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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.

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 and 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.

Make Your Website Accessible to Everyone with accessiBe

Approximately 15% (49 million) of Americans suffer from a disability that using websites difficult. How accessible is your site?  

What do we mean by accessibility?

Website Accessibility Concept Art

Simply put, it means making your website available to as many people as possible. Accessible sites have features that help disabled people use your website. These features present information through multi-sensory channels, like sight and sound. Accessible sites also offer different ways for people to navigate through the site beyond the standard point-and-click interface. For example, a person with motor control issues could get around your site using voice-based navigation. Users with blindness, epilepsy, deafness, color blindness, or cognitive disorders may all have difficulty using a website that isn’t accessible. Accessibility features benefit other users too – people with slow internet connections or older computers and browsers.

In the past, making your website accessible required a web developer, time, and thousands of dollars. We’re now offering a new cost-effective service that will quickly make your site available to everyone: accessiBe. Whether you need your website to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or you simply want to reach a wider audience, accessiBe is a perfect solution.

With accessiBE, it’s never been easier to be ADA, WCAG 2.1, Section 508, and EN 301549 compliant. The installation takes only 5 minutes and doesn’t need additional hardware or coding. accessiBe uses AI and machine learning to solve 30% of accessibility issues immediately. The remaining 70% of problems are resolved within 48 hours of installation. Even better, accessiBe offers ongoing compliance. Every 24 hours, it will scan your website for new content, web pages, or widgets and automatically solve them. Using accessiBe won’t change anything for most of your users or affect the design of your website. Users will be able to activate the overlaying interface during a specific session to use the accessibility tools.

Some features of the accessibility interface include:

  • Font handling – users can change the font size, type, spacing, alignment, line height, and more
  • Color handling – users can select color contrast profiles
  • Animations – users with epilepsy can stop animations, GIFs, and CSS flashing transitions
  • Content highlighting – users can emphasize vital elements on the page like links and titles
  • Audio muting – users can mute the website instantly
  • Search engine help – users with cognitive disorders can use an integrated search engine linked to Wikipedia and Wiktionary to help them understand phrases, words, or slang

By using accessiBe, you can expand your viewership and ensure that everyone who visits your site has an excellent user experience. At only $490 a year, accessiBe is the most affordable way to provide equal access to everyone. Contact Zenergy Works today to get started!

5 Ways to Speed Up WordPress Mobile Load Time

Wordpress Mobile Load Time

We work mainly in WordPress for our clients, and we have seen a swift and direct connection between improving mobile load speed and placement on Google and increased traffic.  Search Engines clearly favor fast loading sites and these sites have the added bonus of improving user experience.

Most SEO experts agree that a key component in search engine ranking factors is a fast loading mobile website.  The solutions that we use to speed up mobile load time (after checking and making sure that the server environment does not require an upgrade) are as follows:

Use a lightweight WordPress theme and framework

WordPress themes that contain animation, social icons and widgets can be appealing to many users.  We use a custom theme for our development. A child theme is used to customize the site for any design format. This allows us to have full control over the build and has helped us adjust quickly to changing Google algorithms.

Too many elements will definitely cause your mobile load time to slow down.  We generally create custom themes that use a Bootstrap framework, which provides a great way to speed up WordPress. 

Minify JS and CSS files

Minifying JS and CSS files is accomplished by reducing the number of CSS and JS calls and the size of those files.  This can dramatically improve the mobile load speed of your website. The most popular plug in for this is Autoptimize. This plug in helps optimize CSS, JS and even HTML of your WordPress site.  We also use a paid plug in called WP-Rocket which will not only minify CSS and Java Script files, but also help with caching.

Reduce image sizes

Images are the major contributors to size increment of a given webpage. The trick is to reduce the size of the images without compromising on the quality.  We generally manually optimize the images using Photoshop, but this process will be time consuming for some. We have also used an online compressor called Compressor.io.  Currently, again we use WP-Rocket as a one stop shop to handle some of the heavy lifting in compressing photos.

Using any of the above mentioned methods or plugins on your WordPress site will reduce image sizes while maintaining image quality, thus improving the speed of your website without sacrificing user experience.

Use WordPress caching mechanisms

WordPress caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP-Rocket have been there for a long time, making the complex tasks of adding caching rules to your website elements easier. We also use NGINX in proxy mode to load the static files from cache. It reduces server load.

Deactivate or uninstall plugins

Retaining unused plugins on your WordPress website will slow down your site load time. It is better to get rid of the plugins that you don’t use, along with any old posts, spam comments or other old data that is no longer relevant to user experience or the operation of the website.  We have found that Lazy Loading images, applying GZip compression and Browser Cache settings carry more weight than the plugins and pingbacks. Those are important best practices, but Google is currently downgrading the speed score pretty heavily when you don’t have Lazy Loading and compression/caching set.

WP-Rocket also does Lazy Loading. That’s one of the reasons we went with it, it’s gives us a 3-for-1 deal (lazy loading, caching, minify).

Conclusion

Improving Mobile load time will help to create a positive user experience on your website. We have done this for numerous clients, and virtually every one of them has also enjoyed better rankings in the search engines.  Some favorite tools for checking your mobile load time are:

  1. Think With Google Mobile Speed Test
  2. GTMetrix Pagespeed and GTMetrix YSlow

Google has also come out with their new Measure tool (https://web.dev/measure) for scoring performance, accessibility, best practices and SEO. The other speed tests that Google provides have started using the measure engine to calculate the scores on their other tools.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO and Digital Director of Zenergy Works. A Santa Rosa, California based SEO and Digital Marketing Firm.  In this blog post, as in life, he has relied heavily upon the advice and experience of Alex Macondray, CTO of Zenergy Works, and Karina Flores, the Lead SEO Technician of Zenergy Works.