How to Improve Page Speed for More Traffic & Conversions

My Post (84).pngPage speed is a critical factor in digital marketing today. It has a significant impact on:

  • How long visitors stay on your site.
  • How many of them convert into paying customer.
  • How much you pay on a CPC basis in paid search.
  • Where you rank in organic search.

Unfortunately, most websites perform poorly when it comes to page speed, and that has a direct negative impact on their revenue.

There is an almost infinite number of things we can spend our days doing as digital marketers, and there’s never enough time to do them all. As a result, some things get pushed to the back burner.

One of the things that seem to get pushed back most often is optimizing page speed. This is easy to understand because most people don’t truly comprehend the importance of this often overlooked detail, so they don’t see the value in investing time and money to improve it by a few seconds or less.

What may seem like an inconsequential amount of time to some marketers, including those who focus solely on search engine optimization, has been proven to be monumental by data from industry giants all the way down to our own analytics data.

I’ll assume that you’re like me and you want to maximize your results, and of course, your revenue, right? Then let’s get started in making your website faster than greased snot! (That’s quite a visual, isn’t it?)

1. Ditch the Budget Web Hosting

We’re all trying to save money these days, after all, those subscriptions to Raven, SEMrush, Moz, and all the other tools we use on a daily basis add up quickly. It’s almost like having an extra kid.

One way a lot of people try to save money is by choosing the kind of cheap shared hosting that crams as many websites as they can fit onto a server, much like a bunch of clowns piling into a single car. Performance be damned!

Sure, your website will be available most of the time as it would with most any web host, but it will load so bloody slowly that your visitors will leave frustrated without ever converting into buyers.

“But it’s barely noticeable!” these bargain shoppers insist.

Here’s the thing — it might be barely noticeable to you because it’s your baby and you love it.

But everyone else only wants to get in and get out of your website as quickly as possible.

People want to be on your site for just long enough to do what they came to do, whether that means to get an answer, buy a product, or some other specific objective. If you slow them down even a little bit, they will be likely to hate their experience and leave without converting.

Think about it like this:

Most people love their own kids unconditionally. But someone else’s kid screaming, throwing things, disrupting their night out at a restaurant? They hate that kid. It’s the same with your website.

How Much of a Difference Does It Really Make?

According to a study conducted by Amazon, a difference of just 100ms — a unit of time that a human can’t even perceive, was enough to reduce their sales by 1%. Walmart found similar results.

If that tiny unit of time has that much direct impact on sales, what kind impact do you think an extra second or more will have?

But it doesn’t stop there because how quickly (or slowly) your website loads also has an impact on organic search ranking and pay-per-click costs.

In other words, if your website loads slowly, you should expect your competitors who have invested in this critical area to eat your lunch.

Bottom line: skip the budget web hosting. If they are selling it like a commodity (based mainly on price) then they’ll treat their customers like a commodity too.

There are a lot of web hosts that are optimized for speed, particularly for WordPress websites, and some of them are priced similarly to the budget options.

So ask around, do some testing, and invest in a web host that will give you the performance to satisfy both your visitors and Google.

2. Reduce HTTP Calls

Every file needed for a webpage to render and function, such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images, and fonts require a separate HTTP request. The more requests made, the slower that page will load.

Now if you’re anything like most of the people I talk to, you’re probably thinking “Oh, I don’t need to worry about that, Jeremy. I know what I’m doing and I don’t add a bunch of bloated garbage into my website!”

That may be partially true. You may not add a bunch of bloated garbage to your website, but for 90+% of the websites that I encounter — it’s still there anyway.

That bloat isn’t there because the Bloat Fairy snuck it in while you were sleeping. It’s there because a majority of web designers, regardless of skill or experience, don’t make page speed a priority. The sad truth is that most don’t even know how.

Here’s where the problem starts:

Most themes load one or more CSS files and several JavaScript files. Some, such as Jquery or FontAwesome, are usually loaded remotely from another server, which dramatically increases the time it takes a page to load.

This becomes even more problematic when you consider the additional CSS and JavaScript files added by plugins. It’s easy to end up with half a dozen or more HTTP requests just from CSS and JavaScript files alone.

When you factor in all of the images on a page, which each require a separate HTTP request, it quickly gets out of hand.

  • Merge JavaScript files into one file.
  • Merge CSS files into one file.
  • Reduce or eliminate plugins that load their own JavaScript and/or CSS files. In some cases, as with Gravity Forms, you have the option to disable them from being loaded.
  • Use sprites for frequently used images.
  • Use a font like FontAwesome or Ionic Icons instead of image files wherever possible because then only one file needs to be loaded.

3. Include the Trailing Slash

Omitting the trailing slash on links pointing to your website, whether from external sources (link building efforts) or from within your own website, has an adverse impact on speed.

Here’s how:

When you visit a URL without the trailing slash, the web server will look for a file with that name. If it doesn’t find a file with that name, it will then treat it as a directory and look for the default file in that directory.

In other words, by omitting the trailing slash, you’re forcing the server to execute an unnecessary 301 redirect. While it may seem instantaneous to you, it does take slightly longer, and as we’ve already established, every little bit adds up.

https://example.com (this is bad)

or

https://example.com/services (this is also bad)

vs.

https://example.com/ (this is good)

or

https://example.com/services/ (this is also good)

– Read more

Nine voice search stats to close out 2019

My Post (83).pngA look back at some of the year’s key voice search and virtual assistant metrics.

From smartphones to smart home appliances, artificial intelligence, voice and virtual assistants are very much at the center of a shift in the way we interact with digital devices. While voice has not yet lived up to its promise, it’s clear it will be an enduring feature of the digital user experience across an expanding array of connected devices.

Mobile = 59% of search

Way back in 2015, Google announced that mobile search had surpassed search query volumes on the desktop. But it never said anything more precise and hasn’t updated the figure. Hitwise, in 2016 and again in 2019, found that mobile search volumes in the aggregate were about 59% of the total, with some verticals considerably higher (e.g., food/restaurants 68%) and others lower (e.g., retail 47%).

This isn’t a voice stat, but it’s important because the bulk of voice-based queries and commands occur on mobile devices rather than the desktop.

Voice on cusp of being first choice for mobile search

According to early 2019 survey data (1,700 U.S. adults) from Perficient Digital, voice is now the number two choice for mobile search, after the mobile browser:

  1. Mobile browser
  2. Voice search
  3. Phone’s search box/window
  4. Search app
  5. Text a friend

However between 2018 to 2019, voice grew as a favored entry point for mobile search at the apparent expense of the browser. Thus it could overtake text input as the primary mobile search UI in 2020.

Nearly 50% using voice for web search

Adobe released survey data in July that found 48% of consumers are using voice for “general web searches.” This is not the debunked “50% of searches will be mobile in 2020,” data point incorrectly attributed to comScore.

The vast majority of respondents (85%) reported using voice to control their smartphones; 39% were using voice on smart speakers, which is a proxy figure for device ownership.

Here are the top use cases for voice usage, predominantly on smartphones:

  1. Directions while driving — 52%
  2. Making a phone call — 51%
  3. Sending a text — 50%
  4. Checking the weather — 49%
  5. Playing music — 49%

Directions a top voice use case

Consistent with the Adobe survey, an April Microsoft report found a more specific hierarchy of “search” use cases on smartphones and smart speakers. Again, however, this is a primarily smartphone-based list:

  1. Searching for a quick fact — 68 percent
  2. Asking for directions — 65 percent
  3. Searching for a business — 47 percent
  4. Researching a product or service — 44 percent
  5. Making a shopping list — 39 percent

Crossing the 100 million smart speaker threshold

During 2019 there were multiple reports and estimates that sought to quantify the overall number of smart speakers in the U.S. and global markets. In early 2019, Edison research projected that there were roughly 118 million smart speakers in U.S. homes. However, other analyst firms and surveys found different numbers, typically somewhat lower.

Because people often own more than one smart speaker, the number of actual individual owners of smart speakers is considerably lower than 100 million: 65 million or 58 million, depending on the survey.

Amazon dominating Google in smart speaker market

Amazon, with its low-priced and aggressively marketed Echo Dot, controls roughly 70% to 75% of the U.S. smart speaker market according to analyst reports. In Q3 2019, for example, Amazon shipped 3X as many smart speaker and smart display units as Google.

Analyst firm Canalys argues Amazon’s success is a byproduct of its market-leading direct channel and discounting. Google’s direct and channel sales have so far not been able to keep pace with Amazon’s efforts.

Virtual assistant usage: Siri and Google lead

In contrast to the smart speaker market share figures, virtual assistant usage is a different story. This is because most virtual assistant usage is on smartphones and Amazon doesn’t have one.

A Microsoft report (in April) found a different market share distribution, with the Google Assistant and Siri tied at 36%, followed by Alexa.

Source: Microsoft (2019)

There are other surveys that suggest Google Assistant’s usage is greater than Siri’s.

58% use voice to find local business information

The connection between mobile and local search is direct. While Google has in the past said that 30% of mobile searches are related to location, there are plenty of indications that the figure is actually higher. Google itself said the number was “a third” of search queries in September, 2010 (Eric Schmidt), 40% in May, 2011 (Marissa Mayer) and, possibly, 46% in October 2018.

Asking for driving directions is not always an indication of a commercial intent to go somewhere and buy something. But as the Adobe and Microsoft surveys indicate, it’s a primary virtual assistant/voice search use case. A voice search survey conducted in 2018 by BrightLocal also found:

  • 58% of U.S. consumers had done a local business search by voice on a smartphone
  • 74% of voice search users (the 58%) use voice to search for local businesses at least weekly
  • 76% of voice search users search on smart speakers for local businesses at least once a week, with the majority doing so daily

– Read more

Page load time and crawl budget rank will be the most important SEO indicators in 2020

My Post (82).pngBased on my own testing, PLT and CBR are the technical aspects I believe will determine website success, or failure, in the new year.

Google has the ability to impose its own rules on website owners, both in terms of content and transparency of information, as well as the technical quality. Because of this, the technical aspects I pay the most attention to now – and will do so next year – are the speed of websites in the context of different loading times I am calling PLT (Page Load Time).

Time to first byte (TTFB) is the server response time from sending the request until the first byte of information is sent. It demonstrates how a website works from the perspective of a server (database connection, information processing and data caching system, as well as DNS server performance). How do you check TTFB? The easiest way is to use one of the following tools:

  • Developer tools in the Chrome browser
  • WebPageTest
  • Byte Check

Interpreting results

TTFB time below 100ms is an impressive result. In Google’s recommendations, TTFB time should not exceed 200ms. It is commonly adopted that the acceptable server response time calculated to receiving the first byte may not exceed 0.5s. Above this value, there may be problems on a server so correcting them will improve the indexation of a website.

Improving TTFB

1. Analyze the website by improving either the fragments of code responsible for resource-consuming database queries (e.g. multi-level joins) or heavy code loading the processor (e.g. generating on-the-fly complex tree data structures, such as category structure or preparing thumbnail images before displaying the view without the use of caching mechanisms).

2. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). This is the use of server networks scattered around the world which provide content such as CSS, JS files and photos from servers located closest to the person who wants to view a given website. Thanks to CDN, resources are not queued, as in the case of classic servers, and are downloaded almost in parallel. The implementation of CDN reduces TTFB time up to 50%.

3. If you use shared hosting, consider migrating to a VPS server with guaranteed resources such as memory or processor power, or a dedicated server. This ensures only you can influence the operation of a machine (or a virtual machine in the case of VPS). If something works slowly, the problems may be on your side, not necessarily the server.

4. Think about implementing caching systems. In the case of WordPress, you have many plugins to choose from, the implementation of which is not problematic, and the effects will be immediate. WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are the plugins I use most often. If you use dedicated solutions, consider Redis, Memcache or APC implementations that allow you to dump data to files or store them in RAM, which can increase the efficiency.

5. Enable HTTP/2 protocol or, if your server already has the feature, HTTP/3. Advantages in the form of speed are impressive.

DOM processing time

DOM processing time is the time to download all HTML code. The more effective the code, the less resources needed to load it. The smaller amount of resources needed to store a website in the search engine index improves speed and user satisfaction.

I am a fan of reducing the volume of HTML code by eliminating redundant HTML code and switching the generation of displayed elements on a website from HTML code to CSS. For example, I use the pseudo classes :before and :after, as well as removing images in the SVG format from HTML (those stored inside <svg> </svg>).

Page rendering time

Page rendering time of a website is affected by downloading graphic resources, as well as downloading and executing JS code.

Minification and compression of resources is a basic action that speeds up the rendering time of a website. Asynchronous photo loading, HTML minification, JavaScript code migration from HTML (one where the function bodies are directly included in the HTML) to external JavaScript files loaded asynchronously as needed. These activities demonstrate that it is good practice to load only the Javascript or CSS code that is needed on a current sub-page. For instance, if a user is on a product page, the browser does not have to load JavaScript code that will be used in the basket or in the panel of a logged-in user.

The more resources needing to be loaded, the more time the Google Bot must spend to handle the download of information concerning the content of the website. If we assume that each website has a maximum number/maximum duration of Google Bot visits – which ends with indexing the content – the fewer pages we will be able to be sent to the search engine index during that time.

Crawl Budget Rank

The final issue requires more attention. Crawl budget significantly influences the way Google Bot indexes content on a website. To understand how it works and what the crawl budget is, I use a concept called CBR (Crawl Budget Rank) to assess the transparency of the website structure.

If Google Bot finds duplicate versions of the same content on a website, our CBR decreases. We know this in two ways: – Read more

9 Bad SEO Habits to Leave in 2019

My Post (81).pngAs we enter a new decade, it’s time to say goodbye to some bad SEO habits.

These are SEO tactics that just plain don’t work, or even worse, can get a website penalized.

Below is a list of the top nine habits that need to be kicked to the curb.

1. Creating Pages with Similar Content

Fortunately, this tactic is not as prevalent as it once was, but this issue periodically comes up, even today.

Pages with similar content, which is usually created for the sole purpose of targeting keywords, is not a good strategy.

For example, duplicating city pages within a website with the city name as the only difference can be harmful.

Essentially, you end up with low-quality pages that can pull down the rest of the site.

2. Link Building Using Generic, Templated Emails

We don’t like receiving spam, so why send it?

Link building has become more of a marketing tactic than just an SEO tactic. That means we have to identify and research our audience before creating our “marketing” message.

Sending a generic, templated message to someone asking for a link is not going to get you great results.

Instead, send fewer emails, but take the time to research that person’s website and understand what would interest their users or customers.

Also, don’t use a general salutation, such as “Dear Webmaster” or “Dear Website Owner.” Use the person’s name.

3. Trying to Solve Every Ranking Problem By Getting More Links

Yes, links still matter today, but they are only one of many factors of the ranking algorithm.

Links are a public endorsement and reflect that a website has valuable information.

Where the problems occur, though, is when links are gathered in an unnatural way, such as through link schemes, poor link directories, purchasing links, and other spammy tactics.

As we start the new year, these aggressive link building techniques should be abandoned and the focus should be on a link strategy that is more marketing and user-focused. Check out SEJ’s Link Building Guide for tips that can carry you into 2020.

4. Adding Marginal Content for SEO Purposes

You can’t have SEO without content.

SEO and content are intertwined.

You need content to optimize for search.

If you don’t optimize your content, searchers won’t find you.

So, there is no question that we need content, but there is still a problem.

Marginal content is often added to websites simply for the purpose of “improving SEO.”

However, having just any content isn’t good enough.

Avoid churning out a ton of content just for the sake of increasing the number of pages on a website. Google is constantly preaching quality content and even if the search engine wasn’t preaching it, we still need to focus on our users.

Your content has to be considered high quality, especially when compared to the competition.

5. Skipping Over Fundamental On-Page Optimization Elements

There has been speculation over the years regarding the correlation between title tags and rankings.

Regardless of where you stand on this topic, a good title can convert a searcher into a visitor (and even a customer, if you’re lucky).

Take the time to optimize your titles with keywords, but also be sure to make them compelling. – Read more

3 Free Tools to Help Investigate & Fix PPC Account Performance Changes

My Post (79).pngFiguring out why the performance of a PPC account has changed can be one of the most time-consuming tasks in PPC.

Not only is it a big time drain, but it’s also often associated with a fire drill, done at the urgent request of a boss or client who is demanding answers after something didn’t go as planned.

I’ll cover how a typical investigation is done and share free tools and scripts that can help speed up this process.

Of particular interest is Google’s just-announced ‘Explanations’ feature, which can be a great help when trying to find the culprit when things don’t go as planned.

How to Investigate Account Performance Changes

A typical investigation can consume hours if done manually and usually follows these steps:

  • Finding out you have an issue.
  • Determining if the change was across the whole account or mainly due to a few rogue items like some overly broad keywords.
  • Drilling down deeper into the responsible entities.
  • Collating metrics from various sources to understand if the change was due to a change you made, a change in user behavior, or a change by competitors.
  • Fixing the issue.

Step 1: Know You Have an Issue

We’ve all got a lot on our plates. So, chances are, you aren’t logging into all your accounts every hour.

That’s why it’s so important to have good monitoring in place so that you’ll get an alert if something is going on with an account.

If you don’t have good monitoring, rest assured your client will monitor things for you.

But that comes with a downside: they will yell at you

Also, by that point, things may have gone far off track.

So set up some good alerts and spare yourself that trouble.

You’ll look like the PPC rockstar you are if you squash a problem before it gets out of hand.

Step 2: Find the Best Place to Start the Investigation

Once you know that an investigation is needed, it’s time to find out where to start.

A big change in performance can come from the combination of many small changes or from some isolated bigger changes.

1 + 2 + 1 and 0 + 0 + 4 are both 4

It helps focus your effort when you know where the biggest changes appear to have happened.

Notice I use the word “appear” because it is possible that a campaign with no top-level change actually had lots of positive and negative changes that canceled each other out.

The simplest way to go about this step is to rank campaigns by the biggest net change.

This is simple to do.

Turn on the date range comparison feature in Google Ads. Then filter for only campaigns with a minimum level of data and then sort them from biggest to smallest change.

Step 3: Drill Down Deeper into Impacted Ads Entities

Once you’ve identified the campaigns most responsible for the change, repeat step 2 but now by looking at the ad groups with the biggest change in each affected campaign, one at a time.

Then repeat this again for keywords, queries, ads, etc. After doing this you have a list of individual things that you might be able to fix.

For example, you’ll know which keyword had the biggest drop in conversions and be able to fix its issue.

3 Free Tools to Help Investigate &#038; Fix PPC Account Performance Changes

Or you might find that an affected campaign has no keywords of special note and everything declined equally, indicating that the issue may be due to a campaign-level setting such as a budget change.

As you can see, this recursive step can be time consuming for larger accounts.

Step 4: Drill Down into the Metrics

When you’ve found the entities most responsible for a change, be they campaigns, queries, or something else, it’s time to investigate the underlying cause.

Looking at the numbers will help you hone in on the root cause.

3 Free Tools to Help Investigate &#038; Fix PPC Account Performance Changes

This isn’t easy and requires downloading a lot of data (even data from outside Ads, like Google Trends) and combining it in spreadsheets.

While the Google Ads interface shows metrics in a table, there are relationships that are easier to see in a cause chart, which is illustrated in both the above image from Google and the one below from Optmyzr (my company).

3 Free Tools to Help Investigate &#038; Fix PPC Account Performance Changes

For example, a conversion can only happen if you get a click. And a click can only happen if you get an impression, and an impression can only happen if a user searches for your keyword.

Understanding at which stage of these connected metrics things have unraveled will help pinpoint the likely fix.

An advertiser whose conversions have decreased should look at clicks, impressions, average CPC, impression share, etc. to determine what caused the change.

Once you know the lowest level metric that was impacted, you can correlate that with a likely cause and know if the reason is due to something you changed, something a competitor changed, or a change in user behavior. – Read more

When to Use Data Science in SEO

My Post (78).pngData science comes closer to SEO every day.

Data science, and more exactly artificial intelligence, isn’t new, but it has become trendy in our industry over the past few years.

In this article, I will briefly introduce the main concepts of data science through machine learning and also answer the following questions:

  • When can data science be used in SEO?
  • Is data science just a buzzword in the industry?
  • How and why should it be used?

A Brief Introduction to Data Science

Data science crosses paths with both big data and artificial intelligence when it comes to analyzing and processing data known as datasets.

Google Trends does a pretty good job of illustrating that data science, as a subject of intent, has been increasing over the years since 2004.

Evolution of data science as a search term (Google Trends)

The user intent for “machine learning” has been increasing as well, and is one of the most popular search queries.

This is also one of the two ways for operating artificial intelligence and what this article will focus on.

What Is the Concrete Relationship Between Artificial Intelligence & Google?

Back in 2011, Google created Google Brain, a team dedicated to artificial intelligence.

The main objective of Google Brain is to transform Google’s products from the inside and to use artificial intelligence to make them “faster, smarter and more useful.”

We easily understand that the search engine is their most powerful tool and considering its market share (95% of users use Google as their main search engine), it comes as no surprise that artificial intelligence is being used to improve the quality of the search engine.

What Is Machine Learning?

Machine learning is one of the two types of learning that powers artificial intelligence.

Machine learning tends to solve a problem through a frame of reference and the output is checked by a human being, as it always comes with a certain percentage of error.

Google explains machine learning as follows:

“A program or system that builds (trains) a predictive model from input data. The system uses the learned model to make useful predictions from new (never-before-seen) data drawn from the same distribution as the one used to train the model. Machine learning also refers to the field of study concerned with these programs or systems.”

Pipeline flow of machine learning

Microsoft Azure Machine Learning

More simply, machine learning algorithms receive training data.

In the example below, this training data is photos of cats and dogs.

Then, the algorithm trains itself in order to understand and identify the different patterns.

The more the algorithm is trained, the better the accuracy of the results will be.

Then, if you ask the model to classify a new picture, you will obtain the proper answer.

Google Images is certainly the best example to reproduce this explanation. – Read more

5 SEO Realities SEO Professionals Struggle with Most

My Post (77).pngRemember that old phrase: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”?

In the SEO world it’s more like, “The more things change, the more they change.”

At least that seemed to be the overriding consensus when SEO professionals on Twitter were asked, “What are some realities about SEO that too many SEOs are reluctant to admit or deal with?”

More than 30 SEO practitioners responded, and their answers were diverse.

However, most of them centered around the difficulties of dealing with change and uncertainty, whether from search engines, their clients, or in their own ways of thinking about SEO.

Responses fell into five general areas of struggle as we move into 2020:

  • SEO is complex and constantly changing.
  • Can we believe/trust Google?
  • SEOs have themselves to blame.
  • Explaining SEO to clients or superiors is hard.
  • SEO alone is a non-starter.

1. SEO Is Complex & Constantly Changing

Will King summed up the existential angst of accelerating change:

Most crafts have a set of accepted best practices handed down from generation to generation.

While it’s true that there are some SEO “must-dos” that haven’t changed, practitioners worry there may be things they continue to do that search engines have made obsolete.

The biggest problem is never being certain what those things are.

Some SEO pros believe nothing from the past can be held to with any certainty.

As Joe Youngblood put it: “Everything changes. What we used to know and built reputations on will eventually be wrong.”

Jesse MacDonald agreed:

Jairus Mitchell thinks it’s even worse, adding “Things that work might not work for the reasons we think.”

Search engine algorithms are complex, and the variables at play in any algorithmic changes approach the infinite.

Ignoring that complexity can lead to trouble if an SEO has too much confidence that a single thing they did was responsible for a certain result.

Peter Mindenhall took that a step further:

Personal interpretations and pet theories, whether they come from one’s own testing or what someone else said, can spread misinformation like a game of telephone.

As with many “true facts” on the internet, something can become “true” just because it’s been repeated enough times.

Finally, Jason Landry reminded us that the complexity of SEO is relational as well as informational (more on that in another section below):

2. Can We Believe/Trust Google?

There has always been a kind of cold war between SEO professionals and Google, with varying degrees of detente over time.

But that distrust seems to be at an all-time high.

Mary Bowling stated it quite directly, asserting SEO pros have a hard time “believing that Google spokespeople are telling the whole truth OR that they even really know what the truth is.”

Jeff Ferguson was a bit more sympathetic toward Google, but ultimately blames the vagueness of remarks from the search engine’s representatives for confusion in the industry:

But Shawn Cohen reminded us:

According to Becky Lehman, “position 10 today is more like position 50 after you factor in how many ads and clickable things are above you.”

Adam Singer spelled out the implications of that reality:

3. SEO Pros Have Only Themselves to Blame

In contrast to those who laid the blame for SEO confusion at the feet of Google, some SEO professionals see four fingers pointing back at themselves for every one they point at search engine spokespersons.

For example, Brian Harnish thought that, “most SEOs don’t want to go through the hard and tedious process of cleaning up their own bad link profiles,” while Grant Simmons worried that SEOs “don’t want to deal with the realities of building bridges to development resources. Most projects go awry & descend into finger pointing when devs & SEOs can’t (or don’t want to) talk.”

Gianluca Fiorelli pointed at those who want to believe there is a magical silver bullet to solve their SEO problems:

…while FP Marcil complained that SEOs waste time on trivial matters, spending “way too much time/energy on the 1000 less important ‘changes’.”

John Doherty worried…

Joe Hall added to the angst about accelerating change with the simple but hard-hitting observation: “At the end of the day, we don’t really have any control.”

Kevin Mullett, though, was willing to give SEOs some benefit of the doubt:

– Read more

6 Easy But Stupid SEO Tactics You Must Avoid

My Post (61).pngWe all should know by now the top common black hat tactics to avoid. Most SEO professionals like to think of themselves as white hat, or at least gray hat.

However, did you know that there are several white hat strategies that can seriously hurt your long-term SEO performance?

The reason most of these white hat strategies can hurt you is that they’re often “too easy to be good for you.”

When we become complacent in the easy way out, our organic search performance can start to suffer.

For the TL;DR SEOs out there, here are my quick links to help you jump to the section you want to read.

The top six easy SEO strategies you must avoid:

  • Assembly line SEO strategy.
  • Blaming performance drops on algorithm updates (without evidence).
  • Copying location page copy.
  • Using automated auditing tools to drive strategy.
  • Paying for links.
  • Being too scared to ask questions.

1. Assembly Line SEO Strategy

I define “assembly line SEO” as when a person or agency uses the same exact tactics for every client.

Many of the larger SEO agencies use this strategy for their SMB division because it’s efficient to manage.

Typically, after the site goes through its first round of on-page optimizations, the routine tactics include blogging and paying for links.

However, just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it’s always the best.

This type of strategy may be fruitful for a short period of time, but unless there’s zero competition, the website is bound to experience a growth plateau.

What to Do Instead

Instead of getting stuck in this routine “task-based” strategy, focus on finding out unique ways to deliver value to your website’s audience.

Investigate what your competitor’s top-ranking content is, and how they’re approaching their content strategy. Make a list of all of your competitor’s strategies and look for content gap opportunities.

Take these opportunities and make sure your content is built to serve your audience at each stage of their purchase funnel.

The continual research and content production may be more time-consuming, but it will inevitably be more fruitful. Another added bonus is that this will show your stakeholders that you truly care about their performance.

2. Blaming Performance Drops on Algorithm Updates (Without Evidence)

Performance drops can happen as suddenly and frequently as algorithm updates, depending on the website.

These days, algorithm updates happen so frequently that it could be easy to point fingers at Google and say they caused your rankings and organic traffic to drop.

Sometimes, it’s true!

However, more often than not, performance drops can occur for different reasons.

Some common reasons for organic performance drops include:

  • Newly discovered technical issues on the site.
  • Significant content changes.
  • Seasonality.
  • Competitor changes.
  • Manual actions.

Keeping those possibilities in mind, it’s important that we don’t take the easy way out and blame an algorithm update.

Disclaimer:

If you your website just recently took a hit, don’t panic!

Somethings things just happen, and your traffic will return on its own.

What you don’t want to do is start making significant changes to your site. This may lead to even more complications with your organic performance.

What to Do Instead

There are several SEO recovery guides out there that you can reference for more in-depth steps on how to bounce back from organic performance drops.

Here are some quick tips on how to investigate whether your site was truly hit by an algorithm. – Read more

Get your A-Game Up with These 8 Effective Lead Conversion Strategies

My Post (60).pngThe notion that building a fancy looking website and investing into marketing activities are more than enough to grab the attention of web strollers to convert them into leads. But, that’s precisely where most marketers are failing today.

Lead conversion is not just about ensuring these “fence-sitters” pay a visit to your site, it’s about changing them into an opportunity, nurturing them, and converting them into loyal, paying customers. More so, understanding the basic needs of your visitors and creating an experience that’s compelling enough for them to come back for more, is equally important.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to convert a visitor into a lead, let’s first talk about the importance of building a robust lead conversion process.

Building a Lead Conversion Process

Having a robust and streamlined lead conversion process is essential for any business to survive in today’s highly competitive market place. A good conversion strategy can not only boost your business dramatically but help to get good leads aboard. Below mentioned are five steps to building an effective and efficient lead conversion process.

1. Prepare Quality Content

Adding quality content to your website significantly increases the chances of getting more leads for your business. Write catchy website copies, create informative content such as blogs, ebooks, white papers, and work on product demos.

When you generate qualified content, it develops the trust of your customers and nurtures a healthy relationship with them. Their trust and relationship can indirectly generate good revenue for your business. So, tell your content team to produce engaging and converting content.

2. Build an SEO Strategy for Your Site

Visibility on Google can generate more leads to your business than you can imagine. So, investing your efforts in correcting your SEO strategies is essential for Google ranking.

Five primary SEO elements to focus your attention to include the page title, page URL, page header, internal links, and page content. Refer to Google updates to understand how to use SEO to rank high on search engines effectively.

3. Create an Appealing Landing Page Design

Your landing page design is the first and foremost element that defines the usability and success of your website. Having a good strategy of building landing pages can help to convert more leads.

Strategically add images, videos, and call-to-action buttons on your landing pages to make them appealing and get more conversion. Further, make sure all your landing page links are clickable and directly or indirectly help to generate leads. You can also use pre-designed landing page templates to improve your site’s user interface.

4. Use Social Media Channels to Generate Leads

Today people are massively engaged on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and many other ones. They consume more content here than on other mediums. Leverage social media to your advantage. Promote your business offerings here and grab the attention of your target audience.

A company generates 80% of B2B leads by using LinkedIn as a marketing medium. So social media is a smooth platform to spread awareness of your brand products globally and gain more customer engagements.

Read more

How to Dominate SERPS by Focusing on Topics Instead of Keywords

My Post (59).pngIf you have been in SEO for any amount of time, you know that keywords have always played a large role in the discipline’s success metrics.

That’s why it is so common to hear so many conversations around keywords and keyword research when talking to anyone about SEO.

While I think that keywords are still important for measuring success for a site, I think updating that keyword-focused mindset to focusing on topics will yield better results.

How Are Topics Different from Keywords?

You may be asking yourself at this point what is the difference between a topic and a keyword, especially considering I just mentioned that keywords are still an important piece to the SEO puzzle.

In my way of thinking, a topic is a more holistic approach to “keyword research”.

A topic can be made up of several relevant terms and queries that can fall into different areas of the buyer’s journey.

The types of content you can create around a given topic is a bit dependent on the vertical your site falls into.

Some sites would require:

  • Content that covers early-journey learn topics.
  • Content on the business’ point-of-view on the subject.
  • Possibly their product offering that solves this problem.

Smaller sites, especially local businesses, might only require a piece of educational/early-funnel content that also points to content that outlines the services or products offered to solve the problem or need the customer/user may be facing.

Start with a Strategy

The most important thing you can do for your site when either building it or rethinking its structure is to take a step back and strategize the topics you need to focus on.

By looking at the broader aspects of your offerings and identifying a top-level topic for that offering, you will have a better understanding of your needs.

After you have an idea of what your main topic focuses need to be you can follow the standard keyword research process.

The main catch is that you want to expand that research to encompass more semantically relevant terms related to the topic, not just the main keyword.

Take a look at the areas surrounding the topic that need to be covered to satisfy the searcher’s various needs. Ask yourself what questions might be asked regarding the topic and do research on those terms.

If possible, don’t be afraid to get out into the real world and ask people in your target demographics what they might search for or what related questions they might have.

Research Your Competitors

Once you understand what content you need to have to perform well for a topic start looking into who ranks well in these spaces.

If they are performing well in this space already then it’s safe to say they are doing something right. There are exceptions to this so make sure you continue to monitor the competition in the space you are targeting.

Once a competitor is identified, I like to run their site through a tool to see how they have performed for relevant terms over an extended period.

This will give me some base info on if these results are lasting or if it is a recent jump to determine if it is even worth researching them further at this point.

Once you understand what your actual competitors are doing in the space you are targeting, take a look at how they structure their content.

Look at how they are delivering their content and what the site structure looks like surrounding that topic. This information will give you a baseline blueprint when working on your site.

Now, with that being said do not copy your competitor’s content. Use it as a guide, but plagiarizing content will do nothing but hurt you in the end.

As cliche as it may sound you are looking to identify what your competitors are doing well and then do it better. – Read more