All Posts by Infinity Media

Local SEO: Focus on Traffic, Not Rankings.

My company speaks to several small business owners that contact us and say things like, “I need to rank higher for my keywords” or they ask, “How fast can you get me to #1 on Google?” They are completely focused on keyword rankings when that is not what is solely responsible for producing revenue for their business.

Part of the blame can be placed on their previous SEO agency, as they were simply sent a keyword ranking report every month with no explanation of the actual value of those rankings. Rankings alone don’t dictate success when it comes to local SEO, organic traffic does!

Imagine a keyword ranking at the #1 position but only delivering 50 visitors a month, and then a keyword that was ranking in the #6 position that was delivering 900 visitors a month – which one would you rather? Traffic numbers are much more valuable than rankings alone.

There are several SEO metrics to focus on that carry significantly more weight than keyword rankings alone. While keyword rankings look impressive they don’t allow you to see what is really going on, and whether or not your SEO effort is delivering a solid return. Forget fancy keyword ranking reports — the data that really matters can be seen in your Google Analytics and Google My Business dashboard.

Here are some more important SEO metrics you need to focus on, rather than just your keyword rankings.

Organic Search Traffic

It is amazing how many local SEO companies will give their clients a ranking report but not show them what kind of traffic volume resulted in those rankings. As we mentioned above, rankings don’t men anything unless they are driving traffic to the website.

It is important that you single out your organic search traffic in your Analytics account. There are going to be several traffic sources listed – you will want to ignore the social media and referral traffic and just look at the organic numbers. While improving organic search rankings is great, looking at traffic numbers alone doesn’t do much to determine if specific ROI goals are being met. This is where the next local SEO metric comes into play.

Organic Search Conversions

This is the metric that is going to let you know what kind of revenue your local SEO campaign is responsible for. Rankings alone, just like traffic alone doesn’t signal a successful local SEO campaign, but your conversions will!

Is your organic traffic converting? Are your visitors signing up for your email newsletter? Are they completing your contact form? How about downloading coupons? Making purchases online?

Every possible conversion can be tracked, and you can also assign a dollar value to your conversions to help you determine the overall ROI of your search engine optimization effort.

Conversion numbers don’t lie. They show you what kind of return your campaign is truly delivering. What if a SEO company had you ranking #1 for several keywords and all they did was send you a ranking report each month showing they were ranked at top? Many business owners would assume everything was great without even diving into their traffic and conversion numbers.

Google My Business Views

Your Google My Business dashboard will show you an approximate number of impressions that your Google Business listing received by clicking on the Insights tab. It is important to understand that this number is impressions – how many times someone was shown your local listing.

This doesn’t mean that all of these people clicked over to your website. In fact, many local searches don’t result in a website visit. Instead the individual calls the business or they physically visit the business. You should be looking at this data over time to see if your impressions are increasing on a regular and steady basis.

Driving Direction Requests

This data can be seen in the same Insights tab within your Google My Business dashboard that was mentioned above. This data represents how many times someone clicked to receive driving directions to your physical business location. An increase of clicks shows that your local search effort is working and more customers are finding your business through local search.

This will also show you what local zip codes the driving direction requests came from, allowing you to determine if the campaign is paying off in the event that you are targeting a specific geographical region.

Useless reports full of graphs and rankings are not the metrics that matter when determining how effective a local SEO campaign is. The metrics mentioned above provide you with real insight, allowing you to determine whether or not the SEO is working according to plan. While rankings look nice on a report, they don’t necessarily prove you are generating a ROI.

Up Close @ SMX: Avoiding SEO Disasters

Contributor Russell Savage recaps Mark Munroe’s presentation at SMX East, in which he discussed common SEO disasters, as well as ways to detect and prevent them.

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The following is a recap of Mark Munroe’s presentation in the SMX East 2014 session “Conquering Today’s Technical SEO Challenges.”

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”

This is commonly known as Murphy’s Law, and anyone managing SEO for any substantial amount of time knows how true this can be… and how painful.

One day, you pull the organic traffic numbers and they’re down. Way down. Your heart sinks. Then you notice the email from your boss asking about it.

That sounds like a nightmare scenario, but it happens all too frequently in the SEO world.

Luckily for you, there are a set of known issues to check for when you see a large, unexpected drop in organic traffic. The best way to avoid being in the scenario described above is to constantly monitor for these issues and try to catch them before they happen.

1. Check For De-Indexing Issues

When you see a sudden drop in traffic in a short amount of time, the first thing to check is if your site has been de-indexed from the search engines.

Maybe your development team forgot to switch off the noindex/nofollow tags when they pushed the new website to production. Maybe there was a change in site structure (how could they not tell you?!) and the robots.txt file was not updated.

The first thing to check is the HTML source of some of your most popular pages, and at least one page from each unique template on your site. Are there any noindex/nofollow tags?

You can also add those tags to the HTTP response, so you might need to fire up the developer tools on your browser and look at the request and response made from your browser to your site.

Checking for that automatically is a little tougher, but you can work with the developer team to create an SEO test script which will verify that the pages do not contain and are not being served with noindex/nofollow tags.

The robots.txt file is a little easier to test. Grab the latest copy and head to Google Webmaster Tools. You can paste your current robots.txt file into the Robots.txt tester and enter a single URL to check.

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Other tools are available to check multiple URLs against your robots.txt file, but just remember that those other tools are using their own webcrawler to interpret your file and in rare cases, they may show different results from Google’s own crawler.

I recommend using at least one page from each section of your site. A check for this should also be added to the developer script.

2. Check Your Redirects

By now, you know that 301 redirects should be used in 99.99% of all redirects that happen on your site. But not everyone knows this.

Bad or broken redirects are tough to identify because if you aren’t checking the request and response headers using the developer tools of your browser, the site looks and functions fine. But it’s not fine, because you just lost all of your link juice from the redirects on your site.

So what are the symptoms to look for if you suspect this is happening? Try to focus your investigation on top pages with a lot of things linking to it from around the site. Has that page dropped in ranking more than other areas of the site?

The other thing to watch out for are an increased number of 404s in your webmaster tools. Unfortunately, because of the crawl schedule, this may only show up after the issue has been out there for a while.

The way to monitor for this issue is to add additional checks into your developers test script that checks a set of redirects to pages. Verify that all the redirects in the path (and there could be many) are returning a status code of 301. You should also educate your tech team on the importance of using 301 redirects which may solve issues in server configurations that are harder to test for.

3. Check For Spammers

There are evil people out there and they want to spam your site. If you’re not careful, they will leverage any area of your site where users can generate content to drive traffic to their online shady services.

The symptoms of this are pretty easy to find. Check your comment sections of the site for any spammy content. Look through Webmaster Tools to see if unexpected keywords start showing up. Many times, Google will warn you with an email from webmaster tools when spam starts hitting your site.

Keeping this from happening is a little harder. If you are using any popular CMS, then they should have spam stopper plugins for any comment pages. You can also turn on comment moderation and monitor that regularly. If you have a large site with a search feature, you can regularly search for spam keywords (check your spam folder in your email for ideas).

Conclusion

No one wants to walk into work on a Monday and be hit with one of these issues. Monitoring them is key to avoiding uncomfortable meetings with your boss and sleepless nights worrying if everything is ok.

Working with your technical teams to monitor and prevent these issues from making it into production is the best way to keep an eye out for these. Of course, if you don’t have access to a dev team, there are third party tools that will do this for you. Don’t let Murphy’s Law happen to your SEO.

What 7 Things Everybody Needs to Know About Google Search Optimization

As one of the most visited websites around the globe, with over 12 billion searches sent through its engine per month and owning 67.5 percent of the U.S. search market, Google can play a huge role in the popularity of your own site. Whether it’s business-related or you’re just trying to establish yourself as a presence and brand online.

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SEO may seem like magic to an outsider. It is a structured approach and measured practice of optimizing your pages (and website) to improve your find-ability factor in search engines. If done right you can get listed on top of the first page of results for your specific keywords. While nothing in life is really free, your listings that are shown in the organic, natural results will not ding your wallet each time a searcher clicks. (That’s the model for paid advertising, like Google Adwords).

Here are 7 things that everybody should know about Google search optimization.

1. Google Is Always Evolving

Google is constantly changing and evolving at a high speed, and it has had a steady level of growth over the past decade with new software, patents, products, web properties, and corporate acquisitions accumulating over time.

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“Among Google’s goals: Improve the user experience by delivering relevant, fresh, quality content and, at the same time, crack down on those using questionable search engine optimization techniques to gain unjustified ranking position.” – CIO.com

The index also changes and that alters operations. Due to these changes it’s impossible to ever completely comprehend the Google algorithms or make any sort of permanent change to your site that will always comply with the standards that Google is keeping. Add to this the fact that Google’s main business is paid advertising and naturally wants businesses and users to engage there.

Further reading: 1. Google monthly searches 2. Google financial tables

2. Everybody Wants A Piece Of The Google Action

This might seem obvious. You know at the back of your mind that all of your competitors are also vying for that top spot on the search list.

“If your business has an active, well optimized and maintained website with high quality unique content, then you may find yourself a step ahead already.” – SEJ

This isn’t enough, however. If your company has no real online presence; has not built trust via quality links or has a random selection of social media profiles, blogs, and widgets that provide little value or tries to manipulate Google to try to acquire high positions unnaturally, you could be losing out. Your competitor may have already overtaken you, and web traffic is decreasing.

Further reading: 1. Search Engine Journal (SEJ) 2. Webmaster guidelines 3. Watch out for SEO scam artists

3. Quality Matters Most To Google

Believe it or not, one of the most important concepts that you must understand when it comes to Google is that their standards for the quality of content are very high.

Despite the millions of website operators who strive for better rankings within the search engine, the most important parties to Google are their (paid) users, which means that they want to provide content that satisfies and makes readers come back again and again.

VIDEO: What makes a great website?

4. Structure Your Data When You Can

We know that although not everything needs to be structured and organized into some specific schema, Google prefers structured data as much as possible as it’s easier to analyze and requires less computing resources. Google responds by greatly increasing your chances for visibility and traffic. Especially when they know the best data to present to readers, whether it’s a product listing, video, news or event announcement.

5. Don’t Buy Links, Work For Them

It may be possible to build up the number of links back to your site by purchasing them in some way, but this is viewed as a negative behavior by Google.

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The truth is that if you buy your links, then they aren’t likely a good representative of how honest your content is. Google is cracking down on this behavior and give out penalties where they see it occurring. Even if you were not aware of it. You can earn links the hard way through great quality information and products that people want to see. It may then be shared naturally.

6. Get On Board With Google+

It hasn’t appeared to be one of the most popular social media sites on the internet, but using Google+ does tend to have a correlation with search engine rankings. Your personal network will see it. Even if the use of this tool only provides a miniscule difference in the grand scheme of things, every little bit helps in your online presence building.

7. Get Moving

The content of your site is the most important aspect that Google wants you to focus on for SEO benefit. Rankings may and will come over time, but there are hundreds of factors to the Google algorithm. Content and links are critical, but so is the speed at which your website and pages operate.

Success or failure of your website is ultimately measured in visibility, traffic, stickiness (how long visitor stay and if/when they come back) your message and positioning, as well as conversions (sales). With so many moving parts, make sure your content is readily available and that your pages load fast. Improve your site speed and make users and Google happy in the process.

Should You Copy A Top Site’s SEO?

Big sites like Amazon.com can teach us a lot about SEO…or can they? Contributor Tom Schmitz gives us the lowdown.

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Should your SEO emulate the same optimization found on top websites?

To answer this question, look at Amazon.com.

Amazon.com is in the business of SEO. It may employ more SEO professionals than any other company; if not, it is right up at the top. Amazon incorporates SEO into everything, both manually and programmatically.

As one of the most trafficked sites — a website with hundreds of millions of indexed URIs — it enjoys the luxury of being able to test more things than most other websites, and at a deeply nuanced level.

If that is true, then copying Amazon.com’s SEO is a no brainer, right?

Not so fast!

Consider the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. According to the model, there are five levels of aptitude.

  1. Novice
  2. Advanced Beginner
  3. Competent
  4. Proficient
  5. Expert

If Amazon.com is an SEO expert, then according to the Dreyfus model, it “transcends reliance on rules, guidelines, and maxims.” Amazon has a deep situational awareness and understanding of:

  • How search engines behave
  • Amazon.com’s content
  • Amazon.com’s authority
  • How search engines respond to Amazon.com’s on-site optimization
In other words, Amazon.com knows when to break rules like the ones in beginner and advanced SEO guides. Want proof? Let’s look at Amazon.com’s homepage.

Title Element

Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more

This title is 83 characters long. In the search engine results pages (SERPs), Google cuts it off, and Bing merely displays Amazon.com – Official Site.

amazon.com Google search engine listing amazon.com Bing search engine listing

While 83 characters is not terribly long, it is clear Amazon.com is not worried about exceeding what the search engines will display. It knows most searchers arriving on their site are doing so via navigational queries.

When people see the homepage, they know what Amazon.com is and they know this is their destination. Even if the homepage is not the specific page visitors want, Amazon.com has world class site search. Anyone who has spent time on the site is likely to be as comfortable using Amazon.com’s site search as they are using Google or Bing.

Meta Description

Online shopping from the earth’s biggest selection of books, magazines, music, DVDs, videos, electronics, computers, software, apparel & accessories, shoes, jewelry, tools & hardware, housewares, furniture, sporting goods, beauty & personal care, broadband & dsl, gourmet food & just about anything else.

Why would anyone write a 304-character meta description? Usually the only place meta descriptions appear are in the SERP listings. But this is Amazon.com. With millions of affiliates, authors and vendors, it knows the meta description will be copied onto many websites.

image005 Given that fact, it makes sense to include a complete marketing message that will act like a billboard wherever it travels.

H1

There is no H1 element on the homepage.

When you SEO optimize a homepage, do you include a keyword targeted H1 headline? If so, why would Amazon.com not?

Amazon.com’s homepage enjoys massive link authority,

  • Moz ranks Amazon.com #12 on its list of the web’s most important sites
  • It has a Page Authority of 97 and Domain Authority of 99
  • There are 3.6m followed links from 118k root domains to the page

The content on Amazon.com’s homepage changes constantly and it becomes instantly relevant for whatever appears on it.

Perhaps its testers found the presence of an H1 tag

  • Narrows the page’s relevancy
  • Prevents the page from appearing in more search results than the page does without an H1
  • Lowers organic search traffic

Only Amazon.com knows for sure, but you can bet its SEO team tested something as basic as an H1 headline.

Other H# Tags

I will be the first to agree H# tags have limited SEO value, though I like to build pages with thoughtfully optimized H2 and H3 elements.

amazon.com h2 tags The headlines on this homepage look written for humans with little regard for search engines.

Rich Snippets

Amazon.com displays a lot of star ratings. And, of course, it has a shopping cart. image009

As an SEO, this is where you consider placing machine readable markup (e.g., schema.org) in the HTML. I checked the home page, the review page and the product page for The Duchess HD DVD. I only found markup on the canonical URI product page.

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This makes sense if you do not want competing rich snippets throughout a website, except I checked a Nikon camera shown on the homepage, and it had no rich snippets in its product page. There seems to be a lack of consistency.

Footer Links

I recommend deep consideration of the footer. This usually means getting rid of gratuitous links. Look at Amazon.com’s footer. image013

Every link serves a purpose. Also, when you visit the Amazon.com-owned websites, they do not link back to all these sites, creating a cross-link network.

Still, there are 68 links in the footer. Is Amazon.com trying to send SEO authority to all these sites, or is it demonstrating what a great company it is? Acknowledging that most businesses do not own 12 foreign sites and 35 subsidiaries, most sites should not have 68 footer links.

On-Page Links

According to the web developer toolbar, there are 368 links on the homepage. Though Google dropped its 100-link limit long ago, would you place 368 links on your homepage?

On-Page CSS

There is a huge chunk of CSS in the HTML as well as inline CSS. Most optimizers would move this to an external file.

Final Thoughts

Since going further will descend into nitpicking and minutia, I will stop here, but I hope you see the point: just because a website performs well in search does not make it a good model for another website’s SEO. It can lead to poor decisions that negatively affect rankings and visibility.

I do not want to completely discourage you from looking to Amazon.com or other sites for ideas and inspiration. Just make sure that when you do, you have a strong foundation of knowledge and can critically assess what you find.

7-Point Relaunch SEO Checklist

Search engine optimization adherence in the website relaunch/redesign process is a topic I enjoy talking about. In the past few years I have covered a few topics of what to think about from an SEO perspective when undertaking a redesign effort and how to assess potential SEO issues you are experiencing after your new site has launched.

After seeing some clients launch ineffectively recently, it made me revisit a few of these articles and consider the need for a relaunch SEO checklist. We may now know what to consider during the redesign phase and how to remedy issues, but we must follow these items below to have a truly effective relaunch…at the time of pressing go. Some of these checklist items reflect technical SEO considerations for content visibility to search engines and users, items pertaining to on-page SEO, and also analytical tracking items you don’t want to overlook.

1. Redirect Mapping

Ensure that the development team and content team are in a cohesive understanding of the intended new page naming conventions and URL structure. It helps to have a current/proposed URLs spreadsheet shared in Google Drive for these parties to collaboratively assess and revise. This file can be a direct reference in the redirection of URLs during the relaunch. A lack of communication between these two parties could leave you with 301 page redirection from current URLs to page names/structures that do not exist in the new site. This becomes a 404 error nightmare and you can watch your existing rankings fly away post-relaunch.

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2. Exclusion Migration

While your new site is transitioning from a staging site to production, you may have placed proper exclusion efforts to rid search engine crawling in the staging area such as a full staging site robots.txt disallow or Meta Robots usage within individual page source code. That is great, but don’t allow these elements to migrate to the production site. Again, you will watch your rankings and organic traffic disappear.

3. On-Page SEO Transition

While your mind may be focused on your new design and how great the new site will look, don’t forget that optimized on-page elements need to transition into the new site, too. You must ensure that the title elements from the staging site will transition to the new site. This also applies to Meta descriptions and other page elements such as H tag usage. Has page copy changed? Ensure that your on-page keyword targeting and copy have contain a synergistic relationship.

4. Internal Linking

A redesigned site close to launch can be rife with internal linking flaws. Before the site goes live you should do manual review of important links. I also prefer using the Chrome plugin Check My Links to quickly assess what links may are broken. Beyond broken links, review the coded link targets to make sure they will link to the true page URL and are not redirecting.

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5. Code Review

Above, we mentioned a few code related considerations such as the Meta Robots tag and Meta tag elements, however, there are other items in the code we want to review before launch. You will want to make sure you retain Open Graph and Twitter Card tagging if you currently have this on the live site. Also review the code to ensure there are not any old CSS or JS server side referenced file requests that will not be used in the new site. Having requests to dead files in the future and be hiccups for search engines. I prefer to use a tool such as Pingdom Web Speed to pick up on this type of issue.

6. Look and Feel (Compatibility)

The new site looks really cool to you…but what about everybody else? You must ensure that your new design will provide the same experience for every user based on their browser and browser version. Additionally, be cognizant of what the mobile display will look like and if responsive, how the display order renders. Here you can use tools such as Browserstack or Cross Browser Testing.

7. Analytical Considerations

I have mentioned many times before how important an accurate analytics setup is. A relaunch is a great time for this to fall into jeopardy. The first consideration is tracking coverage. Ensure that every page features the same analytical tracking that the existing site has. This applies to e-commerce tracking as well. Analyzing deeper, if your URL structure has changed, your goal URLs have likely changed as well. This will need to be revised in the Goals section. For the legacy site, have you added any Content Groups? If your folder structure has changed this may likely need revision, too. Last, if you have placed event tracking manually on links in the past you may want to revisit their existence in the soon to rollout version of your site.

Ready, Set, Launch

It is worth saying, as I have in the past, collaboration between all parties is imperative in a redesign/relaunch effort if SEO equity will be retained. While communication is the foundation, the sections above are definitely important focal points in the steps before relaunch. With this in mind, print this and tape it to the wall in your office and hand it out to the redesign team!

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