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Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important aspects of doing business today. As such, it deserves attention from experienced SEO professionals. Trusting your brainchild with just any SEO consultant can be a big mistake. You worked hard to create your brand – don’t let a rookie or inexperienced mid-level consultant make poor decisions. Your consultant should build your progress, not obstruct it. Learn how to tell expert professional SEO consultants apart from the novices, for the benefit of your business.

Why Hire Professional SEO Consultants?

If you’re a new startup or modest small business, it can be tempting to hire cheaper, less experienced SEO consultants. If this is all that your budget allows, it’s still better than no SEO professional at all. Many people start with freelancers and work their way up to actual SEO agencies. Yet spending the extra money on a trusted professional to begin with can shorten your timeline to success. This practice can eliminate the risk of a clumsy SEO rookie harming your brand rather than helping it and get you started on the right foot.

Googling SEO best practices will only get you so far. You need a specialist to take your efforts to the next level and compete with top brands in your industry. Finding the right SEO agency to help is an extremely valuable asset to your company. Hiring a professional right from the beginning can save you time and allow you to focus on aspects of business you prefer, such as your product or customers. If you don’t like or understand SEO work, your time is better spent handling other matters. Let a team of experienced professionals do the legwork.

Going with a professional over a rookie will drive more optimal returns. If you’re sick of your webpage not ranking on the first page of Google web results, you need an SEO professional. A real SEO site audit can reveal invaluable information about where your site needs improvement. Working with qualified consultants will fix these holes and correct technical issues in a flash. If you’re a business owner who likes to do things right the first time around, go with an established, reputable senior SEO professional.

What Sets a Senior SEO Professional Apart from a Rookie?

Distinguishing established SEO professionals from the rookies isn’t hard if you know what to look for. There are advantages you’ll notice professional SEO consultants possess that rookie and mid-level consultants lack. In one conversation with a professional agency, you’ll recognize the factors that make it a notch above its peers. Here are three signs that the consultant you’re working with is an A-level professional:

  1. History of success. Browse the consultant’s website for SEO case studies, testimonials, reviews, and success stories. Look for a portfolio that can give you an idea of what the agent has achieved. Don’t just take the consultant’s word for it that he or she has gotten real results – ask for proof. Senior professionals won’t have a problem fulfilling this request.
  2. Variety of services. A rookie or mid-level consultant may not have the training or experience to handle a wide range of services. Instead, he or she may specialize in just one facet of search engine optimization. Look instead for professional SEO consultants who have the ability to take on any issue your site may encounter. The service list should have more than one or two options.
  3. Honest and open communication. Established and successful SEO consultants won’t need to hide behind smoke or curtains. They will give you the information you request up front, and be completely transparent about how they will handle your project. If you can’t get a straight answer out of your consultant, chances are he or she is a rookie – or worse, a scam.

There are plenty of other factors that make up a good SEO consultant. Ultimately, go with your gut. Contact the consultant or agency and see how your initial conversation makes you feel. Determine whether you’re on the same page as the company and if your goals are aligned. You may be working with the SEO consulting firm you choose for months, so you want to feel good about the decision you make.

Find the Right SEO Consulting Service for You

Not all SEO consulting services are created equal. There are distinctions not only between professionals and mid-level specialists but also among the other elements at an agency as well. Finding the perfect fit for your brand takes a bit of research. Find a few different SEO consulting services that offer what you’re looking for. This might be simple search engine optimization or more in-depth services like digital marketing and link building.

Browse each company’s website, read testimonials, and look at past projects. After reading about a consultant enough or speaking with him or her over the phone, you should have an idea of whether you’ll mesh well together. A solid, highly regarded SEO professional will come across as such from the first time you speak.

The post Senior SEO Professionals vs. Rookie/Mid-Level SEO Consultants: A Game of Numbers and Risk appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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It’s Tool Tip Tuesday, and what more exciting tips than the ones straight from the folks at Google themselves? I recently wrote a piece for Search Engine Journal looking back at Google’s Vince update and thought I’d share it with you today. Feel free to share your comments below!

There is little more exciting than the release of an algorithm update from Google.

This dramatic story commonly begins with chatter among SEO professionals over ranking fluctuations, a message announcement from Google, a collective freak-out from the search community, followed by deep data dives and a communal conversation on why Google has again seemed to shake up the search landscape.

Nonetheless, it allows us to reflect years later and review why the algorithmic update happened.

Did we see it coming? How did it change SEO? And did it lay the groundwork for future algorithmic updates?

Find out the answers to those questions and more inn my full post on Search Engine Journal.

The post Tool Tip Tuesday – A Look Back at Google’s Vince Update appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can be what sinks or floats the “ship” of a modern web-based business. SEO is at the heart of what allows a brand to thrive in an age that places such great importance on the web. The SEO consulting services you choose can make all the difference in your company’s success. Choosing between an individual contractor and an established agency can be difficult, especially if both appear to have attractive benefits. Here’s a look at some of the greatest differences you’ll find between the two.

The Differences Between an SEO Consultant and SEO Agency

The first step in making your choice is recognizing what makes an agency, an agency. SEO agencies use collaboration amongst team members to come up with the right strategies to improve website performance. A good agency will gather together the brightest minds in the industry with specialists in each sector of SEO – semantics, keyword research, site design, content, etc. Combining the best talent in every focus area will give the client the best of all worlds through one simple enterprise.

An SEO consultant is typically an independent contractor, meaning the individual works for him or herself. Most are SEO freelance agents. SEO freelancers generally work by the hour. Since there is no agency endorsing the skills or trustworthiness of the freelancer, you must be careful who you hire. It will be up to you to manage the consultant – a task that may require micromanaging depending on the individual. Business owners should have a good understanding of what the contractor is doing to prevent costly mishaps.

Pros and Cons of an SEO Consultant

Weighing the pros and cons of an SEO agency vs. consultant can help you make the right decision for your needs. The most obvious selling point of an individual SEO consultant is one-on-one attention with a specialist. You can work with the best in the business without having to fight for his or her focus. At least, that’s what the individual’s business card will tell you. In reality, you have to do significant research to hire a contractor that’s worth the money. Look for testimonials and the person’s past success stores to validate his or her claims.

SEO consultants are cheaper than hiring most agencies. Remember, however, that you get what you pay for. A freelancer may not possess the same range of skills or resources as an agency. You are likely to get a “jack of all trades” type, with no one specialty. This can limit the contractor’s abilities and experience in certain subjects. Since SEO consultants are one-man bands, they tend to need more time to complete projects than agencies. This can be a problem if you have a strict timeline in mind.

Pros and Cons of an SEO Agency

SEO consulting services are only as good as the people involved. At an SEO agency, you will have several highly qualified experts handling your website. This increases the chances of a successful project compared to just one individual. With so much brainpower focused on your website, you’re sure to garner amazing results. You’ll also have more resources available to you, such as SEO auditing services, link building services, local SEO assistance, image and video optimization, and more.

With an agency, you’re working with a business, not a freelancer. You get all the support and guarantees that this comes with. Customer service and commitment to project success will be superior. Agency prices may be more expensive than an individual consultant, but you get more for your money. You gain access to a higher level of support, no matter the scope of the project. Reputable agencies are safer investments and will almost always provide satisfactory returns.

Some people cite high turnover rates as a potential cons of SEO agencies. This entirely depends on the SEO agency and is always something good to just ask upfront. Many agencies work as a collaborative team, so that one agent leaving will not affect your SEO project. The other consultants working on your site will fill the gap as if the transition never occurred. If you don’t like your project manager, ask for another. At an agency, this option is available to you. In essence, trusting an SEO agency helps you avoid all the potential risks of hiring a freelancer. Your investment and your website will be in good hands.

How to Make Your Choice

Look at the scope of your project, and your company goals. Create a list of everything you want your digital marketing strategy to accomplish. Start your search by finding an agency or consultant that can accommodate your most pressing needs. Then, look at your budget. An agency may be out of your desired price range. You could always start with a freelancer and switch to an agency after you make money from leads on Google searches. Start researching options that make you feel confident in your decision. Vizion Interactive delivers the best features of both SEO consulting services – the resources of a large agency plus the personalization of an individual or boutique.

The post SEO Consultant Or SEO Agency: Which Is Best For Your Business’ Needs appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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As a business owner in 2017, know that your website speed can be a killer. Countless studies have proven the importance of download speed to overall user experience and satisfaction. One Kissmetrics report found that 40% of shoppers will abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. You could lose almost half of your potential customers with below average download speeds. Luckily, there is a tool that can help you analyze your speeds and make improvements – Google PageSpeed Insights.

About the PageSpeed Insight Tool from Google

PageSpeed Insights analyzes websites based on URLs that users input. It measures the performance of a site in terms of mobile and desktop use, fetching the URL through two different user agents. It determines whether the page has applied the speed rules and best practices and gives it a score depending on how the site stacks up. The score ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best. The tool will give a score based on the following standards:

  • Number of landing page redirects
  • Whether or not compression is enabled
  • Server response time
  • Browser caching leveraging
  • Minified resources
  • Optimized images
  • Optimized CSS delivery
  • The priority of visible content
  • The presence of render-blocking JavaScript
  • The use of asynchronous scripts

In general, websites should avoid plugins, use legible font sizes throughout, and have viewports configured for maximum usability. The PageSpeed Insight tool will lower the grades of sites that do not abide by the accepted standards for modern mobile and desktop websites. As these standards change, website administrators will need to update their sites for the most recent SEO best practices. Keep checking your PageSpeed score periodically to make sure you’re still on top of the latest requirements.

Interpreting Your Google PageSpeed Insights Results

Don’t obsess about receiving a 100/100 score. A less-than-perfect score isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t necessarily mean your website is suffering due to subpar speeds. It’s impossible for sites to get perfect scores in some situations – especially WordPress sites with several external scripts or multipurpose themes. It’s okay to not make 100 percent. The Insights tool uses three main categories to judge a website: good, needs work, and poor. As long as your site ranks in the “Good” category, you shouldn’t worry too much about your exact score.

“Good,” or a score of 85 and higher, means that your website contains most best practices and delivers a good user experience. There may be room for improvement but, overall, your site performs pretty well. “Needs work” is a yellow flag that means you should consider a revamp. Your page may be missing some common optimizations that are resulting in slower download speeds and a worse user experience. The tool will provide recommendations for what to change to improve your score. Ignoring a “Needs work” score could bode badly for your brand and lead to preventable lost business in the long run.

A “poor” score on Google PageSpeed Insights is a red flag for website performance. It means your website failed on both parameters: time to complete an above-the-fold load and time to complete a full page load. You may see several recommendations with the red exclamation point icon. Fixing these issues could significantly impact your page performance. Look at a “poor” rating as an urgent business concern. A perfect grade might not be necessary, but you should at least strive for a “good” rating. Address each yellow- or red-flagged recommendation on your score sheet systematically, and watch your score improve.

How Important Is Your PageSpeed Insights Score?

Google PageSpeed Insights is meant for just that – to provide insights on how your website performs in terms of loading speeds. Its purpose is not to penalize your site or make you believe you’re losing customers due to inefficiencies. The majority of websites will not receive a 100/100 score. A less-than-perfect grade does not mean you should worry about your page’s performance. Some of the recommendations your report will feature are impossible or unrealistic for your site. There may also be inconsistencies – for instance, PageSpeed removes points for CDNs, yet a CDN can improve speed for international visitors.

In some instances, the time and effort you’ll spend addressing a recommendation is not worth the outcome. For example, say you lost a point for failing to optimize an image. If compressing the image will only save a miniscule byte of data, it may not increase your score. Don’t waste time worrying about every single recommendation your Insights report highlights. Pay attention to red flag indicators, but know when to dismiss suggestions that do not apply to your particular website.

Google PageSpeed Insights is not the end-all solution for page speed analyzers. Alternatives exist that may give reveal more information about the performance of your page. Like Insights, most of these features are free. A few examples are the KeyCDN Speed Test, Pingdom Website Speed Test, and GTMetrix. Many site managers and SEO experts use more than one speed test for a comprehensive overview of site performance. Play around with a few different tools before getting too stuck on your Google PageSpeed results.

The post Understanding Google PageSpeed Insights appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Search engine optimization (SEO) strategy can be what sinks or floats the “ship” of a modern web-based business. SEO is at the heart of what allows a brand to thrive in an age that places such great importance on the web. The SEO consulting services you choose can make all the difference in your company’s success. Choosing between an individual contractor and an established agency can be difficult, especially if both appear to have attractive benefits. Here’s a look at some of the greatest differences you’ll find between the two.

The Differences Between an SEO Consultant and SEO Agency

The first step in making your choice is recognizing what makes an agency, an agency. SEO agencies use collaboration amongst team members to come up with the right strategies to improve website performance. A good agency will gather together the brightest minds in the industry with specialists in each sector of SEO – semantics, keyword research, site design, content, etc. Combining the best talent in every focus area will give the client the best of all worlds through one simple enterprise.

An SEO consultant is typically an independent contractor, meaning the individual works for him or herself. Most are SEO freelance agents. SEO freelancers generally work by the hour. Since there is no agency endorsing the skills or trustworthiness of the freelancer, you must be careful who you hire. It will be up to you to manage the consultant – a task that may require micromanaging depending on the individual. Business owners should have a good understanding of what the contractor is doing to prevent costly mishaps.

Pros and Cons of an SEO Consultant

Weighing the pros and cons of an SEO agency vs. consultant can help you make the right decision for your needs. The most obvious selling point of an individual SEO consultant is one-on-one attention with a specialist. You can work with the best in the business without having to fight for his or her focus. At least, that’s what the individual’s business card will tell you. In reality, you have to do significant research to hire a contractor that’s worth the money. Look for testimonials and the person’s past success stores to validate his or her claims.

SEO consultants are cheaper than hiring most agencies. Remember, however, that you get what you pay for. A freelancer may not possess the same range of skills or resources as an agency. You are likely to get a “jack of all trades” type, with no one specialty. This can limit the contractor’s abilities and experience in certain subjects. Since SEO consultants are one-man bands, they tend to need more time to complete projects than agencies. This can be a problem if you have a strict timeline in mind.

Pros and Cons of an SEO Agency

SEO consulting services are only as good as the people involved. At an SEO agency, you will have several highly qualified experts handling your website. This increases the chances of a successful project compared to just one individual. With so much brainpower focused on your website, you’re sure to garner amazing results. You’ll also have more resources available to you, such as SEO auditing services, link building services, local SEO assistance, image and video optimization, and more.

With an agency, you’re working with a business, not a freelancer. You get all the support and guarantees that this comes with. Customer service and commitment to project success will be superior. Agency prices may be more expensive than an individual consultant, but you get more for your money. You gain access to a higher level of support, no matter the scope of the project. Reputable agencies are safer investments and will almost always provide satisfactory returns.

Some people cite high turnover rates as a potential cons of SEO agencies. This entirely depends on the SEO agency and is always something good to just ask upfront. Many agencies work as a collaborative team, so that one agent leaving will not affect your SEO project. The other consultants working on your site will fill the gap as if the transition never occurred. If you don’t like your project manager, ask for another. At an agency, this option is available to you. In essence, trusting an SEO agency helps you avoid all the potential risks of hiring a freelancer. Your investment and your website will be in good hands.

How to Make Your Choice

Look at the scope of your project, and your company goals. Create a list of everything you want your digital marketing strategy to accomplish. Start your search by finding an agency or consultant that can accommodate your most pressing needs. Then, look at your budget. An agency may be out of your desired price range. You could always start with a freelancer and switch to an agency after you make money from leads on Google searches. Start researching options that make you feel confident in your decision. Vizion Interactive delivers the best features of both SEO consulting services – the resources of a large agency plus the personalization of an individual or boutique.

The post SEO Consultant Or SEO Agency: Which Is Best For Your Business’ Needs appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Google Keyword Planner is an invaluable tool for business owners and website managers. It takes the mystery out of keyword research and makes search engine optimization (SEO) easier. In just a few easy steps, the Planner will give you new keywords and search volume data based on your inputs. You may then use these data-backed keywords in your content to increase site traffic and website ranking. To use the Google Keyword Planer to its fullest potential, use these six tips.

Enter the Right Information

After you open the Google Keyword Planner using your Adwords account, you’ll come to a page that allows you to input information about your product or service, landing page, audience targeting, and more. The most important element on this page is the “Enter one or more of the following,” portion. The information you insert into this part will largely decide the value you get from the tool. Enter your “seed keywords,” or specific keywords, in the “Your product or service” tab. You do not want to enter broad keywords in this section or the Planner will give you Head Keywords that are too competitive.

Enter one to three keywords in this section for the best results. Use a different niche market for each keyword. If you aren’t an Adwords user, you will not have a landing page to enter into this section. However, inserting your website homepage URL may help garner better keywords. If entering this information doesn’t come up with keywords, you need to play around with the “product category” section. You can change your category a few times to see which delivers the best results. From there, choose your targeting options and customize your search with keyword filters and options, if desired.

Fine-Tune Your Keyword Options

Use the keyword filters option to get even better results from your Planner search. If you’re just beginning a campaign, for example, set the “Average Monthly Searches” option to a mid-level search volume. This can help you avoid keywords with high search volumes, which will be more expensive. Stay within you desired keyword budget by filling out the “Suggested Bid” category. This feature uses the cost-per-click amount that other advertisers are currently paying for keywords in your settings. You can filter how difficult it will be to receive a top position with your keywords using the “Competition” feature. Small businesses should generally stick to low or medium difficulty to stretch their budgets.

Don’t Set Too Many Restrictions

The goal is to derive optimal results using the Google Keyword Planner, but you don’t want to be overly specific with your information. There is a balance you must strike between not enough information and too much. Setting your search to strict parameters can result in zero keywords originated, leading to missed opportunities. Play around with your keyword list, starting broadly and then getting more specific with each search. As you become more familiar with common keywords and competitive phrases in your niche, you’ll be able to learn which filter options are the best for you.

Choose Quality Over Quantity

Quality is what counts with keywords – not how many you get. One excellent keyword term or phrase can do more for your business than 10 subpar ones. Use targeting to garner the best keywords for your geographic location. These keywords can be more beneficial to your business than general industry ones. Customize where your ads will appear based on your target audience’s location or language. If you own a brick-and-mortar store, these settings are especially useful to stir up interest in your locale.

Don’t Ignore Search Volume Trends and Data

One of the most useful tools the Google Keyword Planner has to offer is the “get search volume data and trends.” Many people make the mistake of focusing only on current statistics for a set of keywords. Looking at the trends over time in the form of a graph can help you target keywords that have experienced growing demand with limited competition. Focus on keywords and concepts that gain increasing audience interest over time, not those that are experiencing downward trends. This way, your keyword investment has a better chance of lasting longer.

Use Your Keywords Wisely

Using the Google Keyword Planner to get the keywords you need for better business is only half the battle. The next step is using those keywords to your advantage. Save your keyword list in a spreadsheet for future reference. Saving them to your campaign plan instead of downloading them into a .CSV file gives you the benefit of keeping all your phrases in sight until you complete your campaign.

With your next campaign, use your recently discovered keywords in your blog posts titles, blog content, and headers to increase your relevance of ranking for desired terms. Using keywords wisely on your website and in advertising is an SEO best practice that can ultimately boost business. The Google Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for getting started with optimized keyword usage.

The post Quick Tips for Using Google Keyword Planner appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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When it comes to search engine optimization, 80+% of it is working for better positions in Google.  Now Google loves to refine their algorithm and cause us all to do what is affectionally called ‘the Google dance’.

Since 2000, Google has made many changes to the way it not only processes the billions of sites on the web, but also how it reviews the interconnectivity of sites on the web and presents these details to searchers.  This leads to new opportunities for everyone, typically due to the fluctuations that this causes for website owners and the shifts in exposure these cause.

However, Google typically only provides hints of what each algorithm update includes and what factors it shifts priority of and lately, they are getting even more obfuscated with the slight openness they have shown in the past as perfectly illustrated by this tweet from Gary Illyes during a Twitter exchange between Barry Schwartz and him:

This was shortly after much speculation in the SEO world about the fact that we were observing lots of ranking shifts and traffic pattern changes for the various websites managed both internally and externally.  What started as lots of inquiries led to the exchange shown above.  The confirmation of the update however was much less clear as Gary’s response to it on Twitter was simply this:

With this, even Moz.com’s algorithm update tracker/timeline adopted the name, but also highlighted that it was still “Unconfirmed” despite the name designation.  Now, when it comes to SEO, we’re talking about a long-term business strategy, typically involving hours upon hours for evaluation, recommendations, content creation, developmental projects, and thousands of other activities.  But, when Gary states that “we have 3 updates a day in average”, what hope does that inspire that anyone can keep up?

Well, fortunately there are several core factors that should be the ongoing focus for any business trying to maintain or build a strong SEO presence in Google.   These are factors, that, when set-up as a primary focus, will continue to maintain a strong SEO foundation.

  1. Indexability / Crawlability:

This one is pretty obvious.  If search engines, especially Google, cannot easily index the pages you want from your website in the index, chances are you are going to not rank for very much.  This component of SEO includes aspects like:

  • Does your website or any pertinent sub-domains have a robots.txt file with proper directions that doesn’t exclude content that should be consumer facing?
  • Does your website and any pertinent sub-domains have a sitemap.xml file that provides a list of all the URLs you want in the index and, when pages are added, is there a process, systematic or otherwise, that adds them to the existing sitemap files?
  • Does your website allow search engine bots to access your website and its content?
  • Is the code on the webpages you want indexed clear, clean, concise and include the various markup formats that are designed to provide additional clarity for the search engines using the accepted formats?
  • Do you tell the search engines what language to expect when they are reviewing your webpages and do you properly designate the variations of these pages that are in other languages?

Now there are many more aspects related to this, but to make sure this is done right regardless of any and all Google algorithm updates should always be at the top of your list of SEO to-do’s and analysis.  Oh, and if you are not getting proper indexation, well, you will not even be able to realize if an algorithm update is affecting your website or not.

  1. Mobile Accessibility / Usability:

Yet another obvious foundational aspect for your SEO and web development teams for sure.  Seriously, even if Google did not come out and blatantly say that mobile accessibility and usability were important and that you should never block the Google mobile bot, just looking at the constantly increasing usage of smart phones should have made this a known priority.

Additionally, if you do not treat your mobile experience like your desktop website version by continuing to evaluate usability enhancements, observe user behavior to identify pinch points and consider testing those observable situations, then your priority is skewed.  So, simply ask yourself, when was the last time you dug into just user behavior to make sure the mobile experience was not just the reduced display of your desktop site, but actually an experience built to allow mobile phone users to navigate and convert?  Why not just pause here, jump into your analytics system and see.  Don’t worry, the rest of the content below will still be here waiting for your return.

  1. Avoidance of Duplication:

This is truly one of those SEO foundational activities, but one that is overlooked way too often.  If the same page content can be accessed with more than 1 URL variation (and yes, parameters can count if not properly notated) and you are not properly providing the signals to highlight the others, well, you are failing.  Now, I have seen sites get a decent amount of rankings despite this, but it is like walking on a high wire where one end is tied around someone 1/3rd your weight…eventually the sag is going to be too much and down the rankings you will go.  So, dig in deep here.  Make sure your fundamentals are covered.  You know, ask the small things like “does my site have canonical tags”, “are known variations tagged as alternates”, “are any and all appendable parameters addressed in your Google Search Console account or in your robots.txt file or at least triggering robots meta tags highlighting that variation as noindex, follow”?

  1. Quality Content:

So, obviously content is important.  Not only does it provide the context of what each and every page on your website represents to search engines, but it also is what users view to determine the legitimacy of what you do/offer/expound, etc.  Now the word “quality” is specifically included for a reason.  Quality, in my context of it, is how well it describes what the page is about, what questions or needs the page can solve and how it is related to the other pages above and below it.  Often we see pages with “thin” content.  This is typically tied to someone in the organization hearing the words “content is important” and, when they evaluate their pages, they decide it will be a lot of work, so they quickly create 1-2 sentences thinking it is an appropriate response.  It often is not.  So, if the word “daunting” comes up when discussing evolving your content to “quality” content, accept it and prioritize it, don’t just do it halfway as the other half always seems to never get done.

  1. Fresh Content:

So, where I speak to “quality content” above, I also wanted to speak independently to fresh content.  This still does require the focus on quality, but also on timeliness.  When a website is not publishing new content in this new age of SEO, it will start to become stale which eventually starts to become irrelevant.  This is also the best kind of content to use for social media and so many other activities.  This said, this is another area we often hear is considered “daunting” when it comes to the amount of work it seems to represent.  Now, much like with the quality content focus above, this is more of a “must-do” versus a “should-do” type of activity.  Additionally, there are a ton of affordable options to get this created.  There are whole companies and services simply dedicated to writing content.  The key is to at least take the time and get the understanding of what content speaks to what it is you offer and how it can benefit the life of your consumer.  To this, we typically develop content plans not just based on shoring up or targeting specific keywords, but focus in on themes.  We then work directly with our internal partners and develop topical outlines, often focusing on answering a specific type of user query or providing additional context about something a client offers or sells.  We then look for how to enrich this new and fresh content with elements like infographics, catchy imagery, videos, quizzes and other engaging media.  These enrichment items are determined by the client’s market, the overall topic and, of course, where we want to promote the content.  So, how often do you publish new content?  Is it a known priority for your organization and your c-class team?  If not…

  1. External and Internal Linking Contextual Signals:

No SEO consultant worth his salt will deny that internal and external linking are important.  Interestingly, both have been looked at for a long time by Google.  Some would argue that weightiness of them have changed over the years and they would be right.

External linking was gamed by the black-hats and those grey-hat SEOs that saw the opportunity to get gains quickly without consideration of the risk factor, often for their own personal gain.  So, due to this, Google created a special penalty update specific to the activity of gaming the external link context component of their algorithm.  This led to many websites basically disappearing off the web, or at least, suffering from this sort of activity.  This goes back a few years now and yet, we still see companies that are suffering from this today.  Worse yet, we see this still being used as a negative SEO tactic in highly competitive markets.  Personally, I have too much integrity to do this as does everyone else here at Vizion Interactive.

When it comes to the internal linking side of things, we see a different dynamic.  The search engines look at this for “contextual linking” signals.  Think of it this way, when you describe something, you do so with words (games of Pictionary aside).  When you link to a page from a body of content, the search engines look at that and compare it to what they can derive from the linked to page to understand the relationship.  Here, how about an example.  Let’s say I have a paragraph of content and it contains the phrase “blue widgets”.  You would expect that to take you to a page with actual blue widgets, right?  Let’s say it was linked to the page with red widgets instead.  Well, as a user, you’re going to feel mislead by the context provided by that link text, but if it went to a page full of thousands of blue widgets, you would feel the context was honest.  Google likes to evaluate the context of link text and determine if it is accurate or not.  Inaccuracy is not acceptable and this includes when the same phrase is linked to multiple places.  Let’s say you have the phrase “blue widgets” linked on a variety of pages and even in your menus.  Now, imagine that the phrase does not always link to the same place.  The confusion you feel just from this prospect is what Google has to deal with too.  Which page really is the right one for “blue widgets”?  This ends up causing fuzzy context for users and for Google and typically ends up with all the pages that the same phrase link to not getting the full ranking.

  1. Site Structure / Information Architecture:

This is the element that ties everything above together.  It is not only the overall structure and navigation for your website, but also all the contextual signals that determine how things are related, where they live in the hierarchy of things on your site and how stand-alone content fits into the collage that is your website.  This is also the part of the site that typically is affected through “evolution” and “iteration” because it always seems easier to just patch something in rather than actually building a true spot for it to logically reside.  Honestly, when it comes to this and all the other elements it works with, I get why often the best laid intentions initially go sideways after time and, by observations going back over 20 years now, the culprit is typically impatience and a lack of formal processes to integrate into the site structure versus just slapping things in where they kind of fit.  Often I’ve been tasked internally and as an SEO consultant to basically reset a website’s structure and typically, once it is out there supported by the other foundational elements mentioned above, it performs well, not only for organic positioning, but also for usability.  The critical part is the maintaining of this and ensuring that laziness or a lack of planning don’t derail things.

In conclusion, there are definitely areas to maintain focus on when it comes to search engine optimization and the ever-changing algorithms of Google.  While some of the changes will still affect you and your rankings, knowing and understanding these seven core areas of your managed website(s), will allow you to more accurately make modifications to keep you in the Google limelight.  So, do you know and maintain all seven of these core areas?  Does your SEO consultant or agency act invested in these seven core elements?  When was the last time you had an independent SEO audit that actually looked at all of these critical elements?  While only you can answer those 3 questions, we here at Vizion Interactive can definitely help with that last point and, you know what, by doing one of our robust audits, it will give us a lot of understanding around the status of the seven core SEO elements refenced above.  Give us a call at (888) 484-9466 ext. 60 and find out why we still have clients who have been working with us for more than 10 years.

The post Google Algorithm Updates and the Core SEO Factors to Focus On appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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Recently, the two heaviest hitters in the search engine world – Google and Bing – jointly announced that they would increase the file size limit for sitemaps from 10MB to 50MB. A sitemap file contains all the URLs that belong to a particular site, and the maximum number of URLs a sitemap file may contain remains capped at 50,000. While the jump from 10MB to 50MB may seem insignificant at first glance, it is actually a big change for the search engine world.

A sitemap helps search engines read, label, and index the content of your website’s pages, resulting in much better search result rankings. For example, imagine two websites that sell similar products, earn equivalent annual profits, and employ roughly the same amount of people. These two companies may share many keywords, but the site with the better-indexed sitemap is going to rank much better in search results. Now that the maximum file size for sitemaps has been increased on the two biggest search engines in the world, websites don’t have to worry as much about extra-long URLs, attributes listing extra-long URLs, or URLs in multiple languages.

Sitemaps’ Impact on SEO

Sitemaps are invaluable files for search engine optimization (SEO). Essentially, a sitemap is a map of a website that shows how the website is structured, the links that comprise the whole, and how they interact. They are important for both users and search engines, and due to their nature, two main types of sitemaps exist – one for human visitors to navigate websites and another designed for search engines’ bots to crawl through for SEO purposes.

Sitemaps are useful for search engines because they can immediately inform the engine of changes to your site, such as a redesigned URL, new pages, and other edits. Sitemaps also help drive traffic to your website, rather than simply hoping for organic hits to appear through external links. A well-indexed sitemap will help search engines quickly assess your site and improve your search result rankings.

A Sitemap Should Be Your First Web Design Step

To establish your sitemap, you’ll first need to create one and upload it to your site, but you also need to notify Google of the addition. This means creating a Google Sitemaps account or adding to yours if you already have one. Generating a sitemap is a relatively simple process, so even small business owners or startup companies can have one. Invest the time and energy into creating a sitemap as soon as your site is functional. This will result in much better SEO results in your company’s early days.

Sitemaps are crucial for SEO and designing yours before you build your website will be an invaluable first step. SEO penalizes duplicate content, so when you carefully plan your sitemap, you run a much lower risk of creating duplicate pages or URLs. Sitemaps are just an outline of the content that will be on your website’s pages, so even the least tech-savvy business leaders can understand and capitalize on them.

When you create a sitemap, you provide your web design team with a jumping-off point for the rest of your site. It will save you an enormous amount of time, energy, frustration, and money in the long run. Many companies have rushed to push a website to launch without a proper sitemap, only to find they must later cobble one together and sort out the discrepancies. With a sitemap, the risk of duplicate content is much lower, and you can easily link information from one page to others when necessary without taking a hit to your SEO.

Sitemaps Can Boost Your Conversion Rate

Every customer-focused business has a customer journey – the customer moves from point A to point B. Point A is the initial exposure to a brand and point B is completing a purchase or committing to some other action, such as opting in to an email newsletter. In an ideal world, there are as few steps as possible between A and B, and a sitemap can help.

Rather than navigating multiple pages, you can tailor your website around encouraging your ideal customer journey in the construction phase: You plan how a visitor to your site is going to navigate your pages and craft a concise and valuable customer journey. This is just one example, but now that Google and Bing have increased the maximum file size for sitemaps, SEO experts and web designers have much more room to work with when it comes to developing robust, efficient, SEO-ready sitemaps.

Without a well-planned sitemap, you run a big risk of creating extraneous pages, duplicate content, or just making things far more complex than necessary. This uses up valuable time and resources and will consistently create headaches for you and your team down the road. Avoid this eventuality by crafting a detailed sitemap in the planning phases of your website design process.

The post Sitemap Max File Size Limit Increased On Google and Bing appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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If a picture is a worth 1,000 words, a gif must be worth at least 10,000. These 15 gifs perfectly sum up search engine optimization (SEO) – its strategies, goals, and the trials and tribulations it gives today’s marketers.

SEO rules are constantly changing, telling people what they can and cannot include on their websites. First keywords, then not too many keywords, next backlinks, but only high-quality backlinks… Navigating the rules of SEO isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.

SEO can feel like taking one step forward and two steps back. Between the never-ending Google algorithm updates and new SEO trends making headlines, website managers might think they’ll never master the art of optimization. Understanding SEO takes time and effort, but total optimization is possible with the right resources.

Getting the coveted first search results page can feel like finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket – something that will only happen to the “lucky finders.” Luckily, in the real world, Google and your fellow marketers have techniques you can use to increase your chances of optimization greatly – the metaphorical golden ticket of the internet.

If you’re one of many website owners who realized with dismay that Google’s last algorithm update pushed you off the results page, don’t get discouraged. This just means you have to alter the methods you’ve been using to promote your page. When you feel like throwing in the towel, remember that SEO is ultimately here to help, not hurt, brands.

A core concept behind SEO is building trust. Providing consistent content, valuable information, and high-quality resources will all build your company’s credibility. If you focus on earning your consumers’ trust while building your website, you’ll greatly improve your chances of optimization regardless of Google’s algorithm updates.

One of the most important aspects of successful SEO is strategy. Like a carefully executed chess game, the “winners” of SEO took the time to form a plan, execute the plan, and track success. SEO isn’t something you can jump right into – it takes preparation, foresight, and smart moves to beat your competition and remain in the game.

Practice makes perfect, and SEO is no exception. The more you get used to optimizing the content on your site for search engines, the easier it gets. Soon, you’ll be applying the rules and getting SEO brownie points without even trying.

If you have questions about SEO, you aren’t alone. Whether you’re a beginner or SEO expert, there’s sure to be something that stumps you along the way to optimization. Take to the Internet for help, or hire an SEO agency to help when you have questions about best practices, rules, and how to win at SEO.

Failing to pay attention to SEO – especially Google’s requirements – can seriously damage your chances of consumers finding your page. As the #1 search engine today, Google’s algorithms decide the fate of companies by rewarding those that follow the rules with a spot on the first page of search results.

Don’t let SEO rules make you lose sight of what’s important. SEO is all about the customer satisfaction. Focus on the user’s experience on your site and impressions of your company. The goal of SEO is ultimately to cater to your target audience’s needs and do it better than your competition does.

Win at SEO by focusing wholeheartedly on your site’s content. Search engines use your site’s content to assess your site’s reliability and popularity among users. Optimizing your content is the #1 thing you can do for successful SEO. Keep content current, relevant, and high quality, and link only to reputable sources.

A major element affecting companies’ SEO ranks is the lack of mobile optimization. Today’s websites must cater to mobile users, who now make up the majority of all global Internet users. Failing to optimize your site for mobile means consumers can’t or don’t want to access your site from their mobile devices.

While content marketers can get confused about what SEO is today, the end goal for Google has never changed – to provide the best search results for its users. When marketers realize the point of SEO is to help users, it can make a lot of light bulbs turn on.

The rewards for proper SEO strategizing are great. When your company successfully optimizes your site for search engines, the right consumers notice the hard work you put into it at the right time – leading to better profitability. With a solid SEO plan in place, you give your company the tools to succeed. That’s something to celebrate.

The future of SEO is always upon us, and we must be ready to embrace the new rules and regulations as they appear. Lasting SEO success depends on your company’s ability to adapt to changes with confidence and eloquence, always giving your target consumers what they want in your website.

The post Gifs that explain SEO appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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First, let’s review what ‘taxonomy’ means when we apply the word to a website.  The basic definition of ‘taxonomy’, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the study of the general principles of scientific classification” and, more specific to the world of science, it is defined as “the process or system of describing the way in which different living things are related by putting them in groups.”  However, in the purpose of being used for a website, Google would define it simply as “a scheme of classification.”  Personally, I would define a website taxonomy as:

“The hierarchical structure of a website as it relates to what is on the site (content, products, etc.) and how that is meant to be delivered to the site’s users.”

Essentially, we mean that it looks at the highest level of messaging (think your homepage) and then gradually dissects the website based on consumer purpose and the informational hierarchy of the market(s) it is meant to service.

One of the greatest product taxonomies on the internet is what Amazon has created to classify the millions of products and product varieties they sell in “Browse Tree Guides” and all the content associated with explaining it as well as shown below:

Because of this, Amazon is now where 50% of shoppers start their product search.  This only happens when product shoppers feel comfortable with how to find the products they are looking for and, which is definitely true for Amazon, they can easily see a variety of products that fit what they are looking for.  Once this is done, they may look for a more local source to get what they want or, since it was so easily found on Amazon, they may just buy it right there.

The key to what makes a taxonomy powerful, is that it can be built for the present, but even with the right experience, be built for the potential short, medium and long horizon expansion targets of an organization.  What defines a good taxonomy is the sense of simple organization, by level, that is also mapped to how individuals use language to describe things they are looking for.  This last sentence describes why this becomes powerful for search engine optimization of a website…go read it one more time.  The words assigned at each level of a taxonomy…the words…after all, that is the basis of what search, SEO or otherwise, is meant to target, the words.

A true SEO taxonomy can be described in words and, almost anyone, should be able to understand the increasing specificity.  As an example, think about how your brain auto classifies everything when you hear the word ‘car’.  That single word immediately eliminates vans, SUVs, trucks and motorcycles.  Now, take that word and imagine that the level above it was ‘toys’. All of a sudden, the word ‘cars’ immediately conjures up the image of toy cars, or, for someone my age, of Hot Wheels and/or Matchbox.  A good taxonomy not only provides the instant cognitive recognition of where they are, but of what options would be above that and the potential options that would be below.

When it comes to SEO taxonomy, the user HAS TO BE put first, not the keywords.  The keywords and phrases will follow, so, the first step is to define your hierarchy based on the common language that relates to your website.  To provide a real life example from Amazon itself, just click and download their taxonomy for “Toys & Games”.  Below I show that spreadsheet from Amazon with the “Node Path” dissected to show a more visually digestible format to look at it.

As you can see, I pulled the section that shows even more classifications using the word ‘cars’, yet, by seeing “Hobbies > Models & Model kits” you can quickly and easily digest what exactly you will find in this area as a shopper.  For a machine programmed by humans to digest context via labels, this sort of thought through website taxonomy does the same thing.  Additionally, when truly thought out, you can more easily evolve it.  Let’s say, hypothetically, that it becomes really cool to build skateboard model kits.  Well, all Amazon needs to do, is add that to the “Model Kits” node right there along with “Spacecraft Kits” and individuals will immediately know where to find them. Google and the other search engines immediately understand the difference between these skateboard kits and a real, full-size skateboard.

So, before I get too deep into this (I could talk about taxonomies all day), you should be able to get the context now of why this is a great exercise for any website.  Many websites have grown organically through in-market expansions and they have not always taken the time to revisit how those new product lines fit into the mix.

So to wrap this up with a last “special-sauce”, when it comes to a website and building in the SEO layers through the use of descriptive language, the key is maintaining a consistent internal linking structure AND leveraging your own knowledge of your business to influence those organically obtained links across the web.  Always assign each node of the category a ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ keyword and make sure people know and/or have access to that list.  Got a blog writer whose job it is to talk about new and hot seasonal products and product categories?  Make sure they have the taxonomy so they can reference it for which word or phrase is mapped as the primary or secondary term so when they build a reference in their article, they are linking the RIGHT descriptive phrasing for whichever category they link to.

So, when was the last time your company did a true review of your website’s taxonomy?  If the answer is more than 5 years ago, it may very well be time for an update.  If you can’t even find the original documentation for your website’s navigation, well, that would be another indicator that it is time to re-evaluate it or, if it is good, at least re-document it.

The post Building a Good Website Taxonomy IS SEO appeared first on Vizion Interactive.

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