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Online Marketing, SEO, and Website Design are constantly changing. In our SEO Blog, we will keep you up to date on the latest information you need to stay ahead of your competition.

ADA Compliance and SEO-How They Work Together

So many clients have called me and been puzzled by the ADA requirements for websites.  Despite the existence of relatively simple and affordable fixes for ADA compliance on the marketing today, like accessiBe and others,  many still resist bringing their website into compliance.  Here is some motivation-ADA compliance mirrors some of the requirements that will improve the SEO of your website.  In this article, I will outline how site accessibility (aka ADA compliance) improves SEO by improving site readability not only for users but search crawlers like Google, Bing, etc.

CTA Buttons and Links

Accessibility rules dictate that the links on your site must be descript. Buttons or text that simply say “Click Here” are not compliant with ADA standards because it is not clear where “clicking here” will take the site user.  The same is true for SEO-links should be clearly identified with anchor text or an anchor tag that describes the content that you are linking to.

 Images

Alt Tags for photos that describe what the photo is are a key to website accessibility.  10% of all website traffic is on Google Images. The Alt Tag also enhances the SEO value of the page by clearly identifying the consistency of the content on the page and the value to the website user.  This habit will enhance your response on Google Search.

Meta Tags/Page Labeling and Tagging

One of the key pieces in making your site compliant is page labeling and tagging. These code-level additions to your site are used as identifiers for ADA readers. The page tags describe the content on the page, and many times mirror the content displayed in the meta tags and meta descriptions that appear in organic search results.

Page Tags tell crawlers know what types of content is on your site. When the page tags line up well with the meta tags and meta description on the page, then search engine crawlers have additional evidence that the content is valuable and consistent.

Don’t Resist ADA-It Is Good For You

Accessibility is the new standard, and it is important that your website comply. You will eventually be forced to do so, so why not increase direct traffic, time spent on site and reduce bounce rate (all positive SEO site performance standards) by complying now?

To Run an accessibility audit of your site, feel free to use this free ADA compliance scan.

To access the standards that govern MOST of these accessibility requirements, feel free to access the Federal Section 508 Standards.  For a second check on where your site might stand in terms of site accessibility consult this WCAG checklist.

We are here to help you to understand and access the best solutions for ADA compliance.  Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Google Ranking Factors – Get Onboard To Do What You Can Do

AI, Rankbrain, BERT, Content Creation, and others are all parts of the list of Google Algorithms that determine the placement of websites in search.  Many of these algorithms are so complex that little or nothing can be done to directly optimize for the algorithm.  There are, however, a few general tactics that can be done to optimize your site for Google search.  I have listed and explained a few of these in this post.  I know, sounds boring, but the results you will achieve from understanding and following these guidelines will likely be worth it.

Unique Content And Search Intent

It is not enough anymore to create unique content around a keyword that you wish to rank in search.  You must also analyze the “intent” of the search query for that keyword.  Does someone searching for “Best SEO Company” want a sales statement about how your firm is the best, or are they looking for case studies, examples of success, positive customer reviews and at least a hint at what tactics are used to gain placement for your clients?   I think that the latter outline is what most searching for that term have in mind, and that is the information that one should provide.

There are four types of search queries according to Google:

  1. Informational queries (e.g., how do you do SEO?)
  2. Navigational queries (e.g., SEO firm near me)
  3. Comparison queries (e.g., SEO v. Paid Ads)
  4. Commercial queries (e.g., SEO Pricing)

Page Content and Code

The best indicator of what needs to be on your page to move up in rankings is to review what Google has on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for your search terms.  If there are images in the search results, then images with optimized alt tags are important.  Featured Snippets on the SERP?  Be sure to use the proper schema data to highlight your content.  If you are in local search, your Google My Business listing is critical.  Optimize with posts, photos and correct NAP (name, address, phone number) info.

Increase Page Speed

Page speed is an important factor of the User Experience (UX) of your site.  It is also a ranking factor.  You may assess your load speed by using Google’s Pagespeed Insights for load speed and Google Search Console to identify mobile and desktop usage issues and 404s (broken links) and other site structure issues.  Google is using mobile first indexing almost universally now, so page load speed and UX are key to gaining rankings.

E-A-T factors

E-A-T stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. It is difficult to say if optimizing this is going to improve rankings, but it should improve conversion knowing that the person or people behind the ideas being presented in the website are experts in their field.  Be sure that you have contact info on your site, and that you have a profile page explaining who you are and outlining your experience and training. 

Backlinks That Help You Find Information

The most important things about backlinks (links to your site from other sites) is that you want them to be from a variety of sites and that they be links that a human being would actually follow.  Ahrefs.com and SEM Rush both have link building tools that will help to identify sites that link to competitors or have information relevant to your site.

Conclusion

There are so many things in SEO that are outside of our control   The factors that we can influence are vulnerable to constant change.  It is important to focus on strategies that are able to be improved, and trust that creating a website that has unique, relevant and valuable content that is presented in a fashion that allows a user to gain the answers to the questions they ask (keyword searches) will be valued not only by those who visit, but by Google Algorithms.  The above list represents a few improvements that can be made to help a site to rank in SERP.  

Ad Credits Might Be Coming To You From Google And Facebook

Both Google and Facebook have announced ad credits for customers.  

Google has stated that credits will appear in late May in the Google Ads accounts of small to medium-sized businesses who have advertised in 10 of the last 12 months on Google Ads. No application or other action on the part of advertisers is required.

Facebook has a limited geographic scope of their ad credits because for some reason the businesses need to be within a certain distance of a Facebook office.  Facebook requires an application and for users to be approved.  For more information on the application process, please click here.  Facebook has stated that if your location is not currently approved for the program, check back later as eligible areas may be expanded in the future.

Please remember that the team at Zenergy Works is sheltering in place, but we are fully operational and here to help.

Please stay safe and do not hesitate to let us know if we can help you in any way.

SEO In 2020-How We Got Here And What To Do Next

Seo 2020 concept. Wooden cubes on a wooden table.

Google has made a lot of changes to search criteria, and these changes have made gaining rankings on Google more challenging each year. Starting with the Penguin Update, which mainly affected spam link building practices, through RankBrain and now BERT, Google continues to refine their search algorithms.  While there continue to be updates from Google (as judged by SEMRush Sensor), we do not expect 2020 to bring the sweeping changes that we have seen in the recent past. 

The fact remains that Google Search Quality Guidelines do regularly update – these guidelines reflect how Google wants you to work within a website and the process the algorithm will take to evaluate the relevance of the website page(s). 

These guidelines are centered around 3 main factors:

  • E-A-T – The Expert, Authority, Trust of the website in relation to the target subject.  This is at the center of the standards for Page Quality and Needs Met.
  • Page Quality – How the page is laid out, how it works and whether it has the user’s best interests at heart.  Factors considered include the placement of text, the wording and quality of the content. 
  • Needs Met – Factors around whether the page ANSWERS the needs of the query.  Meeting needs is roughly defined as the content be “more specific than the query, but would still be helpful for many or most users because” the company is reputable in the area. 

Top On Page SEO Factors

On page SEO is still very relevant to ranking in search results in 2020.  Below are the most important factors based on analysis of recent search results.

Landing Page URLURL of the landing page (after the website name)
Meta TitleThis is the blue link that shows in Google
Meta DescriptionThe text that shows under the blue link in search results – to draw a user to click
Heading 1 TagA title that shows at the top of a page
Heading 2 / 3 TagsAdditional titles which are placed within the content of a page
ContentThe physical content on the page needs to meet particular criteria
Keyword DensityThe percentage of keywords to total text ratio on a page
ImagesThe size, name, and title of an image on the page
Internal LinksLinks which point to other pages on the website

SEO Professional Is A Relevant Term-Again

As previously stated, Google is not currently making sweeping algorithm changes, but they are making changes that can affect rankings on a weekly or daily basis.  Improving or even just maintaining rankings requires a team that includes website developers, content creators, SEO technicians and Marketing experts. The tools required are sweeping, from analysis tools like SEM Rush and Ahrefs to Google Search Console to Google Analytics and beyond.  All of these requirements make the term “SEO Professional” relevant again, although I do not believe that the term applies to an individual, but rather to a team of professionals from different disciplines.

How COVID-19 Has Affected Google Ads Campaigns

The world is different than it was 90 days ago.  The same is true of trends in Google Ads Campaigns.  Consider the following traffic trends:

  • 25% less mobile search. More people are at home with laptops, desktops and tablets as opposed to handhelds.
  • More search is occurring late at night.  More people are at home and using the internet as a source of news and entertainment.
  • Some Industries Are Big Winners and Others Are Losing Traffic.  If you have resources that are useful to those limited by shelter in place, you are gaining traffic, but if you have travel related services, you may wish to consider shutting paid ads down and waiting it out.

What Can Be Done?

1. Revise Your Ad Dayparting

You can easily track your own campaigns performance by day of the week and hour of the day within Google Ads. Simply click “Segment,” then “Time” within Google Ads.  Even if you reviewed this recently, the performance has likely changed in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19.  You may see more search volume late night and if you typically do not advertise late night, you may wish to being doing so.

2. Revise Mobile Search Bid Adjustments

Mobile search is decreasing.  Review search traffic in both Google Ads and Google Analytics to better understand the search volumes of desktop and tablet vs. mobile devices.  I have seen some clients actually shift from positive bid adjustments on mobile to positive bid adjustments on desktop traffic.

3. Smart Bidding May Help

Google’s smart bidding strategies may help advertisers by automatically digesting changing data and adjusting their CPC bids in real time to match their goals.  This is especially helpful for those who have limited time and limited Google Ads Experience.

4. Be Open To New Platforms

More people at home may make advertising on YouTube for either keyword or affinity audiences a smart move.  Also consider adding Google Search Partners to your strategy if you have not already done so.  Google Display typically offers a tremendous amount of exposure for the cost involved, so consider using this platform if you are expanding services to help those in need or offering special pricing or incentives to your customers.

5. Consider Social Media Advertising

Facebook and Instagram have interesting social media advertising platforms.  This may be a time to reach a different audience while more people are using social media platforms to gain information and keep in touch with friends, co-workers and family.

Bob Dylan said “The Times They Are A Changin” and he was never more right than now.  This is a scary time for all, and while when it may end may be uncertain, the fact that it will end is certain.  The only constant in digital marketing is change, and it is happening now, and quickly.  Please contact us if you would like to consult with one of our Google Ads or Social Media ad experts.  We are offering a free one hour consultation to help any business that is trying to effectively market themselves in these trying times.

More resources for online advertising and COVID-19:

  • How the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Is Affecting Small Businesses & Marketers

2020 Google Algorithm Ranking Factors

First Page Sage is the largest pure SEO company out there.  Each year, they do a study of the top ranking factors in Google Search based on a large number of clients and what brings success or failure to their SEO campaigns on Google.

I have not published the entire list, but have listed the top 10 factors and the percentage of success that is attributed to them from the study below:

Consistent Publication of High-Quality Content 25%

Note:  Content must be high quality “thought leadership” content posted at least twice per week.  Thought Leadership Content focuses on using the expertise and experience of the people behind your brand to address or answer any questions or concerns your audience or customer base might have.

Keywords in Meta Title Tags 21%

You must include the keywords you wish to rank for in your title tags, you have very little chance of ranking

Backlinks 16%

Inbound links still weigh heavily in Google’s trust of a website, they should be less of a concern than publishing great content regularly

Internal Links from Related Articles 8%

The more pages your site contains that target a long-tail version of a keyword and link to the main page targeting that keyword, the more authoritative Google considers the main page.

Mobile-Friendly / Mobile-First Website 7%

Google has created a mobile first indexing world.  Performance, content and information on your mobile site is key to gaining SEO placement on Google.

Visitor Time on Site 7%

Visitor time on site is an excellent indicator of the quality and value of your content.  Google has adopted this metric as a ranking factor.

Site Speed 4%

Load speed of a site has always been a key factor in user experience.  User experience is part of the quality of content/time on site equation.

Site Security / SSL Certificate 4%

Google does not want to be a part of featuring websites in search results that are potentially harmful to site visitors. If your site lacks an SSL certificate (indicated by the “s” at the end of “https”)—it will lose ranking ability.  Secure certs are now the norm and are easily installed in most cases, by your site host.

Offsite Mentions 3%

Mentioning a site is the same as a link, without the hyperlink.  Therefore, it has become a ranking factor. 

Schema Markup / Structured Data 2%

Google prioritizes pages in search results that use schema markup because it makes search results more useful to users. They also cause search results to stand out from the rest of the others on the page which can help to boost conversion.

Conclusion

Google continues to strive to fulfill its mission of creating the best possible search experience for its users by serving those users fast, relevant, and high quality search results.  These 10 factors, especially the top 3-High Quality Content, Keywords in Meta Title Tags and high quality relevant Backlinks that a human would actually use, are the biggest factors in creating successful SEO campaigns.

Mobile-First Indexing and The REAL Effects On SEO

Mobile-First Indexing

Mobile-first Indexing was one of the biggest changes that Google has brought forth in the past year. Google is correct to acknowledge the explosion in mobile search queries and the need to force website owners to optimize for mobile search. As time has gone by, the practical methods of optimizing a website for mobile-first indexing. I will list a few that have worked for us in the past:

Search Queries 

have changed because of voice search and search habits of those looking for goods and services “near me”. Some of the searches that are now being emphasized are long-tail queries (ie. Best tire store for Goodyear tires), informational queries (ie. What is a mud and snow rated tire?), how do I searches (ie. How do I put snow chains on my car?), and local search (ie. Best tire store near me). According to Google, the fastest-growing types of queries are personal search (ie. How do I know when my car needs new tires?), and conversational search (ie. Can I buy tires online?). Personal search and conversational searches are growing because of the continued use of handheld devices to help us navigate our lives. No doubt, this trend will continue and is a vital need for websites to remain relevant moving ahead.

Relevant Content 

has always been the key to successful SEO. Content that is unique and valuable and addresses the needs of those searching for the keywords that you wish to feature is the key to being prominently featured in Google search results. The change in search queries has necessitated a different keyword research and content approach. Focus is now directed to the intent of search queries, understanding that intent, and fulfilling the need. Google has become much better at gauging whether or not website content fulfills the intent of the search. It is vitally important to watch the performance of website content on different devices. Searches vary depending on the type of device that is used for search. Mobile-first indexing does not mean that the search terms that are more relevant for desktop search should be eliminated, but rather that the content and search terms that apply best to mobile search should be added and constantly evaluated.

User Experience (UX) 

in the context of mobile-first indexing has become far more complex. The use of machine learning in search algorithms is designed to evaluate page performance and the level of engagement with searchers who find and use the page. With mobile search growing, the demands of having site content fulfill the needs of different searches on different devices with different intent become daunting. The practical solution seems to be a combination of identifying and prioritizing what searches are the most relevant to the core business of the company, and (taking a page from the paid marketing handbook) creating more landing pages to be certain to address the exact intent of the visitor to the page.

Google Algorithm Intent 

is the same: to deliver the best content that matches the intent of online searchers and remain relevant in an era of increased competition for the online space from internet giants like Amazon and Facebook. A close evaluation of recent algorithm changes is true to this original intent. The practical part of this is that SEO is now more complex and requires consideration of the intent and keyword use of different users on different devices. The key is to decide what is relevant to you. The intent of a typically older audience may be more or less relevant depending on the product offered and the positioning of that product. The technical aspects of SEO should not cause online marketers to lose sight of their target audience and the search intent of that audience. Most goods and services that are offered have a unique selling proposition, and taking the time to understand how search queries are designed to find this uniqueness is a key to SEO success in the new mobile-first search environment. 

Google’s Algo Intent Hasn’t Changed

Looked at a certain way, it could be said that Google’s desire to show users what they want to see has remained consistent. What has changed is the users’ age, what they desire, when they desire it and what device they desire it on. So the intent of Google’s algorithm likely remains the same.

The mobile-first index can be seen as a logical response to how users have changed. It’s backward to think of it as Google forcing web publishers to adapt to Google.What’s happening is that web publishers must adapt to how their users have changed.

Ultimately that is the best way to think of the mobile-first index. Not as a response to what Google wants but to approach the problem as a response to the evolving needs of the user.

Latest Major Google Algorithm Update: BERT

Spoiler Alert: This is meant to be an “executive summary” designed to explain why the latest major Google algorithm update may be affecting your rankings. However, we in the SEO industry have seen wide fluctuations in rankings. So far, all of our rankings have come back at least once, but we continue to see volatility in rankings and traffic.

My Best Advice is to review your content and wait it out!

What is the BERT Algorithm?

Google has open sourced this technology, and others have created variations of BERT.”

The BERT algorithm (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a deep learning algorithm related to natural language processing. It helps a machine to understand what words in a sentence mean, but with all the nuances of context. In other words, it is evaluating text for better responses to search for words that sound the same but have different meanings (ie. Too and Two) or words that are the same but have different meanings (ie. Sand (the substance) and Sand (the verb)). This is clearly applicable to improving voice search and therefore, impacts not only core keywords, but also long-tailed keywords in SEO.

BERT And On Page SEO

BERT will certainly not help sites with poorly defined or poorly written content. Again, another sign that in the eyes of Google, “content is King”. Google’s BERT Update improves how Google understands search queries. BERT analyzes search queries, not web pages. On Page SEO becomes more important in terms of using words in precise ways. Poorly organized and written content may not be helped by the Google BERT update.

You Cannot Optimize For BERT

Danny Sullivan of Google, who used to be an SEO expert in the private sector and seems to be a pretty straight shooter is quoted as follows:

“There’s nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.”

Conclusion: BERT is an extremely complex and advanced piece of machine learning. I would not presume to be able to describe it in anything but the most broad of terms, and that is what I have done here.

Facts:

  1.  Most, if not all, of the websites that we work on are experiencing fluctuations, if not major fluctuations, in rankings over the past couple of weeks. All have returned to former rankings at least temporarily during this time. All of them have custom content.
  2. Google will continue to take steps to ensure that websites that have great rankings also possess great content. This is nothing new in policy, but may be raising the bar in standards.
  3. I have rarely seen a client who did not gain the rewards of an improved content strategy. Those rewards come in terms of search engine placement, increased traffic, increased engagement and increased conversion. There is no practical reason to try to outsmart an algorithm-provide unique and valuable content to your users.

Website Design: Wireframe v. Mockup v. Prototype

Wireframe v. Mockup v. Prototype

If you are having a website (or mobile app) designed for your business, you will hear the terms wireframe, mockup for sure, and for more advanced applications, prototype.  It is helpful in defining your design process to understand the basic difference between these tools that will help you to successfully design a website that reflects your brand.

Note: Most of these terms also apply to the design of mobile apps, but I have chosen not to make that a focus of this article.

Web Development Building Concept Art

Wireframe

A wireframe is like the blueprint for your website.  It outlines the most essential elements and the content without the website theme, photos or specific content.  A good wireframe will help to outline the elements that you wish to include in your website reveals “the big picture” for the website design.  Specifically, the wireframe is a basic representation of the layout of the website and the placement of content. Wireframes are relatively easy to create and can be used to get feedback on the structure of your site from team members, customers, etc before investing the time in a full design. The wireframe also creates a focus on website structure without the distraction of graphics, colors and photos.

There are too many wireframe and collaborative tools to mention, but Figma provides a complete solution for all of the tasks outlined here.

Mockup

A mockup is a visual way of representing a website design. While a wireframe mostly represents website structure, a mockup is a static graphic showing what the website will look like.

A mockup shows a website’s color scheme, visual style, typography, and photos. With a mockup, you can review and revise the visual representation of the product to create the best representation for your brand. A mockup tool that is suitable for most applications is available at Invision.

Prototype

A prototype is a clickable version of the website and allows those evaluating the new website design to experience content and interactions live. A prototype is very much like the final product itself, except that the front end and backend of the website are not fully tied together.

Tha prototype is interactive and allows those who are testing the website to experience the interface and fine tune the user interface. 

Conclusion

Not every website has a wireframe, mockup and prototype.  Most websites definitely have a mockup approved prior to building the site, and wireframes are common tools in site development, but prototypes are rarely used in website design projects unless the functionality of the site is central to the performance of the site.  The old saying of “measuring twice and cutting once” applies to website design and development. Using the correct tools to fully understand the look, feel and UI (User Interface) of a new website will help to ensure that the final outcome of the site accurately and effectively represents your brand.

High Quality Blog Content: Keep It Simple

Computer with Content on Screen

High-quality website and blog content builds brand awareness, and turns website visitors into customers and referral sources. The 2019 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks report shows that 96% of the most successful content marketers strongly believe that their organization’s credibility has increased because of high-quality content.

Below is a list of some of the elements that constitute a high-quality blog post. If you follow this checklist, you are well on your way to creating quality blog content.

The Content is Aligned With Brand Objectives

Our objective in creating this blog post is to establish ourselves as experts on content marketing, SEO and brand development.  If this article does not at least partially support this objective, than it is not high quality. Having a one-on-one conversation with the website visitor that helps that visitor to better understand the subject matter at hand is the objective.  To have organized and well written content will further help to achieve that goal.

The Content is Designed to Provide Solutions

High-quality content solves specific problems and offers actionable advice that the readers can apply to their situation.  In our case, many of the solutions require technical expertise that most of our customers do not possess, but it is still comforting to know that there is a resource or a procedure available for solving a problem.

The Content Shares Specific Tools To Solve The Problem

Useful content provides resources to solve problems.  For example, we often cite resources like SEMRush, Ahrefs.com, and Google Search Console that help to provide solutions for various SEO problems ranging from backlinks to keyword research to on page SEO techniques.  The point is that you should not be shy about providing the sources of your solutions. That is what makes your blog content unique and valuable.

The Content Should Be Easy To Read.

A study by the Nielsen Group found that 79% of website users scan the content on a webpage for highlighted headings. In fact, the study shows only 16% of users read the content word for word. Use highlighted headings, keep the content brief and to the point, and use graphs and illustrations to explain complicated concepts or conclusions that require a lot of data to support.  Use language that is conversational and easy to understand, even when explaining technical subject matter.

Conclusion: Keep It Simple

Creating high-quality content is not complicated.   The key is to have a firm understanding of the topic that you are writing about, and explain it as if you are talking to a friend who is not in your industry, or better yet, explain it like you are speaking to a new customer of your firm.  If your discussion covers the problem at hand and provides the theory and assets necessary to create a solution, then you have satisfied most definitions of high-quality content.

Eric Van Cleave is the CEO and Digital Director for Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California Digital Marketing and SEO Agency.