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Search Engine Guide : Small Business Search Marketing
Search engine marketing news and information you can use to grow your business.

Search Engine Guide
  • Mobilegeddon Has Come and Gone - Now What?

    by Kevin Johnson

    Businesses across the nation went into a panic after Google announced that it would be updating its search algorithms to remove non-"mobile-friendly" sites from searches conducted on mobile devices. "Mobilegeddon" has now come and gone, and while its overall effect on SEO is still being debated, the fact remains that optimizing a site for mobile users is still an important step for anyone looking for online success.
    viewport.png

    A Rising Tide
    A recent report by comScore found that approximately 29 percent of all online searches in the United States are done with a mobile device. While desktop searches still constituted the majority of online searches, the number of desktop searches actually declined from 2013 to 2014, while smart phone and tablet searches rose significantly.

    For local searches, however, the numbers seem to tip dramatically into mobile's favor--a report by Local Search Association found that nearly 60 percent of searches regarding local business are done using a mobile device.

    It's clear that mobile search will continue to rise in prominence. Indeed, Google is expecting worldwide search inquiries on mobile devices to surpass desktop searches this year--no doubt part of the reason that "Mobilegeddon" was announced in the first place.

    Even though Google's mobile update did not prove to have the cataclysmic effect on mobile search rankings many feared it would, updating one's web offerings for an increasingly mobile audience is of high importance--particularly for local businesses that may not be considered as authoritative by the search giant. With smart phone penetration in the United States expected to exceed 80 percent of all cell phone users by the end of 2015, it's clear that mobile Internet use has become the norm, rather than the exception.

    To facilitate this transition, Google has provided several tools to help Web page owners determine if their site is mobile-friendly. Google's Mobile-Friendly Test provides a quick and easy way for Web owners to identify potential mobile issues. Google also provides steps on how to fix mobile usability issues through Google Webmaster Tools accounts.

    Optimization Time
    There are several options available for those who wish to upgrade their Web offerings to create a mobile-friendly site.

    Responsive web design is an easy way to guarantee that a site will work well for both desktop and mobile users. Google has placed increasing priority on responsive web design in its algorithm updates, especially the recent "mobile-friendly" update. Other mobile optimization options--such as setting up parallel URLs for mobile sites--may create a functional mobile site, but will ultimately not help improve SEO as domain authority is split between mobile and desktop URLs.

    For businesses hoping to remain relevant and still appear in mobile search results, investing in responsive design guarantees that a site will be mobile-friendly, because the flexible design automatically adjusts the content to the size of the screen being used.

    "Responsive Web design is the easiest solution because you don't have to deal with redirects or expensive maintenance," explains Trevor Garner, Lead Designer + Developer at Fusion 360, a Utah-based web development agency. "It's better for SEO, and users get the content they want in the way that looks best on their device."

    Implementing a responsive design eliminates several of the most common problems mobile users face when surfing the Web--namely, navigation and readability. Responsive design ensures that links and menus are an appropriate size that are easy to see and appropriately spaced to eliminate accidental clicks and other navigation errors. Text font is also resized so that horizontal scrolling and zooming are not necessary to read a page's content.

    Another important aspect to consider when developing a mobile-friendly site is to eliminate the use of programs that are not compatible with mobile devices. One of the most commonly cited issues during Google's update period was Flash-based content, which is not compatible with mobile (HTML 5 is a recommended replacement). Optimizing images and other content to reduce page loading time can also improve a site's SEO.

    It is clear that future updates to search algorithms will also stress mobile usability--as indicated by Google's main rival Bing's recent announcement that it will be introducing tagging and improving rankings for mobile-friendly sites.

    Local business owners in particular would do well to ensure their sites are optimized for mobile users. "Mobilegeddon" may not have been as significant as expected when the algorithm arrived on April 21, but the fact of the matter is that as more and more consumers switch from desktop to mobile search, websites that do not become mobile-friendly will be left behind either way.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Should I stay away from highly competitive keywords?

    by Mike Moran

    If you've used Google's Keyword Tool, you've probably seen the column called "Competitiveness," with levels low, medium, and high. The low. medium, and high are based on the competitiveness of a keyword among paid search advertisers. The more advertisers are bidding on a keyword, the higher the competitiveness. By itself, paid search competitiveness tells you nothing about the organic search competitiveness, but in reality they usually run about the same. So, most people ask the same thing about keywords: "Should I stay away from highly competitive keywords?"

    Like any good consultant, my answer is, "It depends." I mean, the tendency is to shy away from that much competition, which could be exactly the right decision, depending on your business. After all, if you have a small business with a no-name Web site, then it is unlikely that you'll do well on high competitiveness keywords.

    But consider this. It isn't impossible to do well if you have a truly valuable message that is a better fit for that keyword than everyone else. Remember, someone is #1 for even the most competitive keyword around.

    So, my advice is to focus on how close a fit the keyword is for your site before focusing on competitiveness. But if you have a local camera store in Akron, Ohio, don't think that "digital cameras" is a great fit for your site, because thousands of other local stores are equally good fits, and Web retailers and nationwide chains such as Best Buy are even better fits. But "Akron camera stores" could be a great fit, even if Google says it is highly competitive.

    If you know your business is a very strong match for even a highly competitive keyword, go for it. You can always stop if it doesn't work.

    Originally posted on Biznology.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Proceed With Caution: Web Design Can Directly Affect SEO

    by Jayson DeMers

    SEO is a process that requires ongoing education and learning. And while much of the focus is on building quality inbound links, identifying and optimizing for the right keywords and semantic search terms, and investing in quality content, you can't ignore the obvious impact of web design on your site's search rankings.

    The Dilemma: Unique vs. Searchable

    When designing or redesigning a website, most companies come face to face with a pretty significant dilemma.  On the one hand, you want your site to be unique and engaging. On the other, it needs to be easily searchable by the major search engines in order to attract the right traffic. This is the heart of the SEO-web design relationship and something that you need to understand in order to help your website succeed in 2015 and beyond.

    How Popular Web Design Styles Affect SEO

    In order to speak to the masses, let's start by analyzing a few of the most popular web design trends and how they impact SEO.

    ·         Parallax design. One of the more popular web design styles this year is parallax design. This trend is defined by building an entire website on a single page. It usually has a very large background image with clean, crisp menus that drop down or appear when the user scrolls his or her mouse over a designated area. While it's visually appealing, Google and other search engines find it difficult to hone in on specific meaning or themes. Furthermore, your site naturally has fewer pages that can rank - diminishing your potential reach. If you're only trying to rank for a single search term, parallax design may be okay. However, if you have a lot of content and various products and services, you should probably pursue different web design.

    ·         Infinite scrolling sites. As you may assume, parallax design typically means longer load times. If you like the idea of parallax but don't want to take a negative hit for longer page load times, you may consider incorporating infinite scrolling. This is the type of design sites like Twitter and Facebook have and allows content to load as the user scrolls. Google seems to like scrolling sites and typically prefers them to standard parallax pages. You can see some good examples of infinite scroll by checking out these award-winning websites.

    ·         Graphic-heavy. Because of the success of infographics and visual marketing content, many brands are attempting to develop graphic-heavy websites that essentially look like large infographics. While they may be visually appealing, you have to remember that Google and other search engines can't read images (outside of alt-tags and accompanying text). 

    ·         Responsive design. That leads us to responsive design - the ideal web design trend for SEO purposes. As you likely know, responsive design allows a web page to be viewed on any device, regardless of screen size. In terms of SEO, responsive design is valuable because it doesn't require you to create a separate website for each device and helps maintain a consistent user experience (which lowers bounce rates and increases average time on site).

    4 Things to Keep in Mind

    In addition to understanding how current web design trends affect SEO, you'll want to keep some of the following tips in mind:

    ·         Use the right website builder. Despite what many will try to tell you, not all website builders are created equal. Some may offer thousands of unique design templates and responsive options, while others might only have a few dozen templates and no responsive design capabilities. Do your research and carefully compare all of your options before honing in on a website builder.

    ·         Size matters. The size of your website has a major affect on search engine rankings, primarily because it affects the average page load time. When designing web pages, it's better to eliminate unnecessary elements and focus on content that truly matters. If it doesn't serve the purpose of pushing users through the conversion funnel, it probably isn't necessary.

    ·         Reduce bounce rates. Remember this: It's not the actual aesthetics that the search engines are looking at - it's how users respond to those aesthetics. In other words, Google isn't going to penalize you for a gaudy bright neon color scheme, but they may penalize you if your bright neon color scheme causes users to immediately click the back button after accessing the homepage.

    ·         Lean is better. The mantra of less is more certainly holds true for web design. While designers may try to sell you on the idea of investing in the latest trend or layout, you're better off going with a proven result. In the end, it all comes down to user experience, and today's online user is interested in a clutter-free, simplistic design that eliminates distractions and allows them to hone in on a clear call-to-action.

    Be Smart With Your Web Design

    As the internet landscape becomes increasingly crowded, it's becoming more and more apparent that search engine visibility is a scarce commodity. If you want to maximize your potential for accruing high ranking SERPs, keep the information in this article in mind and don't ignore the importance of web design as it relates to SEO.

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Paid search is still frustrating for searchers

    by Mike Moran

    When I speak to groups, I often ask how many people never click on paid search ads and many hands go up--usually half the room. It ain't true. Estimates are that around one-quarter of all search clicks are on paid search ads and it is 100% of Google's search income, so most people click on ads at least once in a while. But people raise their hands because they still get frustrated by paid ads and they wish they hadn't clicked on them. 

    Part of the frustration comes from advertisers who use broad match for keywords. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with doing so--maybe it works most of the time--but frequently the searchers are looking for something far more specific than the the advertiser pays off with. Take a look at this example of the results of a very specific Google search: 

    nordicware-search  
    Take a look at the ad that is highlighted in purple--it looks like a good choice and it is from the well-known retailer Target. But look what you get when you click on the ad:
     target-nordicware  
    Target responds with an internal search-generated page that searched for only a couple of the words from the original keyword. And it really doesn't provide results that isolate anything specific enough to make the searcher happy. 

    This is not an isolated incident. I searched for fence removal and saw ads that contained the words, but when I clicked through, all the pages talked about was fence installation and fence repair. What's happening here is that advertisers are buying short, simple keywords and using broad match to cast a wide net. But because they are matching these deep, long-tail keywords, they are showing searchers a far less specific answer to the question--a broad match for fence will match fence removal. It will also match fence alternative or electric fence or many other phrases they don't want traffic for. 

    The best idea would be to use negative keywords so that the ads were not shown for such obvious misses as fence removal. But worse is that they use techniques that dynamically insert the keyword into the ad, so the ad says fence removal even though the advertiser doesn't remove fences. 

    It's a double whammy. If you use this approach, you pay for clicks for people who will never buy. You must comb through your paid search referrals to see the keywords that do not convert. Over time, you should aggregate the words that have the lowest conversion rates to form your negative keyword list. If you don't, you are throwing your money away and annoying your prospective customers.

    Originally posted on Biznology

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



  • Mobilegeddon: Is Your Website Visible on Mobile Searches?

    by Jayson DeMers

    Owners of websites are starting to see impact from Google's recent algorithm update known as "mobilegeddon," which launched on April 21, 2015. The major impact of this algorithm update is that mobile devices now have very different search results than those displayed on desktop browsers. The reason for this change is to ensure users on mobile devices have a consistently positive experience.

    Google's decision mostly considers "mobile friendliness" of a site. Prior to its release, Google prepared website owners with a handy FAQ, communicating that the changes were being rolled out throughout the course of 1-2 weeks. Although desktops and tablet search results are not affected, almost 50% of searches are now performed on mobile devices, so this algorithm change could have huge impacts across the mobile spectrum.

    According to Marketingland, only 11.8% of the top 100 websites are responsive, which is one of the reasons Google is changing their approach. If you consider the mobile web experience, it's not surprising Google had to make a change -  57% of users say they won't recommend a business that doesn't have a mobile-friendly site, and 40% claim they have chosen a competitor because they had a mobile-friendly site. Mobile websites often don't provide enough information either, with over half of users complaining of this problem, and becoming frustrated.

    Winners and Losers

    Now that we're nearly a week removed from the initial launch of the algorithm, we're starting to see impacts on mobile search results, and some of the winners and losers are becoming clear. Companies like Searchmetrics have started evaluating sites and watching their search results fall due to the mobile impact and have created active lists of who's gaining and who's losing page rank due to the changes.

    Winners:  GQ.com, Washingtontimes.com, TV Tropes, Entertainment Tonight, Foreign Affairs, imgur, Mother Jones, PC Gamer, and Newsweek.

    Losers: Major sites like last.fm, Reddit, NBC Sports, SongLyrics, Bloomberg Business, Fool, Census.gov, and walmartstores.com.

    Interestingly, Reddit and NBC Sports have native apps, so mobile-optimizing their sites may be considered unnecessary by their executive leadership. They have technically made the transition to mobile, and yet are still seeing search visibility losses because their websites aren't considered mobile-friendly.

    Should You Optimize? 

    This change leaves many business owners worried that they'll need to start making expensive changes to make their websites responsive or mobile-friendly. I've talked to several website owners who are concerned that making changes could have unintended consequences, and most wonder how much impact such changes will really have on their business.

    My advice is that if you have a large millennial audience, you should absolutely make changes to become mobile-optimized. If you're tracking your site visits, check to see where most of your traffic is coming from. If you're seeing an uptick in mobile traffic, mobile-optimization may actually increase your overall conversion rates.

    Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Take the Mobile Friendly Test from Google.

     

    Be sure and visit our small business news site.



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