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.

SEO in 2019

SEO in 2019

Google and its Algorithm Updates

Just last year, Google had released a number of algorithm updates. With Google changing so frequently, one thing we can not ignore is: User Experience is important. By the end of 2018, Google released a number of algorithm updates: Mobile first indexing and Pagespeed, to name a few. User experience was huge in 2018 and we can see it being a huge part in 2019 as well.

So, what should we focus on this year?

Mobile First Indexing and the Importance of Pagespeed

With the world being at the tip of our fingers, mobile devices have become a huge part of our daily lives. This Statistics Portal,, shows an increase in mobile local search queries from 2014 to 2019. In 2014, the usage of mobile around the united states was at roughly 66 Billion and in 2019, increased to 141 billion. That’s a little over 40% increase in mobile search! Don’t be surprised when Mobile completely takes over the world.

Google rolled out its Mobile First Indexing in 2018, and webmasters began to receive a “Mobile-first indexing enabled” messages. With this algorithm update, Google is now considering the mobile version of your website to be the REAL version. It is important that in 2019, you are optimizing for Mobile First Indexing.

Mobile First Indexing

Increase your websites Pagespeed: It’s that Important

Who doesn’t love a fast loading website? (Everyone. Everyone loves a fast website). Around July, Google released its Pagespeed update, which affected rankings of the more slow mobile websites. Again, user experience is major! It either makes you or breaks you. If your websites loading time is lagging and a visitor can’t access your website quickly enough, Google can drop you. In a 2018 research by Google, they said that 53% of mobile users left when a website took more than THREE seconds to load…THREE SECONDS. A slow loading website makes for a bad user experience. So get up to speed!

Mobile Page Speed

Content and EAT

You may have heard about EAT by now. Google had released this core update around August, 2018. So what’s with this new Acronym? Well, EAT is the metric by which Google ranks a page and has become such an important factor. So, What does E – A – T Stand for? Expertise – Authority – Trustworthy.

Content is so important now! So it’s crucial that your content can reflect who you are and what your website is about.

You are an expert in your field, which means you are the authority! Show your visitors that they can trust you!

Clickbait is the WORST. No one likes to be tricked into clicking on something that is irrelevant to what they searched. If your content is nothing but spam and doesn’t hold any valuable information, chances are the user will be quick to leave. Googles Rank Brain will note that and can begin to drop you since they have determined that you don’t have any valuable information to offer possible new users.

SEO Expertise - Authority - Trustworthy

UX is Very Important in the world of Google!

This sounds like a lot of work right? Well, that’s because it is. At Zenergy Works, we pride ourselves in the work we put in to each project and we work hard as a team to meet Google’s standards. From the web development to SEO. Let Zenergy take the hard Work off your hands.

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Zenergy Works + TIV Branding

As the digital landscape continues to evolve and evolve quickly, Zenergy Works continues to evolve as well. Our biggest evolution has been our merge with TIV Branding, a long-time partner in design, branding and traditional marketing. With changes in the Google and Facebook algorithms putting more emphasis on strong brands, our merge turned out to position us perfectly. It’s almost as if we planned it that way…

Put simply, Zenergy Works is TIV Branding’s digital marketing department. We have TIV Branding clients that need branding, packaging, traditional advertising, and digital marketing. Those clients are the ideal fit for TIV Branding, especially since the TIV and Zenergy Works merger. But we also have clients that only need digital marketing and SEO, and those clients are a perfect fit for Zenergy Works.

Not only do branding and digital complement each other perfectly, but the process we have in place for both services have helped to form the approach we use for all of our projects. The DISCOVER phase we do at the beginning of every project now involves digital strategies even when the project is not digitally focused. The information we look at when we’re developing the perfect keywords for digital marketing can also be used to drive the strategy of a packaging design project and the research we do when developing a new brand can help drive an SEO campaign approach.

We have 16 of Sonoma County’s best working in our office. The ability to have the Zenergy Works digital team interact with the designers, the marketers and the copy writers is one of the other reasons why our evolution has made us so successful. Even though we primarily Slack each other, if so inspired we could lean over and discuss how a packaging project can most effectively be supported by digital marketing.

Let us know if you’d like to discuss Zenergy Works and TIV Branding. Chances are we have the people to help you not only with the digital marketing that Zenergy Works has been knocking out of the park for years, but branding, packaging, print advertising, marketing collateral and much more.

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5 (Now 4) Search Engine Result Page Changes in 2018

In 2018, Google released several SERP (Search Engine Results Page) display updates. Along with the rash of Google core algorithm updates, 4 of these 5 updates changed the look and feel of Google SERPs significantly. The traditional text-only SERPs are gone and have been replaced by featured snippets, video, images, knowledge graphs and related products. SEO experts have been challenged to develop strategies to take advantage of these changes by creating and optimizing these different content types.

1.Mobile First Indexing.

The mobile first indexing update was designed to address increased utilization of mobile content and ensure that the mobile speed were taken into account for the SERP.  The mobile page speed update takes into account the page loading speed for mobile results and dictates that Googlebot will only crawl and index the mobile version of a page. Creating mobile pages that only load quickly and have keywords at the top of each page and creating alt tags for all photos is a key. Responsive websites require that javascript and css by compressed or minified.  Another solution is to utilize AMP (accelerated mobile pages) which are an open source asset.

2. Featured Snippets And Knowledge Panels

Starting in late 2017, Google made changes to the configuration. Featured Snippets were expanded, Knowledge Panels improved, and suggested content was also featured more prominently. All three of these elements align with user intent and improve the user’s search experience.  Most featured snippets are triggered by long-tail keywords. This content is designed to provide an answer the searcher’s question directly within the SERPs. There are several kinds of featured snippets: bullet points, tables, numbered and paragraphs.  Paragraph types are the most prevalent category of featured snippets. These snippets usually provide answers to question queries, such as “how to,” “what is,” or “why is.”

Google leverages Google Maps or Google My Business listings for knowledge panels.

Knowledge panels can feature images, facts, social media links, and related searches.

3. Related Products

Google has also started providing related products represented by clickable logo links within the SERPS.   Google has not defined how they are selecting these featured products. We can say for certain that they are striving to deliver the best search suggestion. They take the user behavior and intent into account to generate the best SERP.  Interlinking and a strong display of expertise, authority and trustworthiness (E-A-T) are the best strategies to suggest for placement in the Related Products section of Google SERP.

4. Video Display

A very noticeable change in the SERPs in June of 2018 has been the inclusion of video carousel.  The video carousels compete with organic results for SERP space and can appear next to any combination of other features. The the vast majority of the accompanying URLs are from YouTube.  That said accompanying URLs is another element that is changing.  Now Google is actually giving preference to videos featured on websites instead of Vimeo or YouTube.

5. Increased Length of Text and Titles – NOT!

Google changed 2 parameters here.  The character limit was increased and then a core algorithm update was done that restored the older character limits. A lot of webmasters put a lot of work into gaining benefit from this change, only to find the work was for naught.  


It is clear that Google is accepting the challenge of being (and remaining) the planet’s #1 Search Engine.  The changes that remain in place are clearly designed to deliver a more complete SERP experience for search engine users.  The benefit to digital marketing is more ways to reach potential website visitors and potential customers, in different ways.

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

The One Vertical, One Geo Policy

Or: Why We Do Not (Usually) Do SEO/Paid Search For 2 Competing Businesses in The Same Geographic Area

Local SEO Map and Pin

At Zenergy Works, we have a policy not to work with competing businesses in the same geographic target market, unless they both give us permission to do so. Yes, this has cost us business over the years, and is not, from what I can determine, the norm in the digital marketing industry. We tried to avoid this policy in the early years of our firm by assigning different account managers to competing businesses, and by creating an internal firewall of information, but in the end, we concluded that local SEO is becoming more difficult as time goes on; effective content, strategy, and online brand representation becomes more critical not only for SERP (Search Engine Results Page) placement but also for conversion, and we could only focus on one competitor in an area.  

The competitors who give permission for us to work with each other generally are in competitive industries and feel that the “frenemy” that they allow us to work with is at least doing a quality job of providing services and is a credit to the industry in their competitive area.  The bottom line is, if they cannot have the customer, they would much rather the customer go to the preferred competitor and not grow to hate the entire industry. There are 3 other major factors behind our policy: the increasingly limited room that Google gives on page 1 for local listings and paid results, the fact that we are most effective when we work with a client as an integral part of the team, and that each of our clients deserves to have a brand and approach to their customers that is as unique as possible in their relevant market.

Give Me A Little Room.

Search Engine Results Page Concept

Google has been gradually reducing the number of search results on the first page of search results.  This has affected the percentage of paid v. organic search clicks and made it tougher for local businesses to optimize their search position without paid search.  See the excerpt from Blue Corona below:

“Google AdWords results receive 65% of the clicks that started with buying keywords, while organic results only receive 35 percent (Craig McConnel) Businesses make an average of $2 in income for every $1 they spend in AdWords. (Google) On average, 41% of clicks go to the top 3 paid ads on the search results page.”

How can I work to optimize return and position for 2 clients bidding on the same keyword and attempting to chase decreasing organic clicks?  Organic clicks typically, in our experience, deliver a higher CTR (click through ratio) and have a much lower bounce rate than paid ads.  We prefer to make decisions that will benefit our client without worrying about the effect of those decisions on other clients.

We Are On The Same Team. 

It used to be that SEO was done pretty much by the numbers.  Get some keyword research showing the most popular search terms, create some content with good text to code ratio, build some decent inbound links and placement, traffic and then business improves.  Now it’s tougher to rank for everything, and user experience is the biggest single factor in rankings.  Strategic keyword decisions need to be made and these decisions need to be tied to most popular products that have the highest profit margins and fit the “wheelhouse” of the client.  A lot more knowledge about the client and their products or services is required to be an effective digital marketer.  I want my clients to know that I am not using my knowledge of their goals, strategies, and objectives to help their competition.  I can be a valued and trusted member of the team if I am only working for that team.

Come On In, There’s Plenty of Room. 

There are many website development and digital marketing firms that specialize in certain verticals and take on as many clients as they can in a market area.  They can leverage their knowledge and experience in the business of their clients to more efficiently build websites and market on behalf of the client.  It’s hard to argue some of the benefits of these firms, but we have a different approach based on the following qualities of our clients:

Website Design Concept
  1. Each client is unique.  They have different branding, USPs (Unique Sales Propositions), specialties, approaches, and manners of finding and serving their clients.  This requires getting to know these aspects of the client’s business and spending the time to tailor a plan that fits the client’s business.  We find that once this happens, conversion increases, but prospective customers find the same approach that prompted them to contact the client when they come to do business with that client.
  2. Each client needs to stand out in their market.  Your website needs to look different, and not just in color and logo, but in the way that the client explains their business and how it will benefit the customer’s needs. 
  3. All our clients are cost-conscious, but the cost is not that different in the long run.  Of course, there is more initial time and money in setting up a campaign that takes all the unique aspects of a business and delivers an individual message to a specific target audience.  Over time, we have seen our clients reap the benefits of “measuring twice and cutting once”.

Conclusion.  As I go back and read this, it sounds a bit like I am selling something.   That is not really my intent.  My intent is to explain why we take the “one vertical, one geo” approach with our clients.  I believe that there are advantages for most clients in making their digital marketing firm part of their team, and being able to trust that the information that is given to that firm will not be reflected in the digital marketing plans of any of their competitors unless they choose to make that the case. Eric Van Cleave is CEO and Digital Director for Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California Digital Marketing Firm.

Google Algorithm Updates in 2019

How do SEO practitioners, or self-titled SEOs know when Google has an algorithm update? Usually, it is by “listening” online for the collective groan and angst from their peers.  Like Gamblers in a high stakes game, it is often feast or famine. Their clients might rank in position number four on the first page of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) on a specific day, and the next day, they may have dropped to position 12 or bumped up to position 1.

Our research shows that so far in 2019, significant algorithm updates occurred on or about January 9th, 13th, and 20th.  Most, but not all, third-party tracking tools that monitor Google search results have shown significant volatility in SERP rankings around the dates specified above. Here is a screenshot from SEM Rush Sensor Rankings Graph:

Google Algorithm Updates in 2019

Google usually does not confirm or comment on specific updates and commonly states that “improvements” to the search algorithms are happening constantly.  Google has told us numerous times that with core algorithm updates that there is no fix.  I disagree with the “no fix” statement-you can work harder to comply with Google’s Content Guidelines, which have been published by Google and seem to be a reasonable approach to gaining rankings.


Google will continue to make changes at will. The only absolute consistency in SEO or any digital marketing is change.  Knowing the reason for rankings changes is helpful in maintaining a “big picture” perspective on your online marketing.  The only way to try to stay ahead of the curve is to work consistently to improve your website.   Hard work and providing a good user experience is the only way to improve rankings.

Eric Van Cleave is the CEO of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California Digital Marketing Agency and Website Design Firm.

Google Activity Cards

Google Activity Cards, launched on January 9th,  are the latest innovation to Google’s search results which allows search engine users to browse, save, and delete results from previous similar searches.  Anyone with a Google account can access previous searches by logging in and following this path: Settings > History.   You may see search history, search within your history, or even delete past searches.

Google Search Cards also allow users to save searches to collections, and delete searches that are no longer relevant. Rather then bookmarking user a particular browser, this can be completed through the search platform itself.  This allows the individual user to manage some search results and create favorites rather than relying upon the Google Algorithm to deliver the best results.

Google Activity Cards

How does this affect SEO and site traffic?  In some SERPs (search engine result pages) a small card marked “Your related activity” will appear at the very top of the page. This card can be clicked on and expanded to show results for similar past searches.  For SEO and site traffic, this means essentially that the rich will get richer.  If you have strong rankings, and meta descriptions that will attract clicks, then you will be able to attract more repeat traffic.  Google highlights past searches and even prioritizes them in search already, but the search cards make that process more transparent and hand control of using that feature to the user.  In short, Google continues to reward those that provide a user experience that would make a website visitor return.  New websites working to gain rankings may find that task more difficult now that there is already a box with preferred information at the top of the SERP.

It is important to emphasize that this feature is only available at this time in limited search results, and that it will only be available to those with Google accounts.  This is a mixed blessing for SEO, as those of us striving to optimize our rankings in Google will have yet another reason to strive to gain top 3 rankings to attempt to be included in as many Google Activity Cards as possible, while others who do not have top of the page rankings may be included in cards by users because they do not want to lose the link to return to the site.  Overall, transparency is increased by activity cards, and for the search engine user, that is positive.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO and Digital Director of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California Digital Agency.

Programmatic Ad Campaigns – Find Your Target Market

According to eMarketer, over 80 percent of all digital display ads in the U.S. will be purchased this year through programmatic or automated channels.  Programmatic ads are exploding because they take advertising far beyond the basics banner ad and create ads that reach specific targets and use Design Side Programs (DSP) and Real Time Bidding (RTB) to deliver ads to the targets that are converting.  These targets can be tracked by location, time of day, receipt of email from a specified domain, any Dun and Bradstreet criteria and numerous other traits.  The Bottom Line Is Programmatic ads are automated using audience data and technology to achieve the right marketing to the right person, at the right time, in a relevant context.

A focused ad targeting strategy can help small and medium-sized businesses to be more targeted in their digital ad spend and when managed correctly, deliver a higher engagement and conversion rate than other forms of online ads.  Programmatic ads can also help advertisers to develop insights into the behaviors of their targeted audience. Having these insights can help to optimize other campaigns and develop future online marketing strategies.  Below are some insights that an advertiser can hope to gain from a well designed programmatic advertising campaign.

Programmatic Ad Campaign

Reach A Defined Target Audience

Programmatic allows advertisers to find their target audiences across the internet, wherever those audiences are located. Anyone who has researched autos for sale online or looked for a mortgage quote can tell you that programmatic ads will follow you around online for 30-90 days after the search. This targeting is managed anonymously, without marketers learning any identity information about their target market.

Establish Your Brand

Programmatic advertising is mainly used to target audiences and increase conversions. But companies who are developing their brand can experiment with  by trying different advertising approaches to test their branding message.

The most popular approach is a “top-down” programmatic ad campaign that targets the core target audience, the most engaged online users for their products. A popular method for this is to target visitors to the sites of their closest and most popular competitors.

A “bottom-up” campaign approach involves targeting a smaller audience with potential to become engaged online users.  The target numbers are smaller, and the budget is larger because a higher frequency of ads is required to establish the brand.  Popular targets for this would be complimentary industries like a tire and custom wheel shop targeting an audience shopping for high performance off road vehicles or sports cars.

As recently as 2-3 years ago, Programmatic advertising was available only to the “big budget” advertisers.  These days, we are seeing small to medium sized businesses with budgets as low as $1,000 to $1,500 per month use programmatic platforms to target new customers.  Google Display can be used in a complimentary role to help to increase the range of these campaigns and reach a target audience.

Eric Van Cleave is the Digital Director for Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California online marketing and SEO firm.

How will the end of Google+ affect SEO?

Google+ launched in 2011 as Google’s attempt at a social media platform. Originally conceived to take market share from social media juggernaut Facebook, it never achieved its goal. Other than some hardcore fans, Google+ by 2018 has become largely a has-been. So when news broke that there had a been a data breach of user information at G+, it was not a huge surprise that the corporation announced it would be shutting down operations over the coming months.

The end of Google+ has seemed inevitable for a while. The question is, now that Google has officially announced the end, what impact will it have on SEO?


When it first launched, Google hinted that Google plus and +1 buttons would be a factor in search rankings. They did show up in searches over the years. Google also offered Search Plus Your World, a personalized search that showed results based on what your Google plus friends searched for and clicked on. Google actively tried to drive conversation on its social network by recommending people take their search to Google+, including highlighting Google+ content in search results and in Google News and showing users what was trending on Google plus. There was also an in-depth local search integration between Google Local and Google plus results.

Ultimately, all these attempts to promote Google+ failed. Over the years, Google stopped the heavy promotion of G+. Features and integrations with other Google products slowly faded. At this point, G+ does not play a large role in Google search. Although it has affected search in the past, it has been inactive for a while now.

When Google+ is shut down for consumer use in August 2019, I expect no impact to SEO. This has been a long time coming, Google just made it official.


How Should PPC and SEO Work Together?

It sounds easy to get PPC and SEO to work together, but creating an effective joint strategy can be challenging. I will outline some proven strategies on how these two platforms can work together.

1. Keyword Research. We have great tools, but many companies effectively use their PPC campaigns to test and perfect new keyword streams and approaches before writing SEO copy and implementing new SEO pages on their websites.

2. Effective PPC Ads = Better Meta Descriptions. Meta descriptions can be tricky to write and have a major effect on click-throughs from effective SEO placement. Using copy techniques from PPC ads that enjoy high click through ratios in meta descriptions is a proven technique to improve search traffic.

PPC and SEO Work Together

3. Browser Device Variations. It has become a challenge to track search results through all browser and device variations. PPC allows results to be more consistent and ensure top placement across the board for the most important Keyword Streams. Many online marketers tend to pause keyword streams that enjoy top 3 rankings on the first page of organic results, but the consistency of top page results makes this challenging.

4. SEO Pages Make Great PPC Landing Pages. Copy that is added for vital SEO Keywords on your website make great PPC landing pages. In theory, SEO pages should be designed for maximum conversion and should naturally improve quality scores for PPC keyword targets. This will not work in all instances but is a solid strategy for most clients, especially small and medium-sized businesses with limited online marketing resources.

5. Branded Results. Showing up #1 in search for your company name is a given, but does that justify turning off branded search in PPC? Maybe not, especially if you have a generic search term as your business name, ie. Quality Auto Repair. Do not let a competitor sneak into primary position for your customers just looking for your phone number. Many clients are concerned about maintaining top of page position for mobile search users. In that case, simply turn off desktop search in your campaign.

6. Organic v. PPC Rankings/Conversion. Despite the concerns voiced in #3 above, I would recommend using tools like SEM Rush to find placement reports for organic v. paid search. If organics are not ranking for paid search terms that are converting for you, it indicates that more effort should be placed into organic placement for these terms. In contrast, consideration should be given to pausing or constricting results by designating “exact match” for paid search terms that are not converting where organic placement is strong. You will want to search a sampling of the rankings found by automated services with manual search to ensure that placement is accurate.

The key is balancing your paid spend and efforts to gain organic placement to ensure that you have placement in the searches that will drive qualified customers to your business. Using paid and organic search strategies together will improve relevant search traffic and optimize online marketing investment.

Eric Van Cleave is Managing Partner of Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa California based online marketing firm.


How To Get Your Business Listed In The Local Pack On Google

The most common type of local pack is a list of 3 businesses featuring contact information for that business with links to the website or Google Maps page for that business.  Placement in this pack is important not only because of its prominence in search but also because of the ease of using these results when searching using a mobile device.  Google has been consistently reducing the number of businesses listed in the Local Pack on the first page of search results (from 7 to 3) over the last 2 years.  We will review the factors that will help to get your business listed in the Local Pack and how to effectively manage your Local Pack Map Listing.

Local Pack

Business information generally included in the local pack are the Name, Address, and Phone Number of Business (NAP). Other information may include business hours, star rating, and whether the business is currently open.

How to get into the Local Pack

In Local Packs, Google shows business listings, not websites, so to be featured in a Local Pack, you need to get a Google My Business page.

One of the prerequisites of getting into the Local Pack is to be ranked within the top 10 results for your local search query, which generally requires a great deal of effort be devoted to SEO optimization of your website.

Step 1: Claim and Optimize your Google My Business listing.

  1. Be sure to be consistent with NAP to the information listed on your website.
  2. Fill in correct business information.
  3. Add Photos.
  4. Make sure that you are listed in the proper category.
  5. Match the keywords in your Local Pack Listing to those featured in the H1 tags and page titles of your website.
  6. Verify your google listing.

Step 2:  Optimize your website for local SEO

  1. Scan website for on page SEO.  Use Google Search Console and a site scan tool like SEM Rush.
  2. Verify NAP on the website – BE EXACT.
  3. Create local citation sites(ie. Merchant Circle, Yellow pages online, etc) and be sure to match NAP on website and local map listing.
  4. Obtain locally relevant backlinks. Be sure to avoid spammy links.
  5. Add structured data markup.

As you can see from the list here, what used to be a simple process has become complex, time-consuming, and requires more than a little knowledge of Search Engine Optimization.   Because of the increased competition for the placements in the local map pack, not only must the list be fulfilled, but it requires more backlinks, more citation sites, and more exacting on page SEO and content strategy to gain rankings.

Eric Van Cleave is co-CEO of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California SEO, and Digital Marketing Firm.