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Better SEO In Under One Hour: 2018 Edition

One of our most popular blog posts is ‘Better SEO In Less Than An Hour’ but almost six years later, there are other things we think are as important for making your site great (in less than an hour).

So mark off an hour in your calendar and tackle one (or some) of the items below… and we guarantee your website will be happier.

Reduce image sizes (and compress anything else possible).

Estimated Time: 15-45 minutes

Usually image and video files are taking up more room than you realize. Websites like videosmaller.com can be used to make videos 10-50% smaller without any noticeable quality loss online. Usually there are multiple images on your site that you forgot to resize before upload that can be compressed. Here are some tools that’ll let you do the job in bulk: https://mashable.com/2013/10/29/image-compressors/#fwSRDY1wAPqb

Smaller image files does two things: one it makes pages load faster for your visitors and mean you’ll keep your web hosting bill low over time. Compressing the images on my site saved me 236 MB of space!



Force site to load in HTTPS.

Estimated Time: 15 minutes

By adding a secure certificate to your site (check if your host is a LetsEncrypt provider and you could get one that renews itself yearly free!) and then make your pages load in HTTPS. We held off on doing this to GiftMDI.com (our ecommerce site) for awhile and when we did our Google Page Insights score jumped up 15 points immediately. (Do a before HTTPS and after test for yourself here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/)

Write unique titles and descriptions for all your pages.

Estimated Time: 5 minutes per page

Your page title and description are what shows up in search engine results, and seeing this allows people to decide if they should click on your website, or one of the other options. You can customize the title and description for pages, not just for Google but Facebook too. Wordpress has tools like All In One SEO and Yoast SEO for such tasks… and whatever website software you use will likely allow you to customize this as well for each of your pages.

Make as mobile friendly as possible. 

Estimated time: 30-60 minutes

Over half of most website visitors are on a mobile device. How does your website work on a mobile device? Google has a testing tool that you can run and gives you specific recommendations:  https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

Find and fix broken links.

Estimated time: 30-60 minutes

Broken links are not just a bummer for search engines but for people too. You might have made a typo or you might have forgotten you changed a page title/link from /about to /about-us. Use a broken link checker (like this one: http://www.brokenlinkcheck.com/) to find and fix any broken links, which will make your site work better.



Make sure your site hasn’t been hacked.

Estimated time: 5 – 15 minutes

By making a Google account and registering your site in Search Console, you can find any security issues your site may have. Bonus is it will alert you when there are issues in future.

Update your software (if applicable).

Estimated Time: 5 minutes

Keeping your website well running and secure means updating software regularly, especially if you run Wordpress. If you don’t want to do this yourself, we offer a very affordable updating service. But for real, it’s really important to keep your software updated. We’ve unhacked enough websites to know that 100% of the time, when we asked the person when the site was last updated, they couldn’t tell us.

All this to say there’s always SOMETHING you can do to improve your site… so take an hour and do what you can… and imagine how great your site would be if you took one hour a week and worked on making it amazing. 



How One of Our Old Blog Posts Still Gets a Ton of Views

One of our most popular blog posts of all time is “Pros and Cons of Snapchat for Business.” This was written back in 2014, when Snapchat was still fairly new for social media, and businesses were just beginning to figure out how to get in on the action. Of course, now Snapchat has evolved into a more complex beast that’s easier for businesses and brands to access…but this old post is still getting more views than most of our other blog posts, which is pretty fascinating.

In the graphic above, you can see the post has had almost 10,000 views in the course of it’s lifetime. It generates about 7% of our website’s traffic overall.

So how did we do this? We have some theories.

Write what no one is writing.

Back when the post was written, there wasn’t a lot of information about how businesses could use Snapchat, or even any real life examples of bigger brands doing it yet (if my memory serves me right, there were about 2-3). Part of my theory why the post was so popular is the scarcity of material on the subject. In other words, we hit a jackpot with finding a blog topic as it was just about to start trending. Sometimes this is a swing and a miss (for examples, check out this post), but the timing combined with the popularity of the topic worked in our favor.

Search engines are the ticket.

Google Analytics has this handy thing where you can see what source is driving traffic and as you can see, search engines are primarily it. We have read things like Google tends to like ‘longer’ blog posts (ex: not one paragraph), things like unique page titles/descriptions, and more. Somehow this post seems to have hit some search engine sweet spots.

Being conversational helps.

With new technology, it can be easy for people to feel intimidated. The blog post, if you go read it, is very conversational and I think making the topic more approachable made the blog post much more readable.

The funny thing is, if you told me this would be the case back when I wrote the post, I wouldn’t have believed you. This was back in my early days of blogging, I was only a couple months in at that point. Meaning, I’ve since found a groove that comes with a bit of confidence and a few more years under my belt.

Think about images.

The image I made for the post was responsible for at least some of the traffic (I’m pretty sure someone linked back to it about a month after the post was first written). (In case you haven’t seen the Snapchat logo, the tie is the part I added in).

If you look on Google images for “Snapchat for business” you’ll see we are on the second row (and I dare say were copied for our cool necktie idea).

If you are going to share a blog on Pinterest, or even want it to stand out more on Facebook, an image just make things work better, which is why we try to add one to each blog post.

Do I think this is the most fabulous thing we’ve ever written? Not really.
Does it just go to show you that one blog post can generate a lot of goodwill, even over years? Absolutely.

It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part Two)

Did you miss part one of this fascinating series? Click here to read ‘It’s Not About The Leggings: Strong Online Stances And You (Part One)’

Last week I discussed aggressive marketing tactics as part one of strong online stances. In part two, I want to discuss another polarizing issue online: extreme headlines.

The term in the industry is “click bait.”

What’s Clickbait?

There is some argument about what constitutes clickbait, but Merriam-Webster defines it as the following:

As a reader, clickbait is offensive for a few reasons, and I don’t mean in the sense of the actual headlines or subject matter.

In essence, clickbait assumes that readers are suckers. They basically promise something shiny and exciting, or at least controversial, assuming we’ll fall for it. When clickbait was relatively new, people did tend to fall for it. Now we’ve all wizened up a bit and can recognize clickbait for what it is.



Why Does it Exist?

By getting all of those clicks, even if people ultimately stay for two seconds after realizing “UGH this is not what I wanted,” it still counts as traffic to the website. The old view is that a website that gets a lot of traffic automatically ranks higher in search engines.

While this is true to some extent, clickbait-y articles are starting to get penalized for using such headlines on Facebook by making them less likely to appear in people’s newsfeeds. Techcrunch explains: “The algorithm primarily looks for phrases often used in clickbait headlines but not in legitimate headlines, similar to email spam filter.” When one page/person is consistently publishing stories that offend the algorithm, their posts will get buried more and more (but there is a chance to turn things around-just stop posting clickbait).

You may ask yourself why websites even bother with clickbait. Well there are two things websites can get from it:

  1. Your social media login (to potentially collect your demographic info for future marketing efforts)
  2. Visibility on display ads.

I noticed one of my high school friends posted the result of a ‘What should be your hairstyle?’ quiz and so I clicked through:

Sorry for the assault on your eyeballs there but notice:

1) The giant web hosting banner ad and internet provider video ad (I’m guessing it is just displaying this to be because I am a giant nerd and for someone else, it may display a different ad). This website will no doubt earn money, even if it’s a fraction of a cent, for me seeing that.
2) The giant ‘Login with Facebook’ request. Now that I’ve logged in, they can target me for cheaper advertising, upsell me on a product I might be more likely to buy, or even sell my data to another company.
3) The ads all over to click on additional items (ie go deeper) on the website. By seeing what I click on, they’ll be able to do market research on me (“It turns out women 26-35 are 34% more likely to click on the tattoo quiz than the weakness quiz”) and sell that to companies, sell me on products, or both.



What’s the Big Deal?

But why exactly is clickbait so bad? Clicking on a weird/extreme headline doesn’t trigger a catastrophic chain of events, nothing terrible is going to happen. I used to have a fairly blase attitude towards clickbait, thinking “What’s the big deal? Just don’t click on it.”

Now, as someone who both reads a lot online and writes a lot online, I get it. The downside of clickbait boils down to ethics (a harsher take on clickbait describes it as “misdirection and lying” from this article in The Atlantic). In marketing anything, one of your goals should be to deliver what you promise. In addition to negatively impacting your social media presence, clickbait ruins your credibility and trustworthiness as a marketer, which is something you should value above ranking in Google.

That being said, clickbait does not mean the same thing as a clever, enticing headline. Think about it, are you more likely to click on ‘A Balanced View of Coffee Mugs’ or ‘Why I Think Coffee Mugs Are the Dumbest Invention In The World’? As this article from Seriously Simple Marketing says, “As an Internet Marketer, you have an opportunity to be creative and come up with headlines that compel your visitors to click. Just be sure you’re being honest and providing content that delivers on the promise the headline teases.” In other words, deliver on your headline’s promise, and always provide your readers with quality content.



What Can I Do?

Taking a strong stance in a headline/title gets clicks, for the most part, the people that write them enjoy/profit from web traffic and others just enjoy controversy.

You can do your part by:

  • Not clicking on extreme stuff (you’ll know it when you see it)
  • Hiding people/pages in your newsfeed who are constantly throwing this chum in the water
  • Posting good websites/articles yourself (ie leading by example)

Aggressive marketing tactics and extreme headlines are two of the three examples of polarizing online stances we’ve seen lately. Stay tuned for our third and final post in this series, about general social media etiquette.



Tech Thursday: Read it…Later

You know when you see a cool article go by online and you just can’t read it now? We talk about some of the ways you can save those links for later that aren’t tied to a particular computer/internet device.

Do you have any link-saving techniques that we didn’t talk about?

Any tech/social media related questions you’d like to hear us discuss in future episodes?

Leave a comment and we’ll check it out!



Why Directory Websites Are Probably A Waste Of Your Time

When I started my blog in 2007, I took any free listing I could get. This did a couple of things:

whydirectorywebsitesareawasteoftime1) Connect me with people who were looking for blogs to read about certain topics.
2) Put my link on a new domain.

Did I really think posting my blog link on blogorama.com was going to catapult me to fame? Not so much but when you have, like, ten people visiting your site per day, you might be a tad overexcited about an extra two visitors. Plus way back then (sixish years ago), all links were good links.

The rules, my friends, have changed.

Here’s the thing, while search engines really like links coming into your website, not all links are created equal.

The following factors matter in varying degrees (Skip bullets if you are not a nerd or don’t care):

  • Domain age. I’ve owned this domain since 2009 and, at that time, I bought it for like five years in a row. A domain being owned and used for a long time means the website is less likely to be sketchy. And Google likes non-sketchy and rewards domain age. http://rapidwebseo.com/matt-cutts-does-domain-age-really-matter.php
  • Google Page Rank. Not all websites are equal. Google Page Rank, which ranks web pages between 1 and 10 (9 being Amazon.com, 10 being Google.com, 3 being the website you are on right now). A link off a higher ranked website is worth more (here’s how you can check your page rank: http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php)
  • Keywords that are linked. When people do a search, they use words. (You know, since Google can’t yet read our mind.) If someone writes about ‘social media marketing’ and links the words ‘social media marketing’ to this website, Google takes it as this website must know something about social media marketing. Over time, the words used to link to your website give search engines an idea of what other websites think your site is about, versus what you say you’re about. This is called ‘anchor text’ and if you want to know more: http://moz.com/learn/seo/anchor-text
  • Pages that are linked to. Linking to a homepage of a website is cool but linking to other pages means there is useful info deeper in. More pages mean your website is better indexed by search engines and more links from other sites to internal pages means your site is a trusted source.

Throwing up your link in a fly-by-night seeming online directory, as you can probably tell, is kind of like casting your fishing pole in the middle of the ocean. Sure you could catch something but you probably won’t. Best to cast your fishing line in a part of the water where you hear that other people are getting fish… which brings me to.

Most directories have no track record.

If some new directory has sprung up and is asking you to pay money monthly for your website to be listed, ask to see their data. Total number visitors is not impressive. Trust me, you can make numbers look pretty flattering when people don’t understand what they are.

What you want to see in terms of stats from an online directory is how many eyeballs 1) use the directory (how many people landed on that part of the site, how long they spent there, and how many pages they looked at.) and 2) clicks to business listings on that directory. If the directory owner actually gives you examples of #2, they are likely the best performers they’ve got so assume lower results for you.

And to top all this off, some links are actually bad links.

That’s right, in a Google update, some have found that having spammy links coming into their site actually hurt their search ranking. In other words, that sketchy directory website (or spammy looking blog) linking to your site could actually be hurting you. So not only are you casting your fishing line into unproductive waters, you might find  sharks in those waters that are eating your boat.

Get out of that water and head to safer waters, my fisherman friend!

So what can you do to prevent this nonsense from adversely effecting your life?

1) If you are really gung ho to spend some money on a not proven directory, agree to pay per click, not for a listing… and agree to a trial period of a couple months to evaluate.

A click to your website is a potential customer and worth A LOT more than eyeballs on an ad. PPC (pay per click) might be a cheaper (and higher quality) way to evaluate an advertising prospect.

2) Ask businesses outside your industry what is working for them.

I say outside your industry because I think those people will be more candid with you. For example, in actually talking to people a couple years ago I could have saved myself $200 and not bought a Better Business Bureau online directory listing (which I stopped paying two years ago yet is miraculously still online). See, I fall for this crap too. In case you were wondering, I got exactly 0 referrals from it and so have a few other businesses I’ve talked to.

Ask people in your industry too, maybe just people outside your geographic region or otherwise not in direct competition with you.

3) Write to webmasters who have spammy links connecting to your site and ask that they be removed. If you noticed your website traffic tank around mid-May 2013 (or you’ve gotten a notification from Google), you might be being penalized for bad links. Here’s what you should do in that case: http://www.weidert.com/whole_brain_marketing_blog/bid/116515/Google-Penguin-Penalties-How-to-Remove-Harmful-Inbound-Links

4) See who owns a website. Directory listing with a downtown association or your local chamber of commerce? That is legit. But thebestbusinessdirectoryonline.com? How do you know what wizard is behind that curtain?

You can do a WhoIs lookup on the domain to see who owns it and begin Googling with the information you get. Can’t find out? It’s probably not because it’s a good secret. Go with your gut on this one. Any business transaction is about people and if you are getting a ‘sketchball’ vibe from someone, steer clear. There will be other marketing opportunities for you.

Am I saying all directory websites are bad? Of course not! I am saying it’s worth taking the time to evaluate a directory to see if it’s right for your business… and planning on where you cast that fishing line is more important than ever.

What Can I Track With My Internet Marketing?

whatcanimeasureOne of the most beautiful parts of internet marketing is you can actually track whether something is working.

But what can you track, you ask? Here are a few things you can monitor:

Clicks on a link

Wait a minute, you can track things that aren’t on your own website? You sure can!

With a service like bitly.com you can create a tracking link then see how it’s clicked on.



For example, with one client we made this link to their TripAdvisor profile: http://bitly.com/tripadvisortblp

To see the stats, we simply at a ‘+’ to the end of that link and put it in a browser:

bitlystatstrentonpart1

 

bitlystatstrentonpart2

 

So I see so far that this link I’ve shared has gotten 70 clicks and I can see a bit about when those happened; what social media sites they are coming from; and where in the world the clickers are.

Traffic To A Landing Page

The other day, I was talking to someone who wanted to measure the effectiveness of a print campaign. “But none of our people get those whole QR things.”

To which I said, what if you sent them to a specific URL on your site? Like for example, what if I said “Go to www.breakingeveninc.com/ireadyourblog and see something amazing!”

People who do podcasts do this all the time. Do you really think going to Audible.com is really that different from going to Audible.com/American? Nope, Audible just tracks the link to see how many people go there so they can see if their advertisement on This American Life works (and continues to work).

So make a landing page for your print ad and design it for those people in mind. Then look at your web stats and see if it was worth it.

For more on landing pages: http://breakingeveninc.com/landing-pages-101/

The Average Value of Your Typical Social Media Fan

I did an detailed post on this here: http://breakingeveninc.com/what-are-my-social-media-accounts-worth/

But the idea of going through, seeing who’s following you on social networks and figuring out if they are your customers is a worthwhile exercise for most people. You might also want to measure repeat customers too.

Remember you don’t want to just have the feeling that you’re doing something right if you are doing anything related to marketing and advertising for your business, you want to have some solid facts to back it up!

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