-tag. You can choose the inspect element option which will bring up a window on the bottom of the screen that displays the HTML of the “element” you chose. In fact, you could do that right on this blog – it’s super easy!

Key Takeaways – Two Most Important On-Page SEO Tips to Remember

If we leave you with ou on-page optimization tips to remember from this post, they should be to focus on your title tag and meta description. These are both simple tasks that will make a world of difference for your search results.

Good luck with your own on page optimization! And if you have any questions about any of these tips or need SEO help in general, learn more about our SEO services.

SEO: Black Hat or Still Useful? An Investigation

During my lunchtime walk today, I was listening to a marketing/entrepreneur podcast that I really like. As a writer and content creator, I like to know how people are able to build careers and make businesses based on content and expertise. In the episode I listened to today, one of the hosts answered a listener question about the value of SEO and if it was worth paying a firm or a specialist to do it.

Of course, as I work in SEO on a daily basis, I can't say I was particularly happy with his answer that no, SEO wasn't that useful and that many SEO specialists tend to have, well, shady practices. His argument: good content speaks for itself, and over-the-top optimization, especially in shady link building (which Stikky Media doesn't do, thank God), can actually hurt your efforts on the web. He said to just use a keyword in the title if it fits, but otherwise focus on creating good content.

Evaluating SEO's true role in digital marketing

Many clients come to us asking for SEO because they hear that it's the most effective way to rank well on Google. But few understand SEO in the larger contex of the web: this incredibly noisy, ever-expanding world of information that needs to be described, tagged and "keyworded" to help people find the information they're looking for.

My personal experience as an SEO writer and content producer has taught me one thing: that the power of SEO tends to be overestimated. It doesn't matter how good your SEO is: if your content is boring or badly written or wrong, people will not stay on your website. SEO just gives Google more information about your content, but it doesn't magically make your content better. Actually, too much SEO can make your content worse. And, worst of all: with every Google algorithm update, all your SEO work needs to be re-evaluated and re-done. It's not a very strong foundation to build success on the web.

Don't get me wrong–SEO can be useful. A good SEO overhaul can boost up your rank in your chosen keywords. But SEO alone cannot correct uninteresting or uniniformative content, nor can it replace a complete and comprehensive digital strategy. And too much SEO is an alarm signal for Google: that maybe you're trying to game the system. And Google doesn't like it if your try to game its system.

The new digital strategies should be focused on content

I want to take us backwards for a minute. The internet is such an integral part of our lives now that we tend to forget what its role really is. The web is a repository of information. A big library without shelves. Sure, sellers and marketers of all ilks (good and not so good) have taken control of some parts of it–mostly the ad part. But it doesn't meant that the nature of the web has changed: it's still just an enormous virtual library with tons of books, articles, movies, audio clips and pictures. When I want food, I go to the grocery store. When I want information, I go on the web.

SEO isn't information. It's meta-information (or information about information). SEO is a way to tell Google what your content is about, but that's the extent of its usefulness. That's why you can't really have effective SEO without a strong content-based digital strategy. Because in the end, people are looking for content, not keywords.

So if you're thinking about getting SEO services to boost your ranks and get more leads, that's great! But you shouldn't separate SEO from content. After the early on-site optimization work, you still need to create useful, entertaining, interesting content. SEO doesn't relieve you of the hard, constant content hard work that needs to be done in order to be successful on the web.

So what can I do?

At this point, you're probably wondering what you can do if SEO isn't the virtual panacea you were expecting. Take heart: the solution isn't too complicated. The solution is in consistently excellent content. (I said simple, not easy!) SEO is part of that content work, but thinking that SEO is the be-all and end-all of digital marketing is a mistake–and a mistake that can be costly in the long run.

Do you have a holistic digital strategy that begins with content? How much do you consider SEO in your digital marketing efforts? Let's talk!

Google Apparently Penalizes Exact Match Keywords in Links

Exact Match Keyword Penalty - Stikky Media BlogPart of the work we do at Stikky Media is monitoring our clients’ analytics patterns and SEO results. We check for keywords, organic or referred visits, and many other factors including monitoring when pages get penalized to determine why and fix it fast.

Lately, though, we’ve noticed that something has changed in Google rankings and referrals. It seems that the technique of using exact keywords in incoming links is getting penalized by Google. We haven’t found any official news on that matter from Google, but we think we’ve caught on to something here.

What exactly does this mean, though? Here’s an overview explaining what an exact match keyword penalty is and some easy steps you can take to avoid it.

What are exact keywords in incoming links?

One of the big parts of SEO is developing incoming links from reputable websites. This is why we have link-building strategies. One SEO technique is to have the incoming link use keywords related to your product or website, i.e. keywords you want to rank for on Google.

So, before we noticed the change, it was desirable to have your incoming links use your keywords as anchor text. It told Google that your website was relevant to that keyword.

So, what changed?

For the past few weeks, it seems that Google doesn’t quite like those exact anchor text keywords anymore. In fact, we’ve seen some of our websites penalized for them.

Why did this happen? Our basic theory is that exact match keyword anchor text is a sign of a paid (therefore “unnatural”) link. And paid links are a big no-no. As Google realized that companies offered links for a price, they looked at what these links looked like most of the time, and discovered that they almost always use exact keywords.

In the world of natural and organic linking, when websites link to other websites, they almost never use keywords that exactly match those the website wants to rank for. Instead, they insert the link in a series of words or a phrase that describes the content or the relevance of the link to the content around it. Google considers these kinds of links more “natural”, therefore more desirable. These links are less likely to be sponsored or paid for, hence also avoiding an exact match keyword penalty.

What can you do to avoid an exact match keyword penalty?

For links coming from external websites, there isn’t much you can do, since you don’t control the content. However, when dealing with internal links, you want to start using more natural sentences instead of trying to fit the keyword in your text.

For example, imagine I’m writing content about Victoria attractions for a local bed and breakfast’s blog. Instead of writing “There are many attractions at a walking distance from our Victoria bed and breakfast“, which feels stilted and a bit salesy, I can now write something like “Because Victoria is so compact, most downtown attractions can easily be accessed from your accommodations.” Basically, your keywords should not define your links anymore. Simply write your content, find a logical and relevant place for your link, and add it there.

Do you have any questions about the effect of this apparent change in Google’s algorithm? Contact us to discuss with one of our SEO experts.

Image by Xanthi Syrakou

Why You Need a Digital Strategy

The "old" wisdom (as old as Internet wisdom can be) that Google is where people find information is slowly becoming an old wive's tale.

You don't believe us? Check this Business Insider article about the decline in search volume last year.

But don't panic! Even though search volume has decreased, new ways of finding information are available. Social media, blog linking, apps–all of these are effective ways to reach your audience, without using Google.

Now, this doesn't mean that you should throw up your hands and give up on all that SEO hard work. That SEO is still making you more visible to the millions of people who still do use Google everyday. But there are now new factors to take into consideration. These factors are all interconnected (and also connect with SEO), and a digital strategy can help you make sense of them.

          

Digital Strategies Ensure Your Visibility

Companies are now hiring "community managers" and "social web specialists" in droves. The social media world–Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn–is now where information circulates and news break. And businesses want in. The difference between Google and the new social media channels is that social media channels are active: you can discuss with your audience, learn about them and pitch directly to inviduals. Google is a more passive means of attracting visitors.

 

A complete and integrated digital strategy, such as what we do here at Stikky Media, will give all the tools and information you need to start thinking about a digital presence, not just a Google presence. These days, if you're not everywhere, then you are nowhere at all.

It's a Brave New World

In the web 1.0 of search, people used search engines to find specific information. Now, in the social web 2.0, people expect information to come to them. They won't bother to check your website for updates; they'll wait for you to announce them on Twitter or Facebook. Time is precious, information is overwhelming, and relevance is the only criterion that matters. There is too much noise to pay attention to any one thing for very long.

If you still live in the old world of static websites and keyword stuffing, you're already way behind. But if you are willing to embrace this new social, interconnected world, the rewards can be amazing.

Let me tell you a story.

I once had a potential employer who, during the interview, asked me: "And how will you find readers for your content?" I answered, without hesitation: "social media". I'd been working in social media for long enough to know that it was the best channel for online content. But he answered: "Socia media is a fad. It'll go away." Obviously, I didn't get the job. But the fact remains that this particular company's website will not see an increase in visits until the managers understand that social media is the new search. But this time around, the search happens through connections, not keywords.

It's Work

Twitter and Facebook can be incredible time sucks. It's like jumping in the ocean to try to catch fish with your hands and hoping to catch enough to sell at the market. At least, that's what happens when you come to it unprepared.

A digital strategy helps you focus your social media efforts, along with other digital tools like advertisements and content, with an audience and a goal in mind. In other words, we'll give you a boat and a fishing rod. Now all you have to do is sit down and fish.

It's not easy–hey, even we struggle with it every day. But when you hear clients say "I heard about you on Twitter!" or "I follow you on Facebook!", isn't it an amazing reward?

Facebook SEO: 6 Ways to Optimize Your Facebook Page

Wondering why your Facebook page isn’t performing well? The answer may lie in an unexpected place: search engine optimization. Read on to learn how to optimize your Facebook page.

Facebook pages are a great way to promote your business online, but only if you can be found. Luckily for you, Facebook, in partnership with UK-based marketing agency Distilled, just released a neat video that shows you exactly how to boost your Facebook page ranking in search engines. Aimed at business owners, not SEO masters, the video gives an overview of what search engine optimization actually is, and lays the groundwork for more traffic, more likes and more online success.

The video is a little long, so here’s a breakdown of the key points:

1. Include keywords.

Search engines rank websites on extremely complicated algorithms, but one thing’s for sure: The top-ranked websites contain the key search phrases people are looking for. This principle also applies to Facebook pages, so make sure your page contains the appropriate search terms. The best place to put them? The ‘About’ section. Fill that space with keyword-rich info about your business, such as your services and location.

2. Choose an effective user name.

Usernames are all about balance. If you choose an obscure name, nobody will be able to find you. And if you choose a name that is too specific, users will be less likely to ‘like’ your page.

The actual name of your business is typically your best bet because that’s how most people will search for you. Don’t forget to claim your username for your Facebook web address!

3. Generate likes and links.

Because so many websites want to rank for the same keywords, search engines take another metric into account: the number and quality of links pointing back to the site. The better the links, the more the “trustworthy” the website is considered to be and the higher it will rank in search results.

Every time a user likes your page, a link will appear on their profile. And because most profiles are public, search engines will pick up on these links and push your page higher up in the search results. All the more reason to build an exceptional page that people will want to engage with.

4. Purchase Facebook ads.

Already have great content? Facebook ads are another way to gain more visitors and more likes.

5. Set up your business as a Facebook Place.

If you’re a local, physical business, make sure you’re set up as a Facebook Place, which allows users to check in at your location. When they check in, they will immediately be presented with a like button. You can also offer discounts or special promotions as additional incentives to like your page.

6. Link your Facebook page to your website, and vice versa.

Facebook provides a variety of plug-ins to allow your website visitors to easily like and comment on your content. But not all plugins have links to your Facebook page that the search engines can read, so be sure to add a direct link to your Facebook page from your website.

Click to launch video:

 

The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors

The folks over at Search Engine Land have created a great inforgraphic explaining search engine rankings factors as a periodic table of elements. It gives a really good quick overview of the different on pages and off page factors that can affect your websites position in the search results.

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Why the Tourism Industry Needs a Special Approach to SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a main component of any industry’s marketing plan, but for the travel industry it’s absolutely essential. According to a Travelport report, online search engines continue to dominate the travel industry with two out of three leisure travellers (66%) and 59% of business travellers using them to research travel.

The internet has revolutionized the tourism and accommodation industry by giving travelers access to greater choices, better deals, more flexible plans and a wealth of media designed to immerse them in the destination before they even get there.

This quick, simple and convenient travel planning is a big step forward for the industry, but it has also transformed travel into one of the most highly competitive niches, requiring specialized, industry-specific optimization strategies. To survive, businesses need to gain an understanding of what consumers are searching for and learn how they can leverage internet search technology to maximize not only traffic to their site, but also to the destination itself.

But when it comes to SEO, it’s not enough to rely on keyword-rich text. On-page content is important, but there are many back-end factors to consider, including title tags, meta tags, image optimization, internal link structure, multilingualism and foreign search terms. And as of recently, social media can also affect your Google ranking.

In addition, Google rolled out a new feature last September that dramatically affects search results. Businesses can now claim Google Place Pages that allow them to verify and supplement their business information, including products, photos, videos, hours of operation and more. These Place Pages not only take up a major chunk of the first page, but they also pull in reviews—both good and bad—from multiple sources. Google designed Place Pages to help customers make informed decisions where to go, but now it’s more important than ever before for businesses to maximize their online presence.

Here are the stats:

  • 95% of natural clicks come from page one of Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • 3% of clicks came from page two, and 2% came from page three
  • One out of five Google searches are related to location
  • The number one spot on Google search results gets double the traffic as the number two spot, and the second through fifth spots combined
  • 41% of searches unsuccessful after the first page choose to refine their keyword search phrase or their chosen search engine.
  • 80% of completely unsuccessful searches are followed with keyword refinement

10 Search Engine Optimization Tips For Beginners

SEO tipsSearch Engine Optimization is the art of crafting the pages of your website to gain more traffic from search engines. There are many factors that affect your search engine ranking, but the main key is to create interesting and informative content that will keep your website viewers on your website for longer and gain a following of repat visitors. With basic knowledge of search engine optimization it is possible to obtain high rankings for high traffic keywords. Below we have listed 10 Tips for Search Engine Optimization Beginners that will get your SEO campaign off to a good start.

1. Perform Keyword Research – The first step is to ensure that you know exactly what search terms and phrases you want to rank for. This step if often overlooked as people assume that they understand the business without realizing that people do not always search in the same manner that they speak. Many times search engine users are uneducated on the subject and would not search the same way that a professional within the field would search. There is often a discrepancy between an industry’s buzzwords and the most popular search terms.

2. Create Keyword Rich Content – The most important element of your page is the text content.. Many designers do not include enough text content to allow a search engine to properly understand what your page is about. Create your content to naturally include your main keywords for that page. Write an amount of text that will provide enough information to a search engine so that they know exactly what the page is about. There is no magic number but many in the Search Engine Optimization field say that 300-500 words is best.

3. Incoming Links are Key – Search engines view a link to your website as a vote of confidence. It works much like a word-of-mouth referral. If you have something worth linking to on your page, then search engines view this as a reason to rank your page higher. Link building is the most tedious part of optimizing a website for search. The only real, natural way to gain links is to create content that is worth linking to. There are many link building strategies that you can use. Do a Google search to find some tips on how to run a successful link building campaign.

4. Create Unique Meta Tags for Each Page – Search engines do not place the same amount of value on meta tags as they have in the past, but that doesn’t mean that they are no longer important. Your page’s title tag is the first thing that a search engine will read on your page. It should contain your most important keywords. You should create unique page titles and description tags for every page on your website.

5. Market Content with Social Media – Use social networking websites to promote the content of your website. Social media marketing is a business in itself, but understanding that the internet’s most popular websites should be taken advantage of is the key. Most people spend the majority of their internet time surfing social networking sites. It is crucial that you direct some of this traffic to your website.

6. Submit Your Site to Directories – There are tons of directories on the internet that will allow you to submit your URL to a specific category. These can help increase your links and pass some traffic to your website.

7. Employ a Writer – Many people do not have the time or the skills to continuously keep creating fresh and relevant content for search engines. Hiring a writer will do wonders for your website and its rankings. Many writers these days have basic SEO knowledge and will be able to create keyword rich content that will boost your rankings better than any other technique possible.

8. Web Design Matters – The actual coding of your website matters. Create clean code or use a Content Management System that does this for you. Your navigation structure should be text, or use search engine friendly image replacement techniques. Broken links within your site will hinder your search engine rankings.

9. Use Third Party Tools – Search Engine Optimization tools and websites to help you out with the major aspects of SEO are available in abundance. Be sure to test out a few as some are better than others and you generally get what you pay for. Most free websites and applications provide the service in their own interest and not necessarily in the interest of the user. That being said, you can get the information you’re seeking much of the time. Use tools to help with keyword research, rank tracking, building links, and gathering statistics.

10. Gather Statistics – It is always useful to have numbers to back up your work. Web services such as Google Analytics can provide all of the stats, graphs, and charts you need to in order to gauge what is and isn’t working about your Search Engine Optimization campaign.

The 10 tips above are just scratching the surface of the things involved in gaining high rankings within the search engines. Be sure to spend some time researching how search engines actually work before jumping right in to it. Search Engine Optimization can be a long process and results do not come immediately. It takes a while for search engines to trust changes to your website so do not become discouraged if you do not shoot up the rankings immediately. The key to becoming a good SEO is to always continue to learn about the business. There are a number of blogs, forums, and websites that are worth subscribing to so that you are always learning the latest within the industry.