The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


The Simple SEO Success Formula

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Most Valuable Real EstateIf you want to achieve your SEO dreams, my advice to you is to stop dreaming and get a grip on the reality of what SEO entails.

Top rankings in Google don't just happen. If you get them, you got them for a reason. Let's look at some of those reasons.

Valuable Content On Site

It is "common knowledge" that Google's algorithm prefers pages that have at least 300 written words. If you are in a market where there is more than one company like yours that offers the products or services you do, you need to go beyond the minimum requirements if you want to achieve top rankings. You need to offer valuable content.

I define valuable content as content which meets or exceeds the informational needs of visitors to your webpage. That will often take more than 300 words, which is absolutely fine. You don't achieve maximum results with minimum effort when it comes to SEO except in a few special situations which I'll talk about later.

Case Study: A customer of mine sells telecommunications products. So do thousands of other companies. A search for one particular model of headset showed that it was sitting at the 135th position in Google's search results. As a test, I added some valuable content answering common questions about the headset. 514 words, to be exact. That page jumped to the 2nd page of search results within two weeks and it has held that ranking since April 2016. I should also mention, the site is not responsive, doesn't have SSL, and doesn't meet a whole bunch of Google "best practices". That's okay, because the content about that headset is more valuable than the content on other websites that sell the same headset.

MARKET YOUR CONTENT Off Site

"Content Marketing" is a phrase being used a lot by people like me to explain why blogging is so important. A lot of people distill the idea of content marketing down to the notion that if you create great content, search engines will notice and then people will take notice. This is true, but it's not the whole story.

You will get more results for your great content if you proactively market it rather than passively hope the search engines will take notice. Marketing your content can take many forms, but it's relatively easy to do. It just takes time. Send a link to your customers and ask them to post it on their blog or link to it from their Facebook page. Link it from your own social media platforms. Ask people to talk about it. If you don't, chances are they won't. These mentions on other sites are all examples of inbound links, which Google's algorithm analyzes for quality and quantity. If you pay for thousands of links from link farms to your great content, you won't get great results. However, a few links to great content from credible websites like your Chamber of Commerce or customers' sites will be more likely to give your content a ranking boost. If you do that regularly, you'll eventually build hundreds of quality links to your website which will in turn, be picked up by Google's algorithm and will likely result in better search engine rankings for your site overall.

The Special Situations

I alluded to some situations where you can get top rankings in Google with minimum effort. Here they are.

  1. People search directly for your business by name. If someone does a search for your business name, they'll probably find you. If they narrow it down by city, (i.e. Joline's Hairstyling Niagara Falls), they'll probably find you at the top or in the top 10. Why not #1? Sometimes the folks at the Yellow Pages or other directory sites have done a better job at SEO than you.
  2. People search for your brand. The good people at Despair.com have trademarked the term "Demotivators". If you forget their website but remember their brand name, you'll find them in the #1 spot for that term. If other folks are outdoing you in the SERPs for your own brand, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
  3. You build a better resource before anyone else. I have a website that has a list of Niagara wineries. It has consistently been ranked in the top 10 Google results for over a decade. The page does not follow Google's best practices guidelines for SEO, but it was one of the first listings of Niagara wineries and it has a good number of inbound links. It may not stay in the top 10 forever, but it's done well over the years, even being the #1 result for a few years. It was built first, it was marketed, and it has remained. You could do the same with your content.

Synopsis

Successful SEO involves creating valuable, user-focused content on a regular basis which is then marketed through blogging, social media and other outreach methods to build inbound links. In other words, it is work. It's not hard work, compared to digging a ditch, but it takes effort. The steps I've outlined above aren't rocket science. Lots of other people have talked about them for years, as have I. What I hope you'll take away is that if you want your site to have great SEO, you have to be better than the other websites in your market at providing and marketing your valuable content and creating a great user experience.

Mobile Erosion

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Erosion - photo by Benoit Rochon

The rise of mobile devices isn't new. Search behemoth Google announced in May 2015 that mobile accounts for more search than desktop in 10 of its key markets. This is a significant shift, but many companies have not made the shift to responsive websites that are more mobile-friendly. This could be the cause of a subtle but steady erosion of market share for those businesses.

As of April 21, 2015, Google rolled out an update that gives preference to responsive, mobile-friendly websites in searches done from mobile devices. Consider that more than 50% of your potential site visitors are going to access your website on their smartphone. Non-responsive websites will likely appear lower in the SERPs on mobile devices.

The results for non-responsive websites will likely show up as lower overall traffic over time as competing websites shift to responsive design. It may also manifest itself in higher bounce rates for mobile users coming to non-responsive sites, and potentially lower conversion rates for mobile users.

From my perspective, the business case for redeveloping a non-responsive website is starting to be more clear, especially for companies that rely on their websites for new lead generation. It also increases the importance of customer retention and referral marketing. The data that drives the business case is likely sitting untouched in your website visit statistics, so if you haven't done so lately, it's high time to dive into the numbers.

The wind will always blow and water will always flow. Change is constant online and businesses must adjust to survive. Here's hoping you make choices that allow your online presence to thrive in 2016 and beyond.

Stuff About SERPs

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, January 03, 2016

3D MazeIf you haven't come across the acronym SERP before, don't worry. It likely means you're not a geek, or not heavily invested in your website. If you're the former, feel free to celebrate. For those who fall into the latter category, let's talk.

SERP stands for "Search Engine Results Page". When you are talking about your site showing up in the top 10 listed sites in Google, you're talking about how well your site shows up in the SERPs. You'll notice I started right away with Google when talking about SERPs. Despite other search engines claiming to be more accurate, Google is still the "go-to" search engine for most people. So, I'd like to discuss a peculiar characteristic of Google's SERPs.

You may be surprised to learn that multiple searches for the same keywords may differ when using Google. There are several reasons this can occur.

Personalization

Google wants to provide you with the most relevant information it can. There is a difference between "relevant" and "accurate". What you consider relevant is unique to you, so your Google search may turn up different results than someone else.

If you are signed into any Google service (like Gmail, YouTube, Analytics, Maps, Google News, Calendar, Google+ etc.), Google knows it's you doing the search. The results you get will reflect your preferences. More accurately, it will reflect what Google thinks your preferences are. If you exit all Google services, your search results may change.

Your IP Address

If you use Google from the same computer, chances are you IP address is the same most of the time. Google tracks queries made from each IP address, so unless yours changes, Google probably knows it's you and your SERP results will be presented accordingly.

Data Center Differences

Google has over three dozen publicly-reported data centers. There are probably more. Depending on which data center you connect with for your search, you could get different results. Different updates to Google's algorithms (the "secret formula" they use to determine which pages are most relevant for a search) can be in effect at different data centers.

What Can You Do?

If you're the kind of person who wants results that aren't personalized to you, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Sign out of all Google services.
  2. Clear your search history.
  3. Use Incognito (or Private) browsing mode.
  4. Use a VPN to disguise your true whereabouts.
  5. Add "&pws=0" to the end of the search results page you're presented with and refresh the page.

I hope this glimpse into the world of Google's SERPs has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know! I welcome your feedback.

What does it take for great SEO?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Questions about SEO?Getting great results in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is what everyone wants. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it used to be. I've been around long enough to remember the pre-Google days, when you could submit a site to Yahoo and it would be #1 for your keyword search in less than a week. <sigh>

The Google algorithm never stops evolving. That's good, because the internet is still a new medium and everyone is still scrambling to figure out how it works. Even the big players don't always get things right. Just look at Google's social media stumbles.

A few years ago, you used to be able to do a few things well and be rewarded in the search engines. Things like carefully matching the keywords on a webpage to the actual searches done by potential visitors. Having lots of inbound links used to be a hot ticket. Posting fresh content regularly was a great approach. Those things are still important, but now, there are more "hoops" to jump through.

I call them hoops, but they're just additional factors that Google and other search engines use to determine the overall quality of your website. Take all of the above and now add in things like topical authority, site usage characteristics, the user experience on your website, whether your site is secure (using https) or is mobile friendly - and more. When you look at the bigger picture, there's so much more than keyword matching involved.

Business knowledge is generally a few years behind when it comes to advances in technology and marketing. In this case though, it's not such a bad thing. For years, I have gently reminded people that although the tools are changing, the underlying fundamentals of online marketing haven't changed. If you've paid attention to your fundamentals, you're probably still doing just fine in search engine rankings.

One of the websites I manage has been sitting very comfortably in the top 10 websites for a relatively competitive keyword search for more than a decade. Let thank sink in for a moment. MORE THAN 10 YEARS. The work I do on it is comparatively little when looking at the competition. So why does this website still rank highly? Fundamentals.

Some might argue that it's because this site is old that it's ranking well. That's part of it, to be sure. The domain's been registered since 2001 and it's built up some authority over that time as a result. Truthfully though, you can start a website tomorrow and with some discipline, build a site that is just as authoritative in one year. What is it going to take? Focusing on fundamentals.

Start sharing your knowledge. Tell your story. Connect with prospects and clients using the old and new tools available. Be useful enough on a regular basis and believe it or not, that will make you special. Why? Because most people lack the discipline needed to do the work required. Be special enough that people believe in your ability to help them. When you're special, people will look for you, talk about you, and trust you to take care of them. At that point, you might have done really well in the SERPs, but you'll also probably not need to worry about that because you'll be busy enough with the work you have coming in.

By all means, adapt and adjust to changing search engine requirements. Make your site responsive. It'll be better for you anyway. But don't let the trends that come and go take your attention away from your fundamentals. Responsive website or not, your online presence will work better for you when you're focused on what's most important.

Mobilegeddon is Here

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mobile-f-ing-geddon!If you're like most people, you probably haven't heard of the so-called "Mobilegeddon" that's happening today. I'm not going to say it's a good or bad thing that you haven't. Just because Google says something in February doesn't mean that it makes the papers.

So, what's the big deal? Here's the story.

Google announced in February that sites that are not mobile-friendly will essentially be penalized in search results when a search is made from a smartphone. This does not affect searches made from tablets. Yes, I know, a tablet is a "mobile device", but Google treats tablets like desktops when it comes to searches.

What does "mobile friendly" mean? Fundamentally, Google's philosophy has now extended beyond getting people the best, most relevant search results. Now they want top ranking websites (on mobile) to have unique content, lots of social media and other relevance AS WELL AS a great user experience. These days, "great user experience" when viewing a website on a mobile phone means having a responsive website. The term "responsive" means your website has a layout that RESPONDS to fit various screens. Having a responsive website is now more important than before for many companies.

What this means for most businesses is . . . well, that depends.

If your business gets a significant portion of its web traffic from people using mobile devices, you could be in trouble. This depends largely on how people search for your business. If you run a coffee shop called "Higher Grounds Cafe" in Niagara Falls, for example, you may not be found as readily if someone does a search for "niagara falls coffee shop" or "niagara falls cafe". However, if people primarily search by your business name, you probably won't lose visitors searching on mobile devices.

Another perspective is that if your business operates in an industry where your clients aren't likely using mobile devices to search for a company like yours, you shouldn't be losing sleep over this change. Chances are that a person making a major purchasing decision will not be doing all of their research on a smartphone. If you sell office equipment or machinery or are generally a B2B type company, you may not notice any decline in your site visits.

I agree that "Mobilegeddon" may have a significant impact on many business' rankings in mobile search results. On the other hand, it's also true that MANY businesses already have poor rankings with their websites and are not getting great amounts of search engine traffic from non-brand (i.e. company name) searches. If a website is already ranked #25 for a search and it ranks #35 after Mobilegeddon, will it truly make any difference?

My suggestions for dealing with Mobilegeddon:

  1. Don't Panic. It was good advice when The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy came out and it's just as relevant today.

  2. Look at your website. Is it responsive already? If so, relax.
  3. Check your search engine rankings. Do you rank highly for a number of relevant searches? You might want to preserve that. Don't rank well at all? Well then, you might as well skip to #4.
  4. Check your website statistics. Do you have Google Analytics? Good. You can see how many searches came from mobile.
  5. Create a responsive website. I know - this is definitely easier said than done. I can help, so contact me.
  6. Act. The majority of business owners and entrepreneurs truly care about their search engine positioning. Most do nothing about it. If you're one of the ones who acts, you'll have an advantage over those who don't.

Another important point to consider is that according to Forrester research, between 2004 and 2011, the percentage of consumers who cited "search engines" as the way the found websites declined from 83% to 61%. One can see that while search is important, it's not the only factor involved in how you can draw attention to your brand and your website. Maybe your website is not mobile friendly. Perhaps you might be better off strengthening your brand on social media to get more visitors rather than investing in a mobile friendly website.

In short, Mobilegeddon may be a huge thing or nothing for your business to consider. If you want some advice, please contact me and I'll answer any question you may have about this topic.

 

Better Rankings in Google because of HTTPS/SSL - What You Need to Know

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

A lockAn announcement from Google about issues that can affect search engine rankings has the power to keep people awake at night.

Google announced that they now include whether a site uses HTTPS/SSL in their ranking algorithm. There are probably thousands of webmasters scurrying to purchase SSL certificates for their clients' websites. In the near future, I expect a lot of spammy messages from domain registrars suggesting that their clients purchase SSL certificates so they can improve their rankings in Google.

This announcement means little to the vast majority of website owners.

Here's why:

  1. It will have low impact. Google said it is "only a very lightweight signal". There are more important things you can do to boost your search engine positioning than purchasing an SSL certificate for your site.

  2. It has a narrow focus. Google also says this change will have an impact on "fewer than 1% of global queries".

  3. Improper SSL application can hurt your site. Properly implementing HTTPS on your whole site will require testing, testing and more testing to get it right. Images, videos and content hosted by other sites may be blocked or will otherwise trigger a security warning to be displayed to your site visitors.

In my opinion, the vast majority of website owners do little to get better rankings in Google on a regular basis. The fact that Google is now factoring in HTTPS/SSL in their algorithm is interesting, but not interesting enough that I think site owners should be investing in security certificates in droves. There are many more important and effective things site owners could be doing to get more traffic to their websites.

For those wondering what some of those things are, here's a short list of items webmasters should be doing regularly if they care about their search engine rankings and/or getting more traffic to their websites.

  1. Add quality content to your website.
  2. Attract quality inbound links.
  3. Marketing the heck out of the content you've worked so hard to create.

If you're not doing at least one of those three things regularly, you don't need to worry about this latest change at Google. Simply put, you have more pressing things to concern yourself with. Covering the basics well before worrying about the more esoteric changes at Google will bring you more results than rushing out and installing an SSL certificate tomorrow.

Rank Up on Google!

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, August 01, 2013

Here's the first line of an email I got today:

"*Name withheld* will get a better Search Engine Rank for www.thewebforbusiness.com/
by submitting your site to over 500,000 Search Engines, Directories and Speciality Sites - but you must act Now!"

My first question:

Can anyone please tell me the name of twenty more search engines that matter?

Good. Now that you've done that (and we all know virtually everyone's list starts with Google), what are the other 499,980+ search engines, directories and specialty sites they're talking about?

They are probably local search engines and directories and link farms.

My second question:

Is submitting your site to a search engine in Latvia or a specialty directory of Kelowna going to help you with your ranking in Google?

Answer: no.

My third question: Why would anyone pay to spam all of those directories with irrelevant submissions?

Answer: I don't know.

Save your money and time. The consensus online is these services don't work.

Sorry to say, but getting good search engine rankings still takes time to create decent, unique content that people (and search engines) will find relevant.

Remember the adage about the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago - or NOW? The best time to start building great content for search engines (and people) to love was a few years ago - or NOW.

I hope your content tree takes root soon!

Google and Your Privacy

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Today's the last day to delete your Google Browsing History.

This only applies to people who have Gmail, YouTube or other Google services (like AdWords or Analytics)...which means it should probably apply to pretty much everybody : )

Okay - seriously though. If you don't have an account with Google, you can ignore this post.

For the rest of you, why does this matter?

I've had an account with Google since 2006. I have never given a thought to the Browsing History, which is activated whenever you do a search and visit webpages while you're logged into your Google account. I had a look at mine - which spanned all the way back to 2006.

Google keeps track of all that stuff and their new privacy policy (which takes effect tomorrow) will allow them to compile all that information into your profile.

So what?

Well, consider that where you've been online can give ideas about your interests, location, age, religion, health concerns yada yada and you get the idea. Specifically, why should Google know this information about you? Moreover, why should they be able to track everything you do online while signed in to your Google account?

If you are concerned, here's what you can do to limit Google's ability to collect information about you online.

  1. Go to Google's homepage and sign into your account.
  2. There's a dropdown menu next to your name in the upper right corner. Click on it and select "account settings"
  3. Click on the "services" section.
  4. Under services there is an option to "view, enable, disable web history". Click the link that reads "Go to web history"
  5. Once there, click on "remove all web history".

This step will remove your entire web history in Google's records and will pause the web history function. This means that Google will still be collecting that information but it will now all be anonymous.

If you're concerned about your online privacy and have a Google account, this is probably an important step for you to take.

The Invisible Website

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It is unusual to find a site that is invisible in the search engines. I mean, you have to do so little to get a website into Google, yet I found one. Actually, I didn't find it - a client presented it to me and asked what could be done. He said it couldn't be found in the search engines. I didn't believe him, but after a quick check, I found that the website wasn't even indexed in Google despite having been online for more than a year.

Let me explain for a moment why this is so jaw-dropping. Most web developers will submit the work they do to the major search engines as part of their service. They'll either do a direct submission or let the engines crawl the site through links. I link to many of my clients' websites through my portfolio page and that's one simple way to set up an inbound link to a site. So imagine how much effort was involved to have the website NOT be picked up by any of the major search engines. You couldn't even find the website under a specific search for the company's name. That's how bad it was.

Fortunately, with a few changes to the site (there weren't even titles!) and the addition of a few inbound links the site was quickly spidered. It is now found on page one in Google when you search for the company name - which is where it should be. As for other SEO, well, that's for the client to decide.

Search engines owe you nothing. You owe it to your business to ensure your site appears in the major engines. At a minimum, if someone just types in your company name they should find you on the first page of results unless you have an exceptionally common corporate name. (If that's the case, you should really think about talking to a branding expert.)

Search Engines Owe You Nothing

Mark Kawabe - Monday, July 05, 2010

There seems to be a persistent belief that when one has a website, it will somehow rank in the top results automatically for a variety of keywords of your choosing.

Sorry if this is the first time you've heard someone tell you this, but it's a lie.

Search engines are in the business of providing the most "relevant" results. Defining "relevant" is therefore key to understanding how results are ranked. Here's a primer:

  1. Your beautifully-designed, well thought out and sparkling website is not automatically "relevant" in the eyes of a search engine.
  2. You can "optimize" your website until it hurts, but that may still not benefit your "relevance" to a search engine.
  3. If you are under the illusion that your site "should" rank well in the search engines, keep in mind that search engines owe you nothing. It is your responsibility to understand how THEY work. The onus is not on any one search engine to understand how fantastic your website is.

How search engines work is a well-understood mystery. There are practices that most search engine marketers "know" work, but exactly how they work is a mystery - and the mystery changes from time to time as search engines update their formulas.

For example, it is "known" that Google "loves" inbound links to websites. This is why there are now things called link farms. These are also thinly disguised as web "directories". Link farms add links by the thousands to other people's websites - mostly for free but often people will pay to submit their website's link to hundreds or thousands of these sites. Have you ever been told or read that to be successful in Google they need to get as many inbound links to your website as possible? This is a half truth.

The other half of the formula is something called link "relevance". Let's say you're a breeder of Border Collies. If you ask your fellow Border Collie breeders to put a link to your website from theirs and you reciprocate, those links have some "relevance" as they're coming from one Border Collie breeder's website to another. If you also get a link from a link farm where there is no theme to the page your link is found on, that link will have lower "relevance" in comparison to the one from the other breeder's website. So, you could have thousands of largely "irrelevant" links to your website and still not rank highly in Google.

This is just one area of misunderstanding when it comes to search engines. There are dozens more criteria that make up the ranking formulas of the search engines. How each of them fits into the search engine marketing (SEM) puzzle are generally known by people in the SEM industry.

I will be covering search engine optimization and more during my next seminar series. Contact me if you want to know when our next seminars will be held this fall.