Category Archives: SEO Blog

Zenergy Works SEO Blog

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.

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Highlight and copy the entire URL.

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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.

Influencer Marketing? Really?

Influencer Marketing? Really?

Yes, Really. Imagine if you wanted to sell a new kind of cookware, and you had a celebrity chef (Hello, Mr. Fieri) on social media explaining how this new line of cookware could make your time spent in the kitchen more enjoyable and produce better tasting, more appetizing dishes? Mr. Fieri would definitely have a following of food lovers and they would be interested in what he has to say on this subject. Your brand would have instant recognition and credibility, and this would dramatically influence your ramp up time for social media and digital campaigns.

Influencer Marketing

Here are a few suggestions (rules are so absolute and limiting) on how to put together an effective and valuable influencer marketing campaign:

Influencers are social media “mavens” and high visibility bloggers. To find the right influencer for you, first determine the best social channel for your product. Soft drinks might use SnapChat, a baby carriage manufacturer may use Instagram or Facebook, etc. and look for the biggest names in those arenas, preferably those that have a potential connection to your product or service. Ie. A mom of younger kids for the baby carriage. Also, research hash tags to find out who has the most posts and related content for those hash tags. Be sure to also be conscious of the relevance of the audience of any potential social media influencer. Social Media followers can be a commodity in today’s market, so the influencer’s length of time in the social media platform and the geographic distribution of those followers are key indicators of the relevance of the audience.

You should include blogging in your influencer marketing campaign as well. Sites like Inkybee, BlogDash, and GroupHigh are excellent sources to reach out to bloggers that can be qualified by their organic traffic rankings, audience demographic and engagement per post.

How do you recruit influencers into your campaign? Most of the larger influencers are all about being paid for endorsements, and most of these resources are outside of the budget of the average online advertiser. Some may only want free product and will endorse only products that they actually use and are enthusiastic about. Some influencers are willing to trade customer lists and influence posts in related product verticals. The real find is an influencer who is passionate about your product-that can take time and effort, but is well worth the end result.

This is a step by step guide for implementing your influencer marketing campaign:

Identify and Qualify Influencers:

This is doing your homework. Find influencers that make sense, track their activities and product mentions via social media and blogging before reaching out to them.

Create a Plan:

Define your budget, write up a campaign brief and establish your goals and how you plan to pay or trade for reaching those goals.

Recruit your Influencers:

Create a pitch letter that is in your voice, and explains your passion for what you do, as well as how that passion will translate to the influencers audience. Influencers remain Influencers by providing valuable information. Be valuable.

Track Results:

Track your influencer marketing campaign results. Make sure that site visits and conversions are tracked, as well as level of customer satisfaction with the product from the customers who purchase from you as a result of your campaign.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works and zentiv agency, located in Santa Rosa California providing services from SEO to product packaging, marketing and website design and construction.

Another Google Algorithm Update?

Algorithm Update

Google may have made some more adjustments to their algorithms in the first week of February. The adjustment appears to affect how Google targets spam links and other forms of spam. Google would not officially confirm or deny there was an algorithm update. Most of the discussion of this Google update on line is from sites who routinely use “black hat” tactics and have run afout of the former Penguin update that is now part of the Google core algorithms.

Many Google search results tracking tools, like MozCast, Algoroo, RankRanger are showing significant turbulence in the first week of February. This movement is despite the fact that those of us in the SEO trade that practice “white hat” optimization did not really even notice an update. All of this evidence points to an algorithm update of Google evaluates and discredits or penalizes for spam links.

Eric Van Cleave is CEO of Zenergy Works, a Santa Rosa California based SEO firm and zentiv agency, a 360 advertising agency also located in Santa Rosa.

Google Changes in 2016

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2016 Google Updates

The search engine started the year with a flurry of activity – an intense weekend of ranking fluctuations led many to predict that a new Penguin algorithm was imminent. This was denied by Google at the time but it preceded a series of major changes to the search index through the year, some of which will continue to be felt in 2017.

Panda (Content…..Mainly)

Google Panda

The first Google update came in early January with large changes being reported by webmasters. We do know that Google made changes to the core algorithm and that they incorporated Panda into the algorithm as well. Google have remained tight lipped however, about exactly what happened when.

Google’s search quality senior strategist Andrey Lipattsev made the statement below. Panda itself may or may not have evolved or that any major changes had been rolled out to that algorithm as it was added to the core algorithm.

What are we talking about here [with regards to the core algorithm]… it’s less about the functionality of the thing which probably doesn’t change that much over time. It’s more about how we perceive it in the context of the algorithm itself. Do we still think this is an experimental thing which has been running for a while and we’re still not sure how long it is going to last or is it …like PageRank, it is part of it, it is always going to be there at least in the foreseeable future and therefore in certain context we might call it [a] core part of the algorithm.

Penguin (Links)

Google Penguin

Google rolled out Penguin 4.0 in September of 2016 and included the incorporation of Penguin into the core algorithm. (Some Say the date is September 23rd, but that was the date that Google went public with the change). Penguin filtered the web to detect spammy sites. Penguin, instead of running periodically as it had in the past, was now running in real time, and the impact on some site placements was dramatic. Since Penguin was now part of the core algorithm, no future updates to Penguin would be announced.

Penguin became a signal rather than a penalty. Google said on its Webmaster blog,

Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools changed in February of 2016. The content splitting information was changed to show how to help Google find content and how to help visitors and the search engine correctly review information on the pages. One interesting new recommendation was to include a human readable version of the sitemap. Google also said that a few thousand links per page would be more than enough.

Google Adwords

The biggest AdWords news of 2016 was saying goodbye to the ads in the sidebar and the adoption of the 4 ad format at the top of the SERP. While the change had a major impact on how ads were bid competitively and how adwords budgets were spent, this change also brought ad results in line with the mobile experience.

We don’t expect there to be any additional major changes to the way ads are displayed in 2017, but this change is still affecting the way AdWords accounts are managed. Social Media, with improved dashboards and lower costs, may become more and more an option for online advertisers.

There were changes to the Keyword Planner as well, with Google grouping search numbers instead of giving individual search volumes. In other words, if you want to know exactly how a keywords performs in adwords, set up your account and go for it!

Google Adwords launched a new IOS app, offering more flexibility and making it easier to stay on top of campaigns when away from the desktop. Expect changes through 2017 as the app is further refined.

Mobile Search (First, Not Last)

It is now officially and AMP world. Google let the world know that page load speed would now be a ranking factor, that the new mobile index would be the primary ranking index (although the desktop index, for now, still is in existence).

Mobile targeting options were perfected in 2016, and text ads, and bid processes on Adwords catered to the mobile browser.

What Does This Mean?

Mobile Search is king, and website content and User Experience (UX) are queen. The only constant in the world of online marketing is change, and as long as Google is the primary search engine in the world, change will continue to happen to make sure that users (and Mobile Users) have a positive search experience. The key to a successful website is being part of that successful experience.

Eric Van Cleave is the CEO of Zenergy Works a Santa Rosa California SEO, Website Development and online marketing Firm. Zenergy now has a sister company, zentiv agency, providing design, branding, market research, and packaging, brochure and collateral design.