Category Archives: SEO Blog

Zenergy Works SEO Blog

SEO Ranking Factors According to SEM Rush

SemRush, a world renowned resource for SEO and Online Marketing Tools and Resources, has released a 55 page study of ranking factors for SEO. The data was compiled by comparing the status of sites in SERP rankings, and while no study of Google algorithms would crack 100% of the code, and there are specific conditions that exist for all websites in search, the data provided some small surprises, and reaffirmed a number of facts-like inbound links still do matter.

The findings are summarized in the table below:

SEO Ranking Factors

The number one ranking factor is listed as direct traffic. Direct traffic was always a factor, but Google is giving weight to how many customers use the site as a resource. For most businesses, this means providing solid content will promote the use of the site in direct traffic, as well as encouraging time on site and pages viewed per session, which are factors 2 and 3. User experience continues to be overall, the number one factor in positive rankings.

As a group, the quality and number of backlinks appears to be the second most important factor. The number of total backlinks and follow backlinks is an important ranking factor for SEO. The debate has raged on for some time about whether backlinks are a significant ranking factor. The results of this study back up the most popular point of view that quality backlinks are second only to quality content and a positive user experience in Google Ranking Factors.

On page “formula” factors like HTTPS, total anchors, keyword in body of text, keywords in title, keyword density are shown by this study to be ranking factors, but not as important as content/UX and quality backlinks. A word of caution for this is that with over 200 known ranking factors, successful SEO still requires checking as many boxes as possible after a website that offers a quality user experience and has a positive link structure has been created. The art of search engine optimization is to create a positive UX while still preserving keyword density, etc. Good habits and adherence to the keyword content, meta and title information are still vitally important to successful SEO.

I use SEMRush daily in helping my clients to gain organic search traffic and rankings. The study referenced here is only one of the many assets that SEMRush provides to its subscribers. But even a great resource like SEMRush is just one part of the equation. Google Webmaster tools, review of analytics, competitive analysis and keyword research are also part of a successful SEO campaign.

Eric Van Cleave is the Managing Parter of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California SEO and Online Marketing Firm.

3 Reasons to Consider A Bing Paid Advertising Campaign

Bing Paid Advertising

Microsoft had a great year in paid search advertising in 2016, celebrating a 23% year over year growth in search advertising.

Bing and Yahoo’s reports paint a really wonderful picture of Bing Ads’ growth this past year. Bing grew to 19.7% of the US search market share and Yahoo saw a 10% increase in paid search clicks in 2016 over 2015. And while there’s no doubt that they’re both still trailing Google in search volume, they’re gaining on paid search clicks. Google paid search clicks were down 11% year over year in 2016. How does Bing shine compared to Google in paid search? Here are 3 of the major differences:

  • Less Competition.
    And Lower Cost Per Click (CPC) Bing uses an auction format like Google Adwords, so less competition equals better ad positions and cheaper costs per click. According to Wordstream, CPC’s are an average of 33.5% cheaper CPC on Bing. Not only were these clicks cheaper on Bing, but ads often have better positions than their Google counterparts and had higher Click Through Ratios.
  • Timing is Everything.
    Bing allows advertisers to assign different campaigns different time zones. This makes sophisticated ad scheduling strategies far easier to manage in Bing.
  • Sharpen Your Aim.
    Google AdWords allows control over demographic targeting on the Google Display Network, they do not allow the specific targeting of search ads. Bing Ads give us the ability to control gender and age demographics for your search ads. Demographic targeting can be controlled at either the campaign or ad group level on Bing.

Okay, the budgets might be smaller, but there are a lot of folks still married to the Microsoft Suite, and therefore, Internet Explorer and Bing Search by lack of technical expertise or restrictions on work computers. Moving to Bing probably will not change your world, but it may provide a few more clicks for the same dollars that are spent on Google.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works and zentiv agency, located in Santa Rosa, California.

Google Ranking Factors – What is “RankBrain”?

Google has used a machine-learning artificial intelligence system called “RankBrain” since early 2015 to help rank search results. RankBrain uses AI (Artifical Intelligence) to accumulate information relevant to search rankings. AI uses Machine Learning, which is the process where a computer teaches itself how to do something, rather than being taught by programming or human beings. All indications are that AI and Machine Learning, for the purposes of Google RankBrain, mean the same thing.

RankBrain and Hummingbird

RankBrain is part of Google’s overall search algorithm, a computer program that sorts through the billions of possible pages and find the ones deemed most relevant for particular queries. The name of the new algorithm is Hummingbird. Hummingbird is the overall search algorithm, and RankBrain is one of the newest parts of the algorithm.

RankBrain

Hummingbird also contains other parts with names familiar to those in the SEO space, such as Panda, Penguin and Payday designed to fight spam, Pigeon designed to improve local results, Top Heavy designed to demote ad-heavy pages, Mobile Friendly designed to reward mobile-friendly pages and Pirate designed to fight copyright infringement.

By all accounts, RankBrain is third in priority of ranking factors behind content and links, or links and content, since Google will not specify which factors are most important in determining rankings.

What Does RankBrain Really Do?

Aside from the technical explanation, what does RankBrain really do? The popular view is that RankBrain is mainly used as a way to interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words that were searched for, but are nevertheless relevant for that search. Therefore, deep content for long tailed keywords and the technique of SEO Siloing, which is creating relevant and deep content for keyword streams will become more and more important as time goes on.

Nothing here changes the over arching strategy of making sure that your website has a good UX and unique and valuable content. RankBrain, in the end, will help to find more sites that have these factors.

Eric Van Cleave is a Partner in Zenergy Works and zentiv agency, located in Santa Rosa, California.

Online Reviews – 5 Star Reviews

Online Reviews are the 21st century’s “word of mouth”. Any business can benefit from the exposure and feedback that comes with positive online reviews. It’s important to maintain a steady stream of four and five star reviews because they have a substantial influence on potential customers. Read this article for tips on how to get your customers to give feedback online. Once customers decide to write a review, there is a way to encourage a high rating.

Rating Five Golden Stars on Blackboard

Sometimes a customer will write a glowing review but neglect to choose a star rating. Even if the review is good, if no stars are selected it does not always bring up your business’s overall rating on Google. There is a new method to ensure that 5 stars is the default setting for every Google review. Follow this easy step-by-step guide to create a link that will take your customers straight to your Google reviews and automatically choose 5 stars.

Begin by searching for your business on Google. Make sure that the business in the right-side column is yours.

5_Star_Review_Pic_1

Once you are looking at the Google profile of your business, click on write a review.
When Google populates a review, look at the lengthy URL at the top of the screen. Add a 5 to the end.

5_Star_Review_Pic_2

Highlight and copy the entire URL.

5_Star_Review_Pic_3

Go to http://Goo.gl and paste the long URL into the box. This is Google’s URL shortener and will give you a more manageable URL.

5_Star_Review_Pic_4

Save your shortened URL. This is your unique URL that will direct customers to leave a review.

5_Star_Review_Pic_5

Before implementing, test the shortened URL. It should open a review with all 5 stars already gold!

Keep this URL handy on your website, in business emails, and text communication so customers can easily click to review.

Now that we’ve shown you how to pre-populate five star ratings, it’s up to you to earn those five star reviews and encourage customers to give feedback!

How To Fix Mixed Content

Mixed Content

Mixed Content can be a negative factor for SEO rankings It also can theoretically be read or modified by attackers, even though the parent page is served over HTTPs. This will cause a warning message to appear in most browsers. Website visitors will either pay no attention to the warning or they will navigate away from your site and presume that you have not paid the proper attention to the security risks.

The best solution, of course, is to make sure that these by correctly configuring your site to serve only secure content. A mixed content warning means that there are both secured and unsecured elements being served up on a page that should be completely encrypted.

Types of Mixed Content

There are actually two types of mixed content. The most common is “mixed passive content” or “mixed display content.” This occurs when an HTTPS site loads something like an image or audio file over an HTTP connection. This type of content does not actually ruin the security of the page, but it’s still a bad security practice.. The most common cause of all mixed content warnings is caused when a site that is supposed to be secure is configured to pull images from an unsecured source.

The more dangerous type of mixed content is “mixed active content” or “mixed scripting.” This occurs when an HTTPS site loads a script file over HTTP. Loading a script over an insecure connection completely ruins the security of the current page. Web browsers generally block this type of mixed content completely.

Finding Mixed Content Issues

The best way to avoid mixed content issues is to serve all content via HTTPS instead of HTTP. You can easily search for mixed content by searching for HTTP elements directly via your source code.

  1. Open the source code of any page
  2. Using a search function search for “src=http” look for resources such as images, JavaScript, and links that are being called over a non-secure (HTTP) connection.

Fixing Mixed Content

You’ll first want to check if the resource is available over an HTTPS connection by copying and pasting the HTTP URL into a new web browser and changing HTTP to HTTPS. If the resource (i.e. image, URL) is available over HTTPs then you can simply change HTTP to HTTPS in your source code.

Conclusion

The main thing is to make sure you are hosting all images, videos, audio files and resources on a secure source. Links can be easily found using Google Webmaster Tools or an SEO platform like SEM Rush. It is best to remember that security is first, but user experience is a close second to any website designed to convert website visitors into customers.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa, California based SEO and Website Development Firm.

Recent Google Updates

Many of you have heard me mention a number of Google Algorithm updates that have occurred in February and March. Below is a quick summary of the nature of the Google updates and, based on what we know now, what they effect and how to comply with the new standards.

Recent Google Updates

February 1st update

From a review of various online forums, it appears that this Google update targeted “spammy” links and content, including PBNs, or Private Blog Networks. PBNs use a system of purchasing expired domains and setting up a series of blogs that benefit a particular website.

The remedy for this is to continue to build link structure that a human being would use and produce high quality website content.

February 7th update

This update is focused on user experience, or UX. The best way to quantify UX from Google’s standpoint is to consult Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG). The QRG has great information on how human raters should test, and then rate, pages and sites from a quality standpoint.

To remedy elements that have been further addressed by this update, please review access to content, auto play video and audio, interstitials (pop ups), placement of ads or worse, pages that disguise ads as website content. Load times and relevant photos or diagrams are also factors in rankings. Mobile performance has been, and will continue to be, a prominent factor.

March 7th Update

Fred is here! According to a number of sources, Gary Illyes, an analyst at Google, said at the SMX West Conference that the Google search team has decided not to talk about the Fred update that touched down on March 7, 2017. Google would not confirm this last algorithm update, but this statement about Google not talking about it may be a confirmation by itself. Illyes went on to add that this update targets specific techniques that are contained in the Google webmaster guidelines. As usual, however, he declined to offer specifics.

Again, the most prominent piece of this update appears to be further evaluation of the quality of website content. The best remedy is to continue to provide unique and valuable content to your website users.

Conclusion

In many of the SEO forums that I frequent, I sense that SEO experts are angry with Google and their constant revision of the search algorithms. My point of view is that Google continues to find ways to combat spam and poor user experience in their search results. Update your website content, remove annoying ads and other money-making schemes and build links the right way. All of these practices involve hard work, but they will pay off in the long term.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works, A Santa Rosa California SEO and Web Development firm. Eric is also a partner in zentiv agency, a full 360 creative agency.

Tips for Effective Email Campaigns

Email campaigns can be frustrating, even when your list is your good customers and folks who are familiar with your business.

Email Campaigns

1. Use A Known Sender Name.

The From name is one of the most prominently displayed elements of your campaign. According to studies, 68% of American email recipients open or delete the email based on the From Name. Most browsers limit the length of the From Name that can be read on the screen to 23 characters, so consider keeping that name short.

2. Create a subject line with benefits to the recipient

My favorite sales mentor taught me that everyone’s favorite radio station is WIFM (What’s In It For Me?). A subject line should include the recipient’s name or words like Your, You, etc. that focus on the benefits of the information in the email for the recipient.

3. Make sure preheader text is on point and valuable

The preheader is the short summary text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox. This is where the recipient decides to read more. Make sure that the preheader text compliments and follows the subject line like (subject line) Grow Your Income, (preheader text) By Working Only 15 Additional Minutes Each Day.

4. Keep the Message Easy to Read and Simple

Good email messages are about showing your audience your offering and the benefits it brings them in the simplest way possible.

While your product may be different, there are a number of formulas you can use to help you write great email content. The PAS, 4 P’s, and BAB formulas are all easy to follow frameworks that help marketers like you write high performing email campaigns by positioning your product or service as the solution to your customer’s pain points.

5. Strong, but Careful, Call to Action

The buttons you use in your email marketing campaigns are the final step towards getting someone to click-through from your campaign and visit your website, and the words you choose for them can play a big part in determining whether someone will click-through or not.

Dos:

Ask for the business by using benefit concepts like “Take the First Step to Increasing Your Revenues” or “Get More Time With Your Family”. Or “Learn More About

Dont’s:

Avoid cumbersome action words that ask your potential client to do something they don’t necessarily want to do, like:

  • Download
  • Apply
  • Order
  • Submit

Conclusion

Everyone (at least everyone that you would want to target to sell your goods and services) gets more and more email each and every day. The 5 tips outlined above will help you to get a higher “open” rate and more engagement. Its up to you to sell your products.

Eric Van Cleave is Co-CEO and Chief of Digital Marketing for zentiv agency in Santa Rosa, California.

Voice Search is Trending Up-SEO Implications

Voice search continues to increase according to a new survey from Stone Temple Consulting. 80% of consumers still prefer to use text search in most cases, but the survey data suggests that consumers have a mostly positive experience with voice search.

The top three rationales behind voice usage were:

  • Speedy response.
  • The answer is read back to me.
  • Not having to type.

Voice SearchAbout 40 percent of both men and women said that voice made using their smartphones easier. Most voice search users wanted more direct answers and fewer conventional search results that required going to a third party site for answers.

Bottom Line: This study suggests that the continued emphasis on a positive mobile UX experience and long-tailed Keyword research is becoming more and more important as consumers demand more exact responses to their searches.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works and zentiv agency, A Santa Rosa California based digital, design and branding agency.

When Good Internet Goes Bad

When Good Internet Goes Bad

If you use sites like Slack, Imgur, Medium, Huffington Post, or even Apple, you might have noticed the major hiccup last week that left them running improperly or not loading altogether. There’s a lot of technical jargon that explains exactly why, but we’ll make it simple: Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud computing and storage arm, bugged out and affected up to 100,000 sites, some which experienced loading and delivery issues and others which went offline completely.

When we think of Amazon, we think of the retail powerhouse. However, Amazon has its fingers in many pies, and one of those pies happens to be providing servers, storage space, databases, network connectivity, hosting and lots more to companies in need of reliable web service. As with anything the company touches, they’ve become a go-to source for thousands of businesses, large and small. That’s understandable, given Amazon’s long history of being at the technological forefront of basically everything, but this incident reveals a bigger issue. Amazon reports that the glitch that caused this major outage occurred in a single data center in Virginia. Because of this one localized bug, huge swaths of the internet had a bad day.

When Good Internet Goes Bad

For many businesses, this sort of connectivity issue is anything but a minor problem. Companies that see large returns from online sales and services could really feel the sting of losing almost a day’s worth of sales. This is the trouble with entrusting your hosting and storage services to such a giant — they’re serving so many other people across so many different facilities that it’s difficult to keep any sort of direct control over the situation. If your site hosted through AWS goes down, who exactly do you call? Do you know which facility your servers are housed in?

Granted with Amazon’s extensive reach and manpower, they were able to remedy the issue within a day, but even so that’s multiple hours of inaccessibility. With such an enormous chunk of the internet under their control, it’s concerning that a single glitch in a single datacenter can bring so many sites down. For reference, a 2016 Gartner study revealed that 31% of the global cloud market is controlled by AWS. That’s nearly a third! It’s amazing how rarely we stop to consider how much we rely on the internet until it suddenly becomes inaccessible.

So, is there anything you can do to prevent issues like this in the future? Unlikely. As our technology expands, so to do the weaknesses we have to account for. When a single entity holds such a huge share of the global cloud market, it becomes more likely that a hiccup on their end could directly affect you and your business. It might be prudent to consider obtaining your hosting, storage and web services from a smaller business that isn’t spread so thin, and that you can contact directly with issues.

If you have any questions for us, please send us an email or give us a call!

EMAIL – Small Business Marketing Solutions

Email marketing has been forgotten by many Small Business Marketers because it has just been “done to death”. For most of our clients, email is still a viable marketing medium, and I wanted to take a moment to explain some of the positives of email marketing, and share a few things that have been done, but still bring results.

Email Marketing

2 Reasons that you should continue your email marketing campaigns:

Email has a strong ROI.

According to eMarketer, email marketing campaigns enjoy a median ROI of 122 percent, which exceeds social media, direct mail, and paid search by a large margin. Email is still my favorite medium of communication, and it allows marketers to reach a focused market in their favorite way of communicating. This does not work for all products and target markets, but the majority of our clients get strong returns from email campaigns.

Email Marketing Platforms have raised their game.

Email templates are now mobile responsive allowing them to adapt to the device they’re being viewed on. You can add all kinds of content like surveys, contests and other means of increasing engagement within a professional looking email template without having to be a programmer or website designer.

2 Tips for Success:

Focus on a Specific Target-Content and List

Talk to a focused group of customers about what is valuable to them. Segment by vertical, job title, geographic location, gender, etc and give that specific target market the information that they want and need. This will build trust and loyalty and make your emails relevant to those you target. Remember, your customers, like you, are getting more and more email every day. Make it count!

Mobile is important.

Mobile friendly is not just a responsive template any more. Every bit of content needs to be mobile friendly and cross browser tested before it goes out the door. Mobile use is growing, and it is not just for kids anymore. Can you imagine attempting to manage all of the information that you see in a day without using a smart phone?

We have all seen the the trends come and go, and some of the new stuff is truly exciting and awesome, but email needs to be considered as part of each and every digital campaign.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works and zentiv agency in Santa Rosa California.