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https://relativityseo.com/seo-services/ Jeremy Knauff – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 04 Dec 2018 18:17:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.1 Don’t skip these critical recurring SEO tasks /dont-skip-these-critical-recurring-seo-tasks-308747 Tue, 04 Dec 2018 17:32:40 +0000 /?p=308747 As we near the end of the year, it's time to review broken links, plugins, functionality and page speed before there is a crisis.

The post Don’t skip these critical recurring SEO tasks appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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No matter how perfectly you’ve optimized a website, it will always require constant maintenance. This is because figuratively speaking, much like a vehicle, there are a lot of moving parts and many of those parts have an impact on others.

In other words — SEO will never be done. It’s a constantly moving target.

There are some tasks, like migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, that are done once. Other tasks are performed on a weekly or monthly like content development, and others that might be conducted on a quarterly or yearly basis.

As we near the end of the year, many marketers will begin planning for next year. It’s equally important to review what we’ve done throughout the year to make sure that our work didn’t inadvertently cause issues in other areas. This helps us to get the most from our efforts as well as to begin next year with a head start.

In this article, I’m going to dig into the tasks that we typically handle on a quarterly or yearly basis, because frankly, they often get ignored until there is a crisis. Proactively handling them will give you a powerful advantage over competitors.

Crawl for broken links

Pages get moved or deleted. Images get replaced. External resources move or even disappear.

Over time, these seemingly minor changes can have a significant impact on a website. Often the impact is positive. But when it results in broken links that aren’t resolved, the negative impact can add up quickly.

It’s easy to fix some broken links on the spot by updating the main navigation when core pages are moved or deleted. It can be more complicated when internal links within content come into play.

This is where specialized tools are especially useful.

Rather than manually reviewing each page, which is what we had to do when I first got into SEO, you can simply use automated software to do the heavy lifting. An added benefit is that unlike humans with short attention spans, the software will catch every broken link.

Review content for quality and relevance

You should be producing content regularly.

If you’re doing that, you’ll typically find that over time, some of that content will become irrelevant or may no longer meet your quality standards. Some of this content may need to be pruned or improved.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the nature of content development.

As we approach the end of the year, now is the effect time for this. Most business owners are elbow deep in evaluating their performance for the year and planning for the next year.

I recently reviewed one of our client’s websites for this reason and found a tremendous amount of content, that while useful at one point, no longer served a purpose.

This happens for a variety of reasons.

For this particular client, in some cases, it was news related to their industry that was no longer relevant. In others, it was content about specific internal events. And in some, fortunately, rare cases, it was content created by the client’s staff that never should have been created in the first case.

Once you’ve identified the content on your website that doesn’t meet your quality and/or relevance standards, you’ll need to determine what to do with it.

Some content may no longer be relevant because of changes in your industry or your business. This content can be deleted, and the URLs should then be redirected to the most relevant content that still exists. If there is nothing relevant to a particular page that’s being deleted, then you can delete it without setting up a redirect. However, if that page has any inbound links or has received any organic traffic in the past twelve months, I highly encourage you to find something on your website to redirect it to.

Some content may simply no longer meet your quality guidelines. Perhaps your writing skills have improved dramatically. Or maybe the content is simply too thin.

The solution to lower-quality content is simple — improve it.

This may mean rewriting the content, adding additional information, and even including images, data, and links to other external resources. Just remember — longer isn’t always better. You should aim to answer your visitors’ query clearly and concisely. Skip the fluff. If you can say everything that needs to be said with just 750 words, then there won’t be anything gained by inflating it to 3,000 words.

Test for page speed

We already know, thanks to data from a variety of sources, that page speed has a dramatic impact on user experience. We also know that it is a ranking factor, both because we’ve seen the evidence and because Google has told us.

Just as low-quality content can grow over time, small tweaks to your website can add up to adversely affect page speed over time as well.

A font file here, a JavaScript library there, and before you know it, your website is crawling along slower than that dump truck you got stuck behind at rush hour. And don’t even get me started on WordPress plugins.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that this happens to most websites that are maintained and updated regularly. That’s why it’s so important to regularly test page speed especially on your highest traffic pages.

If you have a small website (under 1,000 pages), then I recommend testing all of your pages. The task isn’t as monumental as it may seem. We’ll talk about the execution shortly.

For websites over 1,000 pages, my recommendation is to first test the pages that drive 30 percent of your traffic. Next, test any pages not included in that dataset that are critical to your business. And finally, identify the pages in the bottom 10 percent in terms of organic traffic, highlight any that are somewhat to moderately important, and test them.

The good news is that you don’t need to manually test each page. You can collect the initial data right inside of Google analytics.

If a page typically loads in under three seconds, you’re good to go. If it typically takes longer than three seconds, it’s time to use a tool like WebPageTest.org or GTmetrics to identify the elements that are causing the issues.

If fixing these type of issues is something you’re not familiar with, you can check out a recent article I published on the topic, titled How to rev up your page speed for better website performance.

Review WordPress plugins

I mentioned earlier that WordPress plugins could have a negative impact on page speed. This is because they often include CSS and JavaScript files and sometimes will even include JavaScript libraries that have already been enqueued by WordPress core, the theme or other plugins. Some will also include fonts like FontAwesome or Ionic Icons, which more often than not, are loaded remotely. This has a tremendous and adverse impact on page speed. But the problems don’t end there.

Plugins must be updated by the author regularly to continue functioning properly. This is due to changes in:

  • WordPress
  • PHP and JavaScript
  • HTML standards
  • Browsers

But for a variety of reasons, plugin authors may infrequently update their plugins to keep up with changes in this environment, or in some cases, may simply abandon them entirely.

This can affect functionality, appearance, page speed, and even technical SEO. In some cases, it can even render an entire website inaccessible.

It’s wise to review WordPress plugins regularly—not just in terms of you having the most current version installed, but also in terms of whether the author has kept the plugin up to date with current standards.

While doing this, I also recommend putting serious thought into whether each plugin is really necessary. If you can eliminate a plugin, not only will you typically improve page speed, but you’ll also reduce your maintenance workload and potentially improve security. It’s a win all the way around.

Test layout and functionality in major browsers

I explained how incremental changes to your website could impact page speed, but they can also impact how some pages look and function.

I had this happen to me recently with a client’s website.

We made a change to the CSS file to change the appearance of a particular section but didn’t realize until it has been live for a few days that it also changed the appearance in another section. It was pure coincidence that we stumbled across the other section and spotted the issue.

Imagine how small changes throughout weeks or months could inadvertently add up to drastically affect the layout and functionality of unintended elements.

I recommend taking an approach similar to the one I explained for testing page speed. First, identify the pages that drive 30 percent of your organic traffic for testing. Then identify any pages not part of this group that is critical to your business. You can skip the pages that deliver the bottom 10 percent of your organic traffic.

Unfortunately, to test layout and functionality, you will need to manually check these pages, but in most cases, it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds per page.

The post Don’t skip these critical recurring SEO tasks appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Website redesign mistakes that destroy SEO /website-redesign-mistakes-that-destroy-seo-306182 Thu, 04 Oct 2018 18:02:00 +0000 /?p=306182 To keep up with user preferences, you have to redesign your website now and then. Learn how to avoid the most common pitfalls when you do.

The post Website redesign mistakes that destroy SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Redesigning a website, whether it’s your own or a client’s, is an essential part of marketing today. It’s essential because technology, trends, and the expectations of users change over time, and if we want to remain competitive, we must keep pace with these changes.

But this task, while essential, also presents certain risks from an SEO perspective. A number of things can go wrong during the process. These issues can potentially cause search engines to no longer view that website as the authoritative answer to relevant queries. In some cases, certain mistakes can even result in penalties.

No one wants that.

So in this article, we’re going to explore some of the common web design mistakes that can destroy SEO. Knowing the potential risks may help you avoid making the kind of mistakes that tank your organic search traffic.

Leaving the development environment crawlable / indexable

People handle development environments in a lot of different ways. Most simply set up a subfolder under their domain. Some may create a domain strictly for development. Then there are those who take the kind of precautions to hide their development environment that would give a CIA agent a warm fuzzy feeling in that empty spot where their heart should be.

I tend to fall into the latter category.

Search engines are generally going to follow links and index the content they find along the way — sometimes even when you explicitly tell them not to. That creates problems because they could index two versions of the same website, potentially causing issues with both content and links.

Because of that, I place as many roadblocks as possible in the way of search engines trying to access my development environment.

Here’s what I do. The first step is to use a clean URL that has never been used for a live website before. This ensures there are no links pointing to it. Next, disallow all bots using robots.txt, and set up an empty index page so that other folders are not visible. In the past, I’ve even gone as far as setting up password protection, but in most cases, that may be overkill. You can make that call.

From there, I’ll set up a separate folder for each website in development. Typically, the folder name will be a combination of incomplete words so that it’s unlikely to be found randomly. WordPress will then be installed in these folders, and configured to also block bots at this level.

Arbitrarily changing image names on pages that rank well

This isn’t always an issue, but if a web page is ranking well, changing the name of an image on that page may cause a loss of ranking. Especially if the web designer doesn’t know what they’re doing.

I’ve seen this happen more than a few times, where a client hires a web designer who doesn’t understand SEO to redesign a website that already ranks well. As part of the redesign process, they replace old images with new, larger images, but, lacking the appropriate experience, they use stupid image names that provide zero SEO value, like image1.jpg.

This takes away a vital piece of context that search engines use to determine where a particular web page should rank.

Deleting pages or changing page URLs without redirecting them

During a redesign, some pages will almost certainly no longer be needed. Less experienced web designers will often simply delete them. Other pages may be moved and/or renamed, which in most cases, changes their URL. In these cases, inexperienced web designers often change these URLs and consider the task complete.

This is a big mistake because some of those pages may already rank well. They might have inbound links pointing to them or have been bookmarked by visitors.

When you delete pages that already have inbound links, you’ll lose all of the SEO value from those links. In some cases, this could result in a drastic loss of ranking.

The issue goes even deeper though. Anyone clicking those links or bookmarks will be greeted by a 404 page. That presents zero value to anyone, and more importantly, it creates a negative user experience. This is important because Google has confirmed that user experience is a ranking factor.

The proper way to delete pages is to redirect any them to the most relevant page that currently exists. As for moving pages, which includes anything that changes the URL of that page in any way, it’s equally important to redirect the old URL to the new one.

In both scenarios, a 301 redirect should generally be used. This tells search engines that the old page has been permanently moved to the new location. For most hosting platforms, this is best accomplished by adding the appropriate entry into your .htaccess file.

If you’re unable to see a .htaccess file on your server, you may need to adjust the settings on your FTP program to view hidden files.

Some specialized hosting platforms may utilize a different method, so you may need to check with their support team to determine how to accomplish it.

Not performing a full crawl after migration to and from the development environment

Regardless of the method you use for migration you’re bound to run into some errors.  Typically you’ll first migrate the live website into your development environment, and then later, send it back to the live server after you’ve made and tested changes.

One that I run into frequently is links within content pointing to the wrong place. For example, within a page or post on the live website, you may have a link that points to:

domain.com/services/

Once migrated to the development environment, it may be:

devdomain.com/client123/services/

All is fine and good so far, right?

But sometimes, while migrating the completed website back over to the live server, the content in pages and posts may still contain links pointing to the pages within the development environment.

This is just one example. There are countless links to content within a website — including links to the essential image, JavaScript, and CSS files.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. A tool like Screaming Frog, which runs from your desktop, or a cloud-based tool like SEMrush, can be used to crawl every single link within your website. This includes the text links visible on the front end, as well as all of the links to image, JavaScript, and CSS files that are tucked away in the HTML of a website.

Be sure to review all links to external sources once the new website has been migrated to the live server because any links pointing to your development environment will appear as external links — when you find “external links” that should really be internal links, you can make the appropriate corrections.

This step is essential after migrating in either direction, in order to prevent potentially catastrophic errors.

Failing to perform a complete function check on everything

Once a redesigned website has been migrated to the live server, you need to do more than quickly review a few pages to make sure things look OK. Instead, it’s essential to physically test everything to make sure it not only looks right, but also functions properly.

This includes:

  • Contact forms.
  • E-commerce functionality.
  • Search capabilities.
  • Interactive tools.
  • Multimedia players.
  • Analytics.
  • Google Search Console / Bing Webmaster Tools verification.
  • Tracking pixels.
  • Dynamic ads.

Failing to reconfigure WordPress and plugins after migration to the live server

Remember how we talked about the importance of putting up a wall between your development environment and the search engines’ crawlers? Well, it’s even more important to tear that wall down after migrating the website to the live server.

Failing to do this is easy. It’s also devastating. In fact, it’s a mistake I made several years ago.

After migrating a client’s website to their live server, I forgot to uncheck the box in Yoast SEO that told search engines not to crawl or index it. Unfortunately, no one noticed for a few days, at which point, the website had been almost completely dropped from Google’s index. Fortunately, they didn’t rely on organic traffic, and, once I unchecked that box, the website was quickly reindexed.

Because of the impact mistakes like these can have, it’s critical that after migration to the live server, you immediately check the configuration of WordPress as well as any plugins that could affect how search engines treat your website.

This includes plugins for:

  • SEO.
  • Redirection.
  • Sitemaps.
  • Schema.
  • Caching.

Neglecting to pay attention to detail

None of these mistakes are particularly complicated or difficult to avoid. You simply need to be aware of them, implement a plan to avoid them, and pay close attention to detail.

The post Website redesign mistakes that destroy SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Here’s how to ‘expertly’ hit a link-building home run /heres-how-to-expertly-hit-a-link-building-home-run-304931 Wed, 05 Sep 2018 17:02:00 +0000 /?p=304931 Use expert opinions in content so when you build it, the links will come.

The post Here’s how to ‘expertly’ hit a link-building home run appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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We all know the importance of great content, and we also know that without relevant, authoritative links in sufficient quantities, even great content won’t perform well in search.

What most people don’t know, however, is how to efficiently build — or rather, earn —those relevant, authoritative links.

Sure, everyone understands the basic concept of link outreach, and some search engine optimization (SEO) practitioners even get decent results from it, but very few have truly optimized their approach. And considering our entire job revolves around optimization, our own processes should be optimized as well.

The more efficient and effective you can make your link-building efforts, the more impressive and profitable your results will be. Just because you build it, it doesn’t mean the links will come.

So, let’s take a minute to dissect the wrong approach, and then I’ll share an approach we use at Spartan Media (my company) that’s always a home run.

The wrong approach

If you’re like most SEOs, you create an amazing piece of content and then go on an epic quest to pitch websites to link to it.

I think this is the wrong approach. It may seem like a good way to go about link building, but I feel it’s a backward approach.

You’ve created a piece of content first and then gone out trying to convince people it’s worthwhile to link to. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but you’re essentially performing the online equivalent of door-to-door sales.

You’re pitching the exact same “product” to a generic audience in hopes you’ll cross paths with someone who happens to agree the piece is great and will link to it. Basically, you’re walking door to door, trying to sell vacuum cleaners to housewives in the 1950s. Not a good idea.

Most people won’t link to your content, no matter how great it is, because there is almost no incentive for them. Sure, we’re all trained to parrot the “this will be valuable to your audience” line of thinking, but both you and the person you’re pitching know that it’s really mostly about you.

Until it isn’t.

A home-run approach

Now that we know why creating content first and then trying to build links to it is not the best idea, let’s look at a smarter approach.

Using content is fine; we’re just going to rearrange some aspects of the process and be a little more strategic in how we develop our content. This will create a powerful incentive for other people to link to it. Here’s how I do it:

  1. We identify a topic we want to rank for. It’s important to remember we need to think beyond the old-school concept of “keyword phrases” and think instead about more general keyword topics.
  2. We identify relevant and authoritative websites and influencers to target in our content development and outreach. We’ll benefit from getting a link from these sites from an algorithmic standpoint, but equally important is the human element. We’re not just targeting the people involved in managing a website, but also the people who form the public face of the company. Generally, the more well-known this person is in the industry you’re targeting, the better.
  3. We connect with those influencers with the intent to cite them as a subject matter expert. It’s important to approach this with a structured plan. If you just randomly engage, you’ll lose a lot of efficiency and things will fall through the cracks.

A customer relationship management (CRM) system may be helpful here. We use a CRM that integrates with our email system, which makes tracking campaigns a breeze. If you don’t have A CRM, compile the names, contact info and other applicable data into a spreadsheet.

Once we find and determine who our influencers are, we ask for their insight on a particular topic. This is usually done via email, but phone and social outreach work, too, especially if you find it difficult to locate an email address. Since you’re trying to cite them as an expert on a topic, you’ll find people are more willing to respond and share their expertise. People love publicity, and most will jump at the chance of seeing their name in print. Leverage that to your benefit.

Now you have a powerful foundation. The next step is to begin creating the content. Remember, average content won’t cut it these days, and that’s especially true using this approach. Once you have an amazing piece of content with a few quotes included from industry influencers, the fun part begins.

We’ll send them a draft to review and ask for additional comments and insights. Most people add more content that is good for them and you. We also send a draft to get our influencers excited about seeing their name in another publication and to remind them about the article. We’re making it real (before it’s real) and in the process, building anticipation.

Depending on the length of your content, you may be able to include several quotes. When my team creates content like this, it’s long-form and usually going to be in the range of 2,000 to 5,000 words. Under these circumstances, I’m generally comfortable including three to seven quotes, but that may vary, based on the type and how the content is formatted.

Once the content has been published, our last step is to let the influencers know it’s online and where they can find it. Once that is done and the expert sees how much effort we’ve put into the content, we ask for the link.

This is one reason we target senior positions in a company. If the CEO was quoted and tells her marketing people or webmaster to link to it, you can bet they will.

This approach necessitates creating truly amazing content. Simply slapping a quote into a mediocre article and then asking an influencer quoted in the article to link will be transparently manipulative, void of any value and completely ineffective. Why waste your time finding an influential source to quote if she’s not going to support the article? Just do it right by creating great content.

Repurposing old content with new quotes

Most of your content or web pages will need to be updated from time to time, so look at this as an opportunity to include new experts. You’ll still reach out to experts in the same way, but instead of a brand-new piece of content, you will be including new content in a piece of content you’re updating. Nothing really changes in your approach.

Find the gold before you build the content

We all want to be as efficient and profitable as possible while delivering maximum value. By identifying a few ideal sites and experts first, you can more effectively develop content that the people behind those websites are more likely to link to.

The post Here’s how to ‘expertly’ hit a link-building home run appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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How to rev up your page speed for better website performance /how-to-rev-up-your-pagespeed-for-better-website-performance-303390 Wed, 08 Aug 2018 13:32:00 +0000 /?p=303390 Improving page speed isn’t some arcane and mysterious dark art. Contributor Jeremy Knauff reviews everything from plug-ins to CDNs and points out what you can do to improve your page speed without a bunch of hocus-pocus.

The post How to rev up your page speed for better website performance appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Page speed is now a ranking factor on mobile search. That means it’s a critically important component in all of your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts because of its impact on user experience.

According to research conducted by Financial Times, a 1-second slower page results in a 5 percent reduction in reader engagement.

Google states over half of the visits made to mobile sites are abandoned if it takes more than 3 seconds for the screen to load.

The bottom line is simple: Page speed plays a significant role in performance, whether we’re talking about paid or organic search, reader engagement, sales or lead generation.

Fortunately, improving page speed isn’t some arcane and mysterious dark art. You won’t need to brew a special potion, summon demons, or sell your soul. You’ll just need to have a decent understanding of certain technologies and invest some good old-fashioned hard work to bring it all together.

Establish a baseline

The first step is to establish a baseline. By doing that, we can obtain a quantifiable measurement of speed and identify the work we’ll need to do to improve it. Some of the tools I use for this are:

Google PageSpeed Insights

Once you have your tools lined up and a baseline, it’s time to get to work.

Understand how websites work

Most people — including many of those who claim to be developers — lack a proper understanding of how websites really work. That’s why we see so many bloated and inefficient websites today.

We’re at an interesting point in internet history where literally anyone can create a website with just a few clicks. While that comes with certain advantages, it also creates a whole world of new problems.

Think about it like this: If someone knew nothing about architecture, but used software that enabled them to create blueprints for a bridge with just a few clicks, would you feel comfortable driving across that bridge once it was built? I certainly wouldn’t.

That’s because there is a lot more to architecture than our own personal preferences. There are specific structures required to serve specific purposes. There are precise calculations to determine the load-bearing capacity of various components. And there are code and zoning laws to help ensure a building is safe and fits into the local community.

It’s the same thing with websites.

In order to ensure your website loads quickly, you need to understand hypertext markup language (HTML), cascading style sheets (CSS) and JavaScript at a bare minimum. Ideally, you should also have at least a working knowledge of hypertext preprocessor (PHP) and the inner workings of WordPress. Having a good handle on these elements will allow you to dig into the nuts and bolts of a website and fix the things that are slowing it down.

Minimize HTTP requests

Once upon a time, bandwidth was a minuscule fraction of what we enjoy today, so back then, we would compensate by slicing large images into a series of smaller images. Rather than waiting for a single large image to load, visitors would see the image load in chunks.

Today, the bandwidth available through even a basic internet connection is much better. This has led to lazy developers and impatient visitors.

Each hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) request increases the time it takes for a page to load. Often significantly. In fact, the impact can be so dramatic that a smaller web page with more HTTP requests may actually take longer to fully load than a larger web page with fewer HTTP requests.

How do we reduce the number of HTTP requests our pages make? This is where we roll up our sleeves and start digging into the source code of our website. What we’re looking for here are opportunities to merge or eliminate certain HTTP requests.

CSS and JavaScript files are often the low-hanging fruit here because so many websites have a ton of both. There are three options to handle this:

  • Consolidate all CSS and JavaScript files into one single CSS file and JavaScript file.
  • Install a plug-in that mimics this functionality on the front end, while leaving the actual CSS and JavaScript files untouched on the back end.
  • When possible, delete calls to CSS and JavaScript files completely.

In most cases, you’ll need to use a combination of these options. That’s because if your website is built on WordPress, merging CSS and JavaScript files from plug-ins into a single file could cause problems when one or more of those plug-ins are updated.

Generally, I’ll first identify any CSS and JavaScript files that aren’t needed and remove them. The speed improvement you can make at this stage can be significant because many themes load a lot of unnecessary files. This might include fonts you aren’t using, separate CSS files for color variations and individual JavaScript files for functionality that you aren’t using, to name just a few.

Next, I ensure that all CSS and JavaScript files for that website are merged into a single CSS file and JavaScript file.

Finally, I’ll utilize a plug-in that merges all CSS and JavaScript files — for the theme as well the plug-ins — into a single file when the page is loaded, leaving the actual files untouched in the background.

I recommend using sprites to trim back HTTP requests generated by image files. This won’t work for every image, but it efficiently uses images that are used repeatedly throughout a website. This might include your logo, social media icons and navigational elements.

The idea here is that you put all of these images into a single file, and then use CSS to define the container for that element and appropriately position the image within that container. Now, instead of a dozen or more individual HTTP requests, you can simply make one. How’s that for efficient?

You may also want to consider replacing at least some of those images with a web font like FontAwesome.com, which gives you a lot more flexibility with the same or smaller file size.

If you go that route, you should download the necessary files and host them locally rather than remotely. Calls to external files can have a dramatic and detrimental effect on page speed. I’ve seen differences as large as one second or more when a website loads a file from an external source.

Go easy on the plug-ins

Plug-ins are some of the things that make WordPress awesome. They’re also some of the things that can make it terrible because they could be poorly programmed, resulting in poor performance. They also often load several CSS, JavaScript and image files, even those already loaded, such as JQuery.

This can get real messy real quick.

Each plug-in, no matter how lightweight, will place a load on your server when it serves a web page. Add up a few and the difference is noticeable, and that’s before we even talk about the CSS, JavaScript and image files it may need to load.

Here’s the problem: adding plug-ins often starts small but quickly evolves into an uncontrollable monster because web designers presenting themselves as web developers don’t know how to program the functionality they need. So they add one plug-in here and another there, and before you know it, there are dozens humming along behind the scenes.

I was involved in a project where an agency wanted to use their “developer,” who was really nothing more than a guy who installed plug-ins. To achieve the functionality the client wanted, the “developer” ended up installing 46 plug-ins! As you can imagine, the website slowed to a crawl, and since the “developer” didn’t know how to program and relied on the plug-ins, he hardcoded a warning within the admin area for the client not to update the plug-ins.

What a mess.

I recommend either investing the time to learn PHP and JavaScript or hiring a real developer who can build the functionality you need without a lot of bloated extras that will slow down a website.

Ditch the discount web hosting

We all want to save money, but your web hosting is not where you want to cut corners. It’s not a commodity. There’s a tremendous difference between that $10 a month hosting package from a bottom-end web host and a $30 a month hosting package from a higher-end web host like WP Engine.

Cheap web hosting is cheap for a reason.

Bargain hosting packages are not built for performance, they simply cram as many websites as they can onto each server and don’t optimize for speed. As a result, your website will load painfully slowly.

I’ve had this conversation with many clients, and often, their response is something to the effect of “Well, it loads quickly for me.”

Here’s the thing: it really doesn’t.

Most people have an unconscious bias toward their own website because they have an emotional attachment to it. They overlook its flaws because it’s theirs. Sort of like a parent who is not bothered by their children screaming at a restaurant while most of the other guests are.

But don’t take my word for it, there are several tools you can use to test the actual speed of a website.

A few years ago, I started making web hosting a top priority to help my clients achieve faster loading web pages. A friend recommended one of the specialized WordPress hosting companies, and I decided to give it a try.

I was floored in the very best way. Up until that point, I had always used bargain web hosting and tried to optimize for speed using caching plug-ins. But a WordPress hosting company operates specifically to serve WordPress at blazingly high speeds and is well worth the investment. I was seeing a 40 percent increase in speed even before caching and other fine tunings.

Invest in robust, high-quality web hosting and put in the same fine-tuning for speed that you ordinarily would. You’ll achieve a dramatic improvement over most, if not all of your competitors.

Leverage minification, caching and a CDN

Once you’ve gone through all my previous steps and have gotten to this point, you are ready to fine-tune. Your next steps can still create significant improvements, but you should expect a bit of trial and error as you move forward.

Minification. Minification is the process of stripping out unnecessary characters from CSS and JavaScript files. This includes white space, comments and trailing semicolons. The goal here is to make the files smaller.

This one might be tricky because it often breaks a website, so you’ll need to experiment to see how aggressive you can be and which files you can include.

You can manually process the files, but I prefer to use a plug-in that does this on the fly so that my files remain easily readable. It makes editing them a lot easier. Depending on your web host, this may already be built into their system.

Caching. Caching dramatically improves page speed because it saves dynamically generated HTML files and serves them from the cache (i.e., reusing previously generated data) each time a request is made, rather than running all of the PHP scripts from WordPress every time a page is loaded.

Caching, like minification, can be tricky because certain settings may break your website, so expect to face some trial and error here, too.

You have two options here:

  1. If you’re still using bargain web hosting, you can use a plug-in like W3 Total Cache, WP-Rocket.me, or WP Super Cache.
  2. If you’re using a web host optimized for WordPress, they probably already have caching built into their system.

Content delivery network. A content delivery network (CDN) hosts multiple copies of your files (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images, fonts and so on) on different servers all over the world so that rather than visitors downloading them directly from your server, they download them from one that is closer to them. This results in a dramatically faster download.

There are both free and paid options available, and you’ll have to evaluate what they offer compared to your needs.

I recommend visiting HTML-CSS-JS.com to find solid HTML, CSS and JS tools plus editors, code optimizers and more.

Speed is critical to your success

Improving page speed isn’t some mystical process, but it is highly important for SEO, user experience, and conversions. Invest the time to learn how to improve your page speed or hire a professional to help you. Doing so will help boost your profits, your rankings and customer retention.

The post How to rev up your page speed for better website performance appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Link to my awesome content, please! /link-to-my-awesome-content-please-301660 Tue, 10 Jul 2018 03:59:00 +0000 /?p=301660 Your content may be terrific, but if you lack a smart outreach plan, you're going to fall short, says contributor Jeremy Knauff. Here are several tactics and email templates you can use to execute a thoughtful link-building outreach campaign.

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In my last article, I outlined several tactics for building links in challenging industries. I focused on different ways to create link-worthy content, but as we all know, that’s only half of the equation. The other half is planning a thoughtful link-building outreach campaign, because no matter how awesome your content may be, no one will link to it if they don’t know it exists.

In this article, I’m going to talk about link-building outreach, an equally important aspect of link building at a tactical level.

I’m also going to continue using the hypothetical dumpster rental company I used in the last article as my example industry. While this article uses a particular industry and targets general contractors in the examples, the concepts I share can be applied to any industry.

Create a plan

It’s easy to get excited and dive into a link-building campaign like a kid at the pool on the first day of summer. But if you do, you will probably fail, since jumping in without a plan does little for you.

If you’ve read Tim Ferris’s book “The 4-Hour Work Week,” then you should already be familiar with the concept of batching. If you haven’t read it, batching is basically just performing a particular type of task, such as compiling data or sending emails, in larger blocks of time rather than jumping back and forth between various types of tasks.

Batching is a proven way to increase productivity because in general, humans are no good at multitasking.

Before you get started, you’ll need to decide:

  • What type of link-building prospects you want to approach.
  • What you want them to link to.
  • Why they should link to your content.

Then you’ll need to compile all of the necessary data, set up your systems for outreach and tracking, and then begin engaging with your prospects.

Build your list

Your first step is to decide on the type of link-building prospects you want to target. There are a few ways we can go about compiling the data we need:

  • You can compile a list from one or more Google searches.
  • If you’re involved in networking and/or trade organizations, you will have access to a member directory, or perhaps even a comma-separated values (CSV) file of the member list.
  • You can utilize a tool to create a list based on a specific set of criteria.

I recommend a combination of all of these methods. That will give you a larger, more diverse pool of websites from which to potentially earn links.

When it comes to building your prospect list, you should place a higher priority on the links that may be easier for you but more difficult for competitors to earn. One example of this might be links from the websites of networking and trade organizations you belong to but your competitors don’t.

Organize and track

There are a lot of ways to organize and track your efforts, so you’ll have to figure out what works best for your workflow.  This may require some trial and error.

At Spartan Media (my company) we compile our list of link-building prospects in Google Sheets. Since we’re using G Suite Business, we create the document in a team folder. This means that the folder, rather than an individual, owns the document so we don’t have to worry about who it’s shared with. Anyone who has access to the folder will be able to see and edit the document, which eliminates a lot of administrative headaches — especially if you have larger teams working on your link-building efforts.

This spreadsheet contains all of the applicable contact information and any domain metrics that we feel are relevant to the campaign, as well as dates and some details on our communications with the owner or administrator of that website.

We also utilize HubSpot as our customer relationship management (CRM), which tracks all of our outbound emails and enables us to tag link-building prospects and relationships so we can continue working together over time. This relationship tool helps build links more quickly because we can simply perform a quick search in HubSpot to find contacts who have linked to pages for us in the past and reach out to them again.

Gmail integrates with HubSpot to facilitate tracking, and we also add a paid plugin called Boomerang for Gmail to help make sure nothing falls through the cracks. This enables us to create a reminder in the event that we don’t receive a response within a particular time frame. Boomerang is a great feature. Here’s a very quick look at the tool:

It’s important to note that it’s easy to go too far when it comes to following up. I generally won’t send more than two or three emails if I haven’t received a response because it’s pretty clear that they aren’t interested. Continuing to email at this point will only annoy potential link-building prospects.

Connect and engage

You’ve probably seen some pretty bad examples of link-building outreach emails, and if we’re being honest, you’ve probably even sent a few. I know I have. But it’s critical to get the outreach right, because if you don’t, all of your efforts will be wasted.

In some cases, you can get results from a cold email and ask potential link-building prospects for a link, but you will get even better results when you get their attention by first doing something of value for them.

Building high-quality links that create sustainable organic ranking often requires more than brute force; it requires real engagement with other humans. This might be as simple as sharing one or more of their posts on the social networks or something a little more involved, like introducing them to a mutually beneficial contact.

Each message will need to be tailored to the individual link prospect in order to be effective, and you should identify certain demographic groups for which a certain type of message works well.

Here are a few types of messages that would work well under different conditions.

Approach fellow members of an organization. This tactic works particularly well if you’re in a network or trade organization together because there is generally a common bond and implied trust. From there, it’s a relatively simple matter of explaining how your content solves a problem their customers have in a way that also benefits the contractor. An email in this area might look like this:

Subject: Favor for fellow [trade organization] member?

Hi [Name],

You and I are in the [name of trade organization] together, and when I asked Tom Smith for a few of the best contractors in the group, your name was one that he gave me.

Since a lot of our customers rent our dumpsters for home construction projects, I’ve published an article about choosing the right contractor.

[URL]

I was hoping that you would add a link to it from your website so more people can find it. My goal is that it will help educate people so that they can tell the difference between contractors like you and all the other guys.

Use this tactic with care, because these link prospects are people who know each other and who you’ll likely run into at meetings and events for the organization you’re both a part of. If you come on too strong, you could hurt your chance of earning links from other members of the organization down the road.

Bestow expert/authority status. This can be an effective approach even if you’ve never engaged with the link prospect before because it caters to their ego. After all, who doesn’t want to be cited as an expert in their field?

Subject: Can I get your input?

Hi [Name],

I’ve heard about your experience and the quality of your work, so I’d like to include a quote from you in an article I’ve published about choosing the right contractor.

When you have a minute, take a look at the article here [URL] and send me a quote to include. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, a few sentences should be fine.

Once you’ve included their quote, they might link to the article on their own to showcase the fact that they are a sought-after expert. If not, it’s simple enough to ask them to do so.

While it may be tempting to remove quotes from people who are unwilling to link to your website, doing so will only ensure that they never will. They may also mention the situation with peers, making it more difficult for you to get other contractors to link to your website in the future.

Because of this, you need to carefully choose the contractors you want to quote based not only on obvious criteria, like their authority and knowledge but also on the likelihood of their linking to your website.

For example, a website that hasn’t been updated in years or doesn’t link to any external websites would typically be a bad prospect, while one that is updated frequently and often links to other external websites would typically be a good one.

Provide a killer resource. People will generally only link to things that provide value to them, their audience and/or customers. A powerful way to do this is to create a comprehensive resource that is not only useful for their customers but also helps contractors to earn new business.

Subject: Did I leave anything out?

Hi [Name],

Would you mind sharing your insight on something?

I’ve created this article to help people to decide whether to take a DIY approach or hire a contractor. I think you and I both know that most people are better off hiring a licensed contractor, so I tried to outline all of the things that go into a home remodeling project so they can see how difficult, time-consuming and complicated it really is.

Can you tell me if I’ve left anything out?

[URL]

P.S. If you think this is a good resource that will help steer people away from making the mistake of taking the DIY approach, I’d love for you to place a link to it from your website. That will help more people see it and hopefully drive some customers your way.

As the outreach email implies, this resource should honestly and ethically steer visitors (homeowners) away from the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach by demonstrating just how difficult, time-consuming and complicated particular projects are. The more convincing this is, the more likely contractors will be to link to it.

Make it better

It’s important to point out that when I say “create a killer resource,” I mean “make it exponentially better than anything else” online.

Don’t make it longer just for the sake of a higher word count, but make sure it becomes the Holy Grail of information on that topic, to include text content, images, video and/or audio where applicable.

Average content isn’t going to motivate anyone to link to it. Long live awesome content!

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Building links in boring industries /building-links-in-boring-industries-299890 Mon, 11 Jun 2018 19:46:00 +0000 /?p=299890 Fresh out of ideas on how to build links to a boring site? Contributor Jeremy Knauff walks us through his process for creating a successful link-building campaign for even the dullest of sites.

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It’s safe to say that most search engine optimization (SEO) practitioners today understand the role that relevant, high-quality links play in achieving organic ranking and traffic.

What is less understood, however, is how to earn those links in sufficient volume to achieve and maintain results — especially when it comes to industries that some may consider boring.

Recently, I was talking with several SEO professionals about some of the most boring industries they’ve had to build links for. We all had a few, but there was one that topped us all with a client in the dumpster rental industry.

Since the dumpster rental business is unique and, some might say, boring, I decided to take on the challenge of figuring out how to build links for a site in that industry and share it here. But this is less about how to build links for that particular industry and more about the thought process that goes into successful link-building campaigns in industries that are on the dull side.

Making the mundane interesting

There are certain industries where it’s infinitely easier to earn links in than others. I think we can all agree that a high-tech product like software is significantly more exciting than something like dumpster rentals, so it’s not much of a stretch to say that earning links for it would be significantly easier.

In the case of dumpster rentals, you could seek links from other dumpster rental companies, which would keep you busy for a while. But to displace the websites currently in the top positions, and then maintain your newfound ranking for the long term, you’ll need links from other sources, too.

The truth is that there are no boring industries, only boring ideas. A creative mind can imagine ways to make even the most mundane topic interesting to the right audience. And therein lies the key: You don’t need to make something interesting to everyone, just to the right people.

Think how your product or service impacts other industries

No industry stands alone, because every industry impacts other industries. This creates a number of link-building opportunities by identifying who uses your products and how they use them and then developing valuable content that serves their needs.

Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

General contractors

If you’ve ever done a home improvement project, you probably have learned that remodeling results in a lot of waste materials, especially during the demolition phase. As a result, contractors will often rent a dumpster to haul away these materials.

You could write a comprehensive article about choosing the right contractor, complete with all of the resources necessary, such as:

  • Links to local code enforcement departments.
  • Addresses and phone numbers of local home improvement/building supply stores.
  • Link to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation so homeowners can check whether a general contractor is properly licensed.
  • Embedded YouTube videos about various home improvement projects to give homeowners a better idea of if they’re better off hiring a general contractor instead of taking the DIY approach.
  • Links to local Homeowners Associations.
  • Links to websites and apps where homeowners can search for local general contractors.
  • Link to the Division of Workers’ Compensation Compliance so homeowners can check if a general contractor has workers compensation insurance.
  • Links to organizations that may be able to help homeowners find reliable licensed general contractors, such as chambers of commerce, builders associations and so on.
  • Embedded videos or links to current articles about local home improvement trends.

Real estate agents

Thanks to the nature of their business, real estate agents often have relationships with homeowners long before they’ve begun a home improvement project. In some cases, this is because the homeowners must make improvements in order to sell their home in a competitive market, and in other cases, it’s because they want to make improvements after being unable to sell their home.

In either case, these homeowners may need to rent a dumpster to accommodate the waste materials that result from the project. This provides an opportunity to earn links from real estate websites by creating an in-depth article that connects real estate to renovations. Some ideas might include:

  • How to decide whether to sell or renovate your home.
  • Which home improvement projects offer the greatest increase in home value/potential sale price.
  • How to tell when it’s time for a new roof, and what the replacement process entails.
  • Trendy home improvement projects (i.e., projects that may hurt the long-term value/potential sale price).

Landscaping contractors

Large outdoor projects, like resodding your lawn, adding flower beds and trimming trees can quickly produce more waste than you can fit in your garbage cans, so just like with remodeling projects, many homeowners will rent a dumpster.

This is another type of project where homeowners can quickly get in over their heads, so it’s a perfect opportunity to create a comprehensive article about choosing the right landscaping company, complete with all of the resources necessary, such as:

  • Links to local code enforcement departments.
  • Addresses and phone numbers of local home improvement/landscaping supply stores.
  • Information about types of plants that thrive in your area, and which types to avoid.
  • Link to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation so homeowners can check if a landscaping contractor is properly licensed.
  • Embedded YouTube videos about various landscaping projects to give homeowners a better idea of if they’re better off hiring a landscaping contractor instead of taking the DIY approach.
  • Links to local Homeowners Associations.
  • Links to websites and apps where homeowners can search for local landscaping contractors.
  • Link to the Division of Workers’ Compensation Compliance so homeowners can check whether a landscaping contractor has workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Links to organizations that may be able to help homeowners find reliable licensed landscaping contractors, such as chambers of commerce, builders associations and so on.
  • Embedded videos or links to current articles about local landscaping trends.

How to make it all work

These all present the opportunity for you to create amazing, link-worthy content that’s tremendously valuable to the target audience of companies in industries. In each of these cases, you need to think about how your product or service — or more specifically, how the problem that your product or service solves — impacts other industries. The key to success here is to provide valuable information to their audience in a way that makes your link partners look like the heroes.

Whether it’s content you’re providing for them to publish on their website linking back to your website, either ghostwritten for them or as a guest post in your own name, or it’s content published on your own website that you want them to link to, it must:

  • Provide original and valuable information that their audience can use right now, whether they become a customer or not.
  • Be mostly about your link partner and their audience, not about you.
  • Help to demonstrate the value of your link partner in a clear and meaningful way.

Since you’re targeting website owners who aren’t directly in your own industry, they will tend to be more selective when deciding whether to link to your website. This means that your content has to not only be outstanding but also needs to benefit them in a significant way.

While this may sound like a negative, it actually creates an advantage because it forces you to up your game, creating content that’s so amazing that they can’t help but link to it. While that creates the obvious benefit of helping to earn worthwhile links, it also helps to keep visitors on your website longer.

The beauty of this approach is that earning these type of high-quality links requires a lot of work — work that many of your lazier competitors are less likely to do.

It also creates a scenario where everyone — you, your link partner and their audience — wins. And the links you earn tend to be the type of high-quality links that not only move the needle in terms of SEO results but also offer value from a branding and referral traffic standpoint.

Enlist the support of industries that serve your industry

So far, we’ve talked about leveraging other industries that might be impacted by yours, but let’s also look to those who serve your industry. It’s in their best interest for your company to do well, because that means you’ll need more of their products and/or services.

In this case, that might include:

  • Dumpster manufacturers.
  • Manufacturers of the specialized trucks and equipment used to transport these dumpsters.
  • Truck driving schools, because drivers of the vehicles used to transport these dumpsters require a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
  • Workplace drug-testing companies, because commercial drivers must submit to DOT drug testing.
  • Local waste collection facilities and dump yards.
  • Welding and fabrication shops that repair these dumpsters.
  • Local nurseries, which often accept or even buy yard waste to make compost and mulch.

Because of the day-to-day operations of a dumpster rental business, you likely already have relationships with several local contacts in the industries I just listed. From there, it’s relatively easy to ask your contacts for introductions to other people in those industries outside your local area. LinkedIn is a great tool for mining these types of opportunities. Simply comb through the connections of your existing contacts looking for people who either work at or own companies that are somehow relevant to dumpsters.

Let’s say I wanted to connect with people who manufacture the trucks and equipment used to transport dumpsters to identify link-building opportunities. I would find one or more contacts who do that and then ask for an introduction to as many of their LinkedIn connections as I felt comfortable asking for — maybe three to five at the most, because you don’t want to take more value than you’re providing.

Once you have a few mutual contacts, it becomes significantly more effective to send a connection request directly to their other connections whom you feel might be a worthwhile link building opportunities.

You can even take this a step further, getting outside of your own network, by connecting with contributors of the trade publications in these industries.

If you’re going to take this approach, it’s good to plant a seed by first sharing on social media, or better yet, linking to something of theirs before asking them to link to your website.

Ruffle some feathers

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and while it’s not entirely true, it does have some merit.

Publicity– both positive and negative — obviously creates exposure, and it also often helps to earn links. Controversy is a simple and effective way to generate publicity. Fortunately, you don’t need to go full-on “Roseanne” mode to generate that kind of publicity. You just need to push the envelope a bit.

While dumpsters are not a very controversial product, you can find creative ways to tie them to other topics in a controversial way, to generate publicity and links. In today’s society, it seems like people are constantly hunting for things to be offended by, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get them riled up.

Here are a few potential article titles:

  • 5 Tampa Historical Buildings That Should Be Demolished Today.
  • Dumpster Diving for Fun and Profit — How to Live Like a King on Other Peoples’ Trash.
  • 3 Home Renovation Television Show Episodes That Went Horribly Wrong.
  • XYZ Dumpster Rentals Offers Free Dumpsters to Store [insert name of political candidate]’s Campaign Promises.
  • 7 Hollywood Careers That Are Indistinguishable From the Trash in Our Dumpsters.
  • You’re Better Off Living in a Dumpster Than These 5 Cities — Is Yours One of Them?

The key is to find ways to connect dumpsters to topics that people are intensely passionate about. Famous people, politics, the city they live or grew up in and so on.

Make it personal, get outside of your comfort zone, be ridiculous, and don’t be afraid to offend some people. If you’ve done your job well, there will be critics, and some of them will be very vocal. That’s OK, because you’ll earn links, often from authoritative media websites, that will live on long after the manufactured outrage has died down.

The post Building links in boring industries appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Where to find ideas for content your audience will love, look at and link to /where-to-find-ideas-for-content-your-audience-will-love-look-at-and-link-to-297432 Fri, 04 May 2018 12:30:00 +0000 /?p=297432 If you're looking for new, inspirational and trendy content ideas, consider using sites that provide answers and solutions, says contributor Jeremy Knauff. Here are 5 good places to start.

The post Where to find ideas for content your audience will love, look at and link to appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Creating useful and engaging content is an essential part of search engine optimization (SEO) and link building today.

While it often feels fun and exciting in the beginning, it can quickly become a monotonous task that you dread. I mean, no matter how interesting a topic might be, can you really find a way to write something engaging that hasn’t already been written a thousand times?

You can, if you approach it with the proper perspective.

The problem is that your perspective is likely flawed because you, unlike many in your audience, are immersed in the topic on a daily basis.

The key is to get out and look at it from a fresh perspective. Forget what you know, and see it the way an outsider would.

Fortunately, that doesn’t require a concussion or mind-altering drugs. It just requires you to invest some time learning how outsiders think and talk about your industry, and, while there are a lot of tools designed specifically for compiling actionable keyword data, we’re going to look at a different approach today.

This is a more human approach that may turn up some opportunities other tools may miss.

This approach isn’t always as straightforward as others because you’re not necessarily digging up specific keywords to target. Instead, you will be looking at the thought process used by your audience and using it to create content that answers their questions and solves problems.

Let’s look at a number of places to find these new content ideas.

1. Quora

I’ll preface this section by saying I find Quora equal parts amusing, infuriating and insightful.

Amusing because of some of the ridiculous questions asked there, infuriating because of some of the answers provided by so-called “experts” and insightful because it enables us to understand the thought processes of people who are looking for answers on a particular topic.

The latter can be a virtual goldmine in terms of coming up with new content ideas because these people often have an entirely different perspective than we do.

As either a professional in your industry or an SEO practitioner producing content for clients, you generally understand a particular topic at a deeper level than the average customer in that industry. While that offers many clear benefits, it also sometimes blinds us to tremendous opportunities to produce content that engages our target audience.

Gathering this data is as simple as conducting a search on Quora. Unfortunately, there’s no way to export the data the way you could with a tool that was developed for this purpose. Simply copying and pasting it will generally make quite a mess that will either create a document with loads of tags you’ll need to strip out or it will push all of the questions together into a single paragraph, depending on how you do it.

Fortunately, I have developed a pretty slick and efficient way to gather as many of these questions as you want without a lot of added work, which I’ll demonstrate in the video below.

2. Facebook/LinkedIn groups

Both Facebook and LinkedIn groups tend to earn jealousy-inspiring engagement, which comes in the form of questions and answers. This is valuable because it helps you to see how other people — both customers and industry professionals — think about a particular topic.

There is no easy way to compile this data, though. You’ll simply need to stay on top of the posts and comments on those posts, then copy and paste the questions, topics and ideas that seem valuable to you.

I recommend finding a few large, well-established groups in your niche and actively participating in them. This serves two purposes:

  1. It gives you access to valuable new content ideas.
  2. It helps to establish you as an expert in that niche.

Starting your own group on Facebook or LinkedIn certainly can be worthwhile because it enables you to set your own rules that give you a competitive advantage. However, I don’t recommend doing that until you’re well-established in your niche and have enough time to dedicate to this labor-intensive task. Stick to existing groups for now.

These groups provide an added benefit of helping to nurture valuable relationships that can be leveraged for your link-building efforts.

3. Comment sections

It’s a well-known fact that the comment sections of many websites have become a toxic wasteland of spam and vitriol, which is why so many have removed them entirely. But if you can find a website that still allows comments and has an engaged audience, you may be able to unearth some amazing ideas for new content from the dialogue you find there.

I will warn you, though, after spending some time there, you’ll probably need a bath, a hug and a glass of your favorite alcoholic beverage.

4. Amazon bestseller lists

Writing a book requires a lot of work. I’m speaking from experience, as I’m halfway through writing my second book right now.

Because of the amount of work, most people don’t generally jump into the task without first conducting extensive due diligence. But I wouldn’t simply assume that a particular topic or angle mattered to your audience simply because someone wrote a book about it. Instead, I would dig deeper, looking for social proof, which provides hard data on whether it resonated with them.

The Amazon bestseller lists in your niche, or in some cases, even in other niches, is a good starting point. It’s common knowledge that it’s fairly easy to game these lists, especially in certain niches; however, placement generally indicates at least a certain number of actual sales of a particular book. Your next step is to evaluate the reviews for that book to see if they appear natural and authentic. You’re looking for a few things here:

  • Are the reviews mostly from verified purchasers of the book?
  • Do they seem to be spread out across a range of time, or do the reviews seem to be posted around the same time?
  • Do they offer substantive insight or something closer to blog comment spam, saying things like “This was a great book! I will definitely recommend it to my friends?”

Once you’ve found one or more books that meet these criteria, buy and read (or listen to) them, taking notes along the way. You can then either expand on or refute the points made by the authors, being sure to cite them as your inspiration.

It might seem like that would detract from your credibility as an expert, but in reality, it actually bolsters it because it demonstrates confidence and humility. Besides, it’s the right thing to do. Plus, if you let the author know that they’ve inspired you to write a particular piece of content — even if it contradicts their opinion — they will likely share it on social media, and they might even link to it.

5. Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Think of the questions you are frequently asked, and use that as a foundation to develop engaging content.

manufacturing-faq

Advantage Fabricated Metals, FAQs

Most people compile this list based on feedback from their sales team, which is a great start, but that’s only scratching the surface. What I’ve found to work particularly well is to have each customer-facing staff member compile a list of questions they are frequently asked. Think of all of the other staff who may interact with customers, which might include staff in:

  • Customer service.
  • Marketing.
  • Shipping.
  • Legal.
  • Accounts receivable.

Don’t stop there though — reach out to existing customers through email, social media, and even phone, to find out what questions they have about your products, services, company and industry. You may have to do some probing, though, since most people won’t admit that they don’t know something until you dig it out of them.

In many cases, it may make sense to evaluate the FAQs on competitors’ websites, too.

Once you’ve compiled a comprehensive list from all sources, merge any duplicate or very similar questions, and use them to begin creating outlines for new content.

How Google and other search engines treat content has changed over the years, and as a result, your tactics for creating it should have changed as well.

Topics vs. keywords

Most experienced SEO practitioners today realize creating individual pages or posts for each keyword phrase is an outdated and ineffective tactic. Targeting broader topics is a far more effective approach.

So instead of creating a page or post for each individual question, some of which may only require a brief answer, I generally recommend creating it based on a slightly broader topic in which you can include answers to several highly relevant questions.

This enables you to create a more valuable resource because rather than simply answering one question, it may answer several additional questions that a typical visitor may have after finding the initial answer they were looking for. The key is keeping your content topical and highly relevant.

Let’s use a home builder’s website as an example. Most of their customers will want to know how long the construction process takes. For the sake of this example, let’s say the answer to that question is 12 months. Unfortunately, that on its own doesn’t make for a very substantive or engaging piece of content. However, by incorporating certain highly relevant topics into that page, it can become both substantive and engaging.

So what other information might be worth including on a page answering the question, “How long does it take to build a house?”

  • How local weather might affect the final completion date.
  • Any paperwork that may be necessary to begin and/or complete various stages of the construction process.
  • Expectations the builder has of the home buyer that will impact the final completion date, such as responding within a certain time frame or making site visits according to a particular schedule.
  • The impact of change orders on the final completion date.
  • How long permitting and inspections usually take and what variables might affect that.
  • How certain materials or construction techniques might impact the final completion date.

As you can see, there are plenty of tangential but highly relevant questions that can be included with the core topic. By taking this approach, you’ll increase the overall quality of your website in the eyes of both search engines and visitors.

Making it valuable and engaging

You can make that piece of content even more valuable by including a hyperlinked table of contents, images, documents, internal links to sections on that page, pages within your website and links to other off-site resources. (In the previous example, that might include the local building department, zoning regulations, and property appraiser’s office.)

I also want to emphasize the importance of using proper semantic markup. This helps search engines to clearly understand the content on that page, as well as the relationship of any portion of that content to any other portion on that page. This includes the proper use of heading tags, structured data, ordered and unordered lists and image alt attributes.

Learning how to make it better

Once your content starts delivering leads, your staff will have the opportunity to make notes of the challenges they run into when closing new business. These notes will enable you to further improve that content to more thoroughly answer the questions visitors may have on a particular topic.

Over time, you’ll often find that you need to add more information, whether new or updated, and in some cases, you may find you’ll need to remove some outdated information.

In all cases, the content you create will be a constantly evolving and must adapt to the needs, knowledge and preferences of your audience as well as your SEO and link-building goals.

The post Where to find ideas for content your audience will love, look at and link to appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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5 easy but smart SEO wins to boost content and link-building efforts /5-easy-smart-seo-wins-boost-content-link-building-efforts-294406 Thu, 22 Mar 2018 14:45:00 +0000 /?p=294406 Don't ignore the basic, everyday technical SEO issues that pop up when marketing a website, suggests contributor Jeremy Knauff. Take care of the fundamentals and you'll see better SEO results.

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Are you looking for some smart and easy SEO wins in 2018?

Who isn’t? This is a great time to knock down the cobwebs in your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts with some good old-fashioned spring cleaning.

Sure, producing great content can be loads of fun, and link building can deliver powerful results, but sometimes you just need to get down to the fundamentals of SEO.

Certain tasks that fall on the technical side can be more difficult, but they are every bit as important as content development and link building. Still, they tend to be ignored until they cause a major problem.

You can change that by making an effort to take care of technical SEO fundamentals before they become a problem. When the fundamentals are taken care of, we tend to get better results from all of our SEO efforts.

Let’s look at five smart tactical fundamentals that, when leveraged, will boost the effectiveness of our content development and link-building efforts.

Broken links

Over time, websites come and go. Some may simply shut down or change owners, while others can be purchased and used for black-hat SEO tactics.

Other times, websites may be redirected due to an acquisition or rebranding. In any case, the previous owners usually won’t take the time to let everyone who is linking to them know about the change. That means all of the inbound links that once pointed to a valuable resource may now be dead (returning a 404 redirect to a new page, or even pointing to something completely irrelevant).

This is bad news for website owners because you can inadvertently (and after the fact) find yourself linking to “bad” websites you don’t want to be associated with.

In extreme cases, especially at a larger scale, these types of outbound links can harm your website’s organic ranking. They can also create a poor user experience (UX).

Search engines expect outbound links to point to a relevant page, without multiple steps. (i.e., Link points to Page A, Page A redirects to Page B).

Task: Scan all outbound links on your website, using a tool like Screaming Frog, to ensure they all go to a relevant destination in one step.

Meta descriptions

Well-crafted meta descriptions can have a dramatic, positive effect on click-through rates from organic search. Unfortunately, once a meta description is written for a page, most people never pay attention to it again. That is a huge mistake.

In the case of websites that are actively promoted, new content is often added and existing content edited on a regular basis, which means the perfect meta description today may no longer be ideal next year, or even sooner.

And even in cases where the content hasn’t changed and probably never will, changes in search engine behavior may necessitate updating meta descriptions.

For example, in December of 2017, Google increased the maximum length of search results snippets from 160 characters to 320 characters. Since snippet content tends to be pulled from descriptions (and on-page content), anyone who hasn’t updated their descriptions may be missing an opportunity to improve click-through rates by adding a more engaging description.

Here is an example of a longer snippet pulled from a description:

Both search engines and visitors want meta descriptions that are accurate, informative and engaging.

Task: Review and update the meta description tags on all of the important pages within your website. Your goal should be to write an engaging description that is around 320 characters and contains the target keyword once or twice in a natural manner for each of these pages

Responsive design

Responsive design is not currently a ranking signal for desktop search, but it is a ranking signal for mobile search — which makes up a significant majority of search traffic today.

While it provides a clear advantage in mobile search, responsive design also helps to create a positive user experience and plays a role in converting visitors into leads and customers, so its value goes far beyond SEO.

Responsive design is Google’s recommended design pattern

I believe it will eventually become a major factor in desktop search as well. While Google recently created a separate mobile index, I think it’s only logical that the company will eventually move back toward a single index.

If you think this sounds crazy, hear me out. The mobile index serves two specific purposes:

  • To serve a better user experience to searchers on mobile devices.
  • To better understand the behavior of searchers on mobile devices.

Once Google understands searchers’ behavior on mobile devices (to their satisfaction) and has successfully driven a majority of website owners to adopt responsive design, it can confidently return to a single index, which is far more efficient.

Google’s mobile responsive test is a good place to start, but it’s not the final answer, because no tool can understand complex problems quite the same way that humans can (for now, anyway).

Google Analytics is a great tool to provide quantifiable data on how mobile visitors are engaging with your content.

For example, a high bounce rate for mobile visitors would usually indicate a negative mobile experience despite a positive report from Google’s mobile responsive test. When that happens, you can evaluate the pages with a high bounce rate to determine the cause and then fix it.

Task: Evaluate the mobile responsiveness of your website’s important pages using tools like Google’s Mobile Responsive Test, as well as manually browsing them on multiple mobile devices.

Internal linking

As content is added to, modified and removed from your website, internal links can end up pointing to missing and/or irrelevant pages, the same way that outbound links can.

While this normally won’t cause a problem on the same level as broken and irrelevant outbound links, it can still cause significant problems for both search engines and visitors.

Fortunately, this is a very quick and easy fix (quick and easy being relative terms based on the size of your website, of course).

As with outbound links, search engines expect inbound links to point to a relevant page, without multiple steps.

Task: Just as you did for external links, scan your website’s internal links to ensure that they all go to a relevant destination in one step. The positive user experience created by this serves as a ranking signal.

Page speed

Most websites load abysmally slowly, especially on mobile devices, and that’s a huge problem for two reasons.

First, page speed will become a ranking factor in mobile search in July of 2018. From Google’s Zhiheng Wang and Doantam Phan:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Second, page speed already plays a role in user experience, and user experience is already a ranking factor. In other words, it matters now, and it will matter even more very soon.

Cutting corners is what screws most people up when it comes to page speed. Rather than hiring a web designer or web developer to properly and efficiently code the functionality they need, they Frankenstein together a WordPress theme and install a truckload of plugins to achieve their end goal.

This is bad because the cascading style sheets (CSS) and JavaScript files the plugins load add unnecessary hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) requests, often several per plugin, which can quickly add up. The more HTTP requests, the slower your website will load.

Dozens of megabytes and HTTP requests later, they may have the look and functionality that they want, but their website loads so slowly that it might as well be rendered on an Etch A Sketch.

Image courtesy @etchasketchgenius

Rather than starting with a bloated, off-the-shelf WordPress theme and adding a bunch of plugins, you’re better off starting from a clean foundation and then adding the necessary functionality and design while emphasizing page speed.

Contrary to what some people may think, it’s relatively easy to develop a website on WordPress that is not only gorgeous but is also blazing fast.

Task: Reduce HTTP calls, merge CSS and JavaScript files, optimize media files and utilize caching, minification and content delivery networks (CDNs) where possible. Optimizing page speed can be tricky. You’ll have to experiment to get it right because some of the tactics may “break” your website.

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3 SEO tasks to start 2018 off with a bang /3-seo-tasks-start-2018-off-bang-289794 Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:51:40 +0000 /?p=289794 Wondering where to focus your efforts this year in order to gain an edge over your competitors? Columnist Jeremy Knauff has some ideas.

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We’re just about three weeks into the new year, and the momentum you establish now can easily set the pace for the rest of your year.

I’d like to help you start 2018 off with a bang by earning three simple wins that will set the stage for further success and growth, not just for this year, but long into the future.

These wins are simple, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy — because while the concepts are not complex, a lot of work will be required to accomplish them.

That may seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually a blessing in disguise because it means that most of your competitors won’t even put in the effort, which will give you a significant advantage over them.

Improve page speed to improve ranking

Google just recently announced that beginning in July 2018, mobile page speed will be a ranking factor for its mobile search results. Page speed also has a significant impact on user experience, and several aspects of user experience are direct ranking factors, too.

Studies show that the faster a web page loads, the longer visitors will remain, and in most cases, more of them will convert to paying customers compared to visitors on slower websites.

Most people have a tremendous opportunity for improvement in this area because they don’t realize how poorly their website is performing. I was recently talking with a potential client about SEO for his website, and when the topic of page speed came up, he proudly insisted that his website “loads super fast — usually in under one or two seconds!”

If that were true, it would have been phenomenal; however, it was actually closer to thirty seconds, according to the tests I performed using several different tools.

It’s important to point out that when I talk about page speed, I’m not specifically talking about Google’s PageSpeed Insights. I’m talking about how long it takes a web page to load in general.

Some ways you can improve page speed include:

  • investing in high-performance web hosting.
  • reducing http calls by merging CSS and JavaScript files, eliminating WordPress plugins and using sprites.
  • properly scaling and compressing images.
  • implementing server caching, browser caching and Gzip compression.
  • minifying CSS and JavaScript files.

Leverage a personal brand for link building

If you’ve managed a website for any length of time, you’ve most likely been on the receiving end of a lot of link requests, and I think it’s a safe bet that most of them were probably terrible. Now I’m going to say something that might hurt your feelings: If you’ve sent a link request, it was probably terrible, too.

Cold link outreach is challenging, and you generally don’t earn very many links in relation to the number of emails you send out. This is because you’re asking for something from a stranger before you’ve built any rapport, which is an almost certain recipe for disaster. Effective link building depends on relationships, not brute force and volume.

link outreach email

While certainly not the worst link outreach email I’ve ever seen, this isn’t a particularly effective approach.

Rather than cold link outreach, a more effective strategy is to develop a personal brand that others want to connect with. This is easier said than done because it will require a tremendous amount of work, performed consistently over a relatively long period of time.

However, once you’ve developed a personal brand, it will be much easier to leverage the kind of relationships you’ll then develop, to efficiently build links. In fact, if your personal brand becomes powerful enough, often, people will link to your content without you even asking.

A few ways you can develop a personal brand include:

  • creating consistently branded profiles on key social networks.
  • regularly sharing valuable content from others in your industry, along with your insight on it.
  • engaging with your audience, both those below and above your stature within your industry.
  • regularly publishing amazing content, both on your own website and in industry publications and top-tier business publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.

Incorporate video into your SEO efforts

Video is a driving force in digital marketing today, and we’re quickly approaching a point where it’s just as essential as having a website and social media presence. It can play a significant role in your SEO efforts in two distinct ways.

The first is that video often helps to keep interested visitors on your website longer. Google sees this as a sign of a positive user experience, which has a beneficial impact on your organic ranking. A side benefit here is that you’re also giving visitors more of a chance to truly connect with your brand.

The second is that by publishing your videos on YouTube, you have the potential to put your brand in front of a larger audience through YouTube’s search results. (YouTube is often referred to as the “second-largest search engine in the world” due to its position as the second-most-visited website globally after Google, according to Alexa rankings.)

On top of that, you’re leveraging the authority of YouTube’s domain, so you also have the opportunity to get your videos ranked in Google’s search results.

I know a lot of you right now are saying, “Whoa, Jeremy! There’s no way in hell I’m getting on video!”

Look, I understand that being on video can feel uncomfortable, awkward, and even terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be any of those things. Once you start doing video regularly, you’ll get used to it, and besides — it’s become a necessity, so unless you want to lose ground to competitors, you have to step outside of your comfort zone.

Video expert Holly Gillen of Holly G Studios says, “Video is one of the most powerful tools you have in business today! The race has begun, and if you’re not running you are now getting left behind. At the end of the day, you can have video or you can have excuses, but you can’t have both.”

Some ways you can incorporate video into your SEO include:

  • creating videos that answer questions your prospects have about your products, services and industry, as well as videos that demonstrate who you are and why you do what you do.
  • optimizing your videos on YouTube so they’ll show up in YouTube’s search, in conjunction with that, building relevant, high-quality links to them so that they show up in Google’s search results.
  • embedding your videos from YouTube on your own website to keep visitors engaged and on your website longer.

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4 things SEO professionals should do consistently /4-things-seo-professionals-consistently-288629 Thu, 21 Dec 2017 14:45:02 +0000 /?p=288629 Columnist Jeremy Knauff shares his vision for how to improve the SEO industry through transparency, knowledge-sharing and stronger relationships with clients.

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As SEO professionals, we’re expected to have a solid understanding of our trade and to be able to communicate our knowledge clearly and professionally with our clients. But I think our expectations should be set a bit higher, similar to the fiduciary responsibility that certain financial professionals are held to. This would go a long way in further improving an already amazing industry, helping us to build greater trust while better serving our clients.

Never intentionally put clients at risk

Marketing requires us to constantly evaluate risk vs. reward, and that’s especially true when it comes to search engine optimization because algorithms are constantly changing. Some of the tactics that would have been acceptable just a few years ago could get a website penalized today.

But it goes beyond algorithms changing.

I’m a proponent of white-hat SEO because it creates a sustainable foundation for success, rather than the churn-and-burn approach that is required with black-hat SEO. But every now and then, clients will insist on tactics that will eventually hurt them. In some cases, this may be because they have little to lose and much to gain; in other cases, it may be because they are simply misinformed. Either way, it’s our job as professionals to never intentionally put our clients at risk through our actions, as well as help educate them so that they don’t do something stupid on their own.

Much like the medical profession and their Hippocratic Oath, our first obligation as SEO professionals is to do no harm to our clients’ websites.

Work with absolute transparency in all matters

I was recently speaking with a potential client who was unhappy with the results from the SEO company he was working with. It didn’t take long to figure out why. When I asked what they had done for his campaign, he couldn’t answer — because they told him their techniques were proprietary.

Every truly experienced, professional SEO practitioner knows that there is no such thing as “proprietary SEO techniques” because the days of tricking the search engines are dead and gone. Modern SEO consists mostly of three components:

  • Technical SEO (on-site SEO).
  • Original, high-quality content.
  • Editorial links from relevant websites.

There are no secrets, silver bullets or magic spells, and anyone who claims otherwise is simply a con artist.

We are performing work for clients that will have a long-lasting impact on their website, so it’s their right to know exactly what we’re doing on their behalf.

Now, some people will say, “But Jeremy, if I tell them exactly what I’m doing, they might try to do it themselves!” If you fear that, then you’re simply not providing enough value in the relationship.

Clients come to us for several reasons. One is that we can see and understand things that our clients can’t. Another reason is our ability to get certain things done.

Look, I want my clients to know exactly what goes into a proper SEO campaign because once they do, they realize that they don’t have the time to do it themselves — especially when you consider that it’s not enough to simply check a box. Tasks like content development and link building require a lot of work and have to be executed with a high level of quality. Most clients are already too busy running their own business to write content or send link outreach emails, and that’s exactly why they come to us.

Speaking of transparency…

Ensure that the client owns their properties, content and data

About a year ago, a small web design agency here in Tampa closed down with little notice, and because of a mutual contact, the former owner reached out to me to help migrate their clients to their own servers.

In doing so, I stumbled upon a huge problem that I often see in our industry, and that is digital marketing agencies and web designers setting up digital assets under their own accounts rather than their clients’. Such assets include, but are not limited to:

  • domain registrations
  • hosting accounts
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console / Bing Webmaster Tools
  • social media profiles
  • PPC accounts

This poses a huge risk for our clients. Had this particular web designer gone out of business and simply disappeared, like many do, then his clients — dozens of small businesses — would have been forced to start their digital brands over from scratch. Some may have even been forced out of business as a result. This is a completely unacceptable practice.

Any accounts you set up for your client should be set up in their name, and they should always have full access. You can then add additional users for your team or simply log in with their credentials.

Work with specialists when necessary

One of the hallmarks of a true professional is knowing when something is outside of their expertise. When you encounter this scenario, it’s important to set ego aside and seek the assistance of a more qualified specialist.

No one is above this — in fact, I often see some of the brightest minds in our industry asking for advice from other experts who possess a different specialization.

The fact of the matter is that many of the most proficient SEO practitioners typically focus on a particular aspect of search, like Alan Bleiweiss does with forensic audits, or like Cindy Krum does with mobile SEO. By its nature, specialization in one area means weakness in other areas — and that’s OK because there are plenty of top-notch professionals in our industry we can lean on for their specific knowledge.

Obviously, that means added costs for our client in these cases, but it’s our job to convince them of the necessity in order to produce the best results possible with the least risk possible.

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