What are Google algorithm updates?

Every year, Google makes updates to its algorithm, ranging from hundreds of minor adjustments to a handful of major updates. In the last year, Google made core updates rewarding up-to-date and relevant content, trustworthiness, and link quality along with a multitude of other tweaks that can affect how a website or page ranks. More often, when a large or sweeping update is going to be made, Google will pre-announce to allow hosts/webmasters an opportunity to update their websites. Below, we’ll discuss what the most recent change and Google’s latest announcement mean for SEO and, more specifically, how ranking will be affected.

What changes is Google making in 2021?

While it may feel as if the year just started for many of us, Google’s made sure we feel the time pass. They’ve already completed one major update (after sneaking in one unannounced one in December) and announced another on the way. In February, Google rolled out passage-based ranking, which was previously announced in October 2020. This brings forth a focus on excerpts from a page, as Google flexes its ability to index and rank based upon specific, relevant excerpts. And Google, never one to take a beat to relax, has announced a coming page experience ranking signal for May. So, what do these updates fully entail?

Completed: Passage-based ranking (February 2021)

First announced last October, Google enhanced its ability to find and display specific passages within a webpage. But it’s important to note that this is not a change in how they index a page. Google will still fully index a webpage, but as a result of passage-based ranking will now pull the relevant excerpts from that indexed page to answer a given query. It’s possible the answer to a question or the pertinent information for a query is buried deep in one single sentence on a page; this allows Google to put that information front and center for a user, regardless of if the rest of the page is relevant or not to the topic — although this would not be the norm. Important to note is that this is different than Featured Snippets in which the entire indexed page would be relevant to the query and then the most relevant excerpt from the page would be featured.

So, what does that change really mean for future content and SEO efforts? Establishing a content hierarchy while utilizing proper headings (H2s and H3s) will be more important now, with specific topics needing to cover specific questions and smaller subheadings becoming key to answering those questions. Longform content on one main topic that happens to cover a lot of smaller subtopics may end up placing well in rankings for subtopics, despite the fact the entire page is more dedicated to a different focus. This could mean Google ends up rewriting meta descriptions more often (currently, they rewrite 63% to better match queries).

Coming soon: page experience ranking signals (May 2021)

In May, Google will roll out a new page experience ranking signal. This will elevate user experience as a ranking factor by combining Core Web Vitals and other UX-related metrics. Specifically, Core Web Vitals — which measure key aspects like page load time, interactivity, and stability — will be used alongside signals like HTTPS security, mobile friendliness, and safe browsing to determine rank.

The forthcoming updates place a large emphasis on the user experience, and if a page falls short, then it risks the ability to appear in organic search. Google has stated that if a website adheres to these new standards, visitors are 24% less likely to abandon the site. So, while a stronger focus on user accessibility and friendliness may cause some ripples of changes in your website, you can rest assured that taking the time to make those updates will be worth it.

What’s our take on the Google Algorithm Updates?

Google is constantly making changes to its algorithm; it’s just par for the course in the world of SEO. These changes affect how digital marketers prioritize SEO efforts, adjust site architecture and page layout, and attack content development and optimization. Staying current on algorithm shifts makes it possible to proactively update websites and minimize issues with site performance.

The latest batch of announcements signal two primary conclusions:

Robust and informative long-form content is more important than ever. Now is not the time to shrink the volume of content on a site; it’s the time to enhance it. We’ve seen the content needle pointing in this direction for years, and passage-based ranking is just the latest example of how large a focus Google is placing on it. For that reason, this likely won’t trigger a huge shift in strategy for most brands, but it will act as an additional proof point in conversations around the importance of quality content.

Onsite user experience is finally becoming a ranking factor. Again, this is something Google has consistently been working toward, but the forthcoming May updates make investing in user experience unavoidable. To mitigate decreases in rank, now is the time for brands to take a hard look at their website and optimize related elements (page load time, mobile friendliness, etc.) accordingly.

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Google Algorithm Update

The Google algorithm is constantly changing. In 2018 alone, Google ran 15,096 Live traffic experiments, and launched 3,234 updates to its search algorithm.

Not all updates have significant impact on the search results. This page covers the top 150 updates to how search results function from 2000-2019. Updates are a blend of changes to:

  • Algorithms
  • Indexation
  • Data (aka Data Refreshes)
  • Google Search UIs
  • Webmaster Tools
  • Changes to ranking factors and signals

Before we get into the timeline of individual google updates, it’s going to be helpful to define a handful of things upfront for any SEO newbies out there:

Google’s Core Algorithm

SEO experts, writers, and audiences will often refer to “Google’s Core Algorithm” as though it is a single item. In reality, Google’s Core Algorithm is made up of millions of smaller algorithms that all work together to surface the best possible search results to users. What we mean when we say “Google’s Core Algorithm” is the set of algorithms that are applied to every single search, which are no longer considered experimental, and which are stable enough to run consistently without requiring significant changes.

Google Panda (2011-2016)

The Panda algorithm focused on removing low quality content from search by reviewing on-page content itself. This algorithm focused on thin content, content dominated by ads, poor quality content (spelling/grammar mistakes), and rewarded unique content. Google Panda was updated 29 times before finally being incorporated into the core algorithm in January of 2016.

Google Penguin (2012-2016)

The Penguin algorithm focused on removing sites engaging in spammy tactics from the search results. Penguin primarily filtered sites engaging in keyword stuffing and link schemes out of the search results. Google Penguin was updated 10 times before being integrated into Google’s core algorithm in September of 2016.

RankBrain (2015-Present)

This machine-learning based AI helps Google process and understand the meaning behind new search queries. RankBrain works by being able to infer the meaning of new words or terms based on context and related terms. RankBrain began rolling out across all of Google search in early 2015 and was fully live and global by mid-2016. Within three months of full deployment RankBrain was already the 3rd most important signal contributing to the results selected for a search query.

Matt Cutts

One of the first 100 employees at Google, Matt Cutts was the head of Google’s Web Spam team for many many years, and interacted heavily with the webmaster community. He spent a lot of time answering questions about algorithm changes and providing webmasters high-level advice and direction.

Danny Sullivan

Originally a Founding Editor, Advisor, and Writer for Search Engine Land (among others), Danny Sullivan now communicates with the SEO community as Google’s Public Search Liaison. Mr. Sullivan frequently finds himself reminding the community that the best way to rank is to create quality content that provides value to users.

Gary Illyes

Google Webmaster Trends Analyst who often responds to the SEO community when they have questions about Google algorithm updates and changes. Gary is known for his candid (and entertaining) responses, which usually have a heavy element of sarcasm.

Webmaster World:

Frequently referenced whenever people speak about Google algorithm updates, webmasterworld.com is one of the most popular forums for webmasters to discuss changes to Google’s search results. A popular community since the early 2000’s webmasters still flock to the space whenever major fluctuations are noticed to discuss theories.

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2021 SEO TRENDS

One thing we always mention to our clients when it comes to SEO is that it is not a set-it and forget-it process. SEO is constantly evolving, and staying on top of the latest updates is vital for an ongoing successful strategy.

In this blog post, we compiled five 2021 SEO trends you should know to ensure your strategy is on track to success.

Developing an E-A-T Content Strategy

In 2021, Google continues to place a greater focus on the quality of content as a ranking factor- that’s why we’ll keep on hearing the term ‘E-A-T’ when it comes to SEO. So, what does this term mean? E‑A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. With this update, Google started checking the overall reputation of a given organization and author in order to provide searchers the best possible results for their queries. Using statistics and facts to support your claims, linking to reputable sites, and having authoritative sites link back to yours are some of the ways you can prove that you meet the E‑A-T criteria.

Optimizing for Local SEO

Local SEO refers to the process of optimizing your online presence to show up in relevant local search results. This concept first started to drive in-person traffic to local retailers; however, it expanded as Google started showing more local news in search. For being a part of local search results, it’s important to create a Google My Business account and update it as much as possible.

Focusing on Search Intent

Before starting to write a new piece of content, it’s crucial to analyze the search engine results pages to understand what top-ranking pages are doing right and what Google thinks are the best results that match the user’s intent. Consider search engine results pages as a free tool to learn the type of content that you need to create to best match user’s search intent when going after a query or related search term.

Improving User Experience

Last year, Google announced that they will be rolling out a change to their search algorithm that will make page experience and their Core Web Vitals direct ranking factors. What this means is that sites need to ensure a fast page load speed (desktop and mobile), intuitive navigation, easy readability, and mobile-friendly design. Google’s goal here is to deliver the best results to users by directing them to the websites that are at a better place from a technical perspective.

Content Lenght and Structure

Studies have shown that content that has 2,000 words and above dominates page one of search rankings. Users, as well as Google, prefers comprehensive one-stop-shop guides that demonstrate expertise on a certain topic. The ideal way to structure your website content is by forming topic clusters where a long-form pillar content links out to other related content.

With regular algorithm changes and update announcements, SEO is constantly evolving, and it’s definitely not an easy area to make predictions. However, one certain fact is following these recommendations will help improve your website not only in terms of SEO but also user experience and accessibility.

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The Hottest SEO Trends of 2021

With most businesses and individuals using the internet to make a profit, having an online presence has never been more important. However, despite the internet being a vast space, it is a saturated market, so how do you set yourself or your business apart from other competitors? You obviously need more exposure to gain more attention. Knowing how to do this online and in the right way is the answer. If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further for the hottest SEO trends of 2021.

User Focus

All business owners know that every user can become a potential customer. This is not something new, nor will it change. However, it’s their intent to buy and their consumption patterns that will change, and often does. This is what user focus is about. Digital marketing can help you better understand your users, or target audience, as the Tasmanian SEO company discusses, even though there are a few search engines, the most popular one is Google. When businesses know why consumers are searching for certain products or services, they are better able to understand them. 

However, as these algorithms remain strong, it is thought that search engine result pages (SERPS) will gain traction. Google and other search engines will begin to recognize when expert advice is being searched and will rank sites accordingly. 

Mobile SEO

With the majority of internet searches being conducted on mobile phones, it makes sense that your website functions well and interchangeably, regardless of whether it is being visited on your mobile, tablet, or laptop. However, as most people use their mobile phones to gain access to the internet, it would be foolish to ignore this fact. Therefore, in 2021 any SEO must be centered on mobile device UX. It is thought that Google will determine your ranking based on this.

SERP Optimization

Tracking SERPS will become a normal feature in 2021. With Google having so much information about your business, it can produce analytics that can be used to almost dissect every area of your online presence. Therefore, how your website interacts with SERPS will be greatly advanced if they all positively correlated.

With search engines becoming more knowledgeable, businesses need to work with this changing landscape. Keywords are still required, but so will an understanding of the topics being searched in queries as well as the intent behind them. 

Page Experience Optimization

With Core Web Vitals being introduced by Google, page experience metrics will require attention in 2021 as they will be examined for effectiveness and optimization. In particular, things like

How fast a page loads

How smooth a page is when loading

How safe a site is

How compatible a website is when it is used on different devices, particularly a mobile.

Core Web Vitals is focusing on issues that may occur on websites, so the more user-friendly yours is, the better Google will rank it.

Automation

Technological advances are occurring in all walks of life and business is no different. Automation is freeing up a lot of time to be dedicated elsewhere in business in the hope to increase profits. In 2020, there were many opportunities for tasks to be automated, such as generating data, and this is set to continue in 2021. One of the hottest SEO trends of 2021 could include AI-generated content as it will increase in volume and content. This will keep businesses competitive. Furthermore, adding human involvement in this to create human-in-the-loop automation, will make it more difficult for search engines to issue penalties for any black hat SEO practices. 

Considerable Content

Perhaps one easy way to remain ahead of your competitors in terms of SEO ranking is creating content that is longer than one thousand words. This is because it appeals to Google’s expert, authority, and trust (E-A-T) guidelines. At present articles or posts that are approximately 2,000 words are considered tops. However, it is thought that as more websites use this approach, average word lengths could increase to 3,000 words per piece of writing.

Review, Refine and Do

Aside from the prerequisite skills required, you will need to have a dynamic approach to rapid changes to keep up with SEO trends in 2021. This will require reviewing your practices, refining how you achieved them, and then putting SEO recommendations into practice. This will need to be done on a regular basis, as well as thinking outside the box. It is these two factors that will enable you to keep ahead of your competitors. Understanding your target audience is not enough, you will also need to understand the market they are in. This will involve looking at wider issues, almost taking a holistic approach by looking at socioeconomic and psychological behaviors, for example, to understand your target audience better.

Fast-paced technological developments bring with them new trends and it is no different for the hottest SEO trends of 2021. As SEO becomes more refined and more user-centered, so will businesses understand their customer base. Being aware of trends outside this that affect your target customer base will help you keep ahead of your competitor, but only if you know what to do with this information going forward and look beyond potential profit.

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2021 Google Algorithm Update

There are many pieces to UX — pleasing design, engaging and varied content, seamless navigation and overall efficiency and functionality. When it’s right, people know it. When it’s wrong, people know it, too. In fact, they make that assessment within the first 10 to 15 seconds. In short, it doesn’t (and shouldn’t) take a background in web development to understand what a good user experience is because it’s intuitive. 

But there’s a lot going on beneath the surface that makes quality website UX a reality. And Google, in its mission to continuously serve its users the most useful and usable results, is as invested in determining and measuring those details as we are. The new Google algorithm update supplements last year’s establishment of Core Web Vitals, which measure page speed and responsiveness in those crucial first 10 to 15 seconds.

What Will Likely Be Different

Within the next few months, non-AMP content will be eligible for inclusion in the “Top Stories” carousel at the top of mobile search results. AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages, Google’s open-source HTML framework geared toward near-instantaneous loading of rich content on mobile devices. After the May update, “great user experience” will take precedence over AMP, so long as the page meets Google News content policies. 

Google has also teased a new “visual indicator” that will distinguish search results with exceptional UX, although what exactly that will entail has yet to be announced.

Search Ranking Signals

Here are some of the search ranking signals to keep in mind.

• Core Web Vitals. As discussed in a previous post, Google Core Web Vitals are a series of metrics focusing on site speed. They are:

1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), or how quickly your largest page element renders

2. First Input Delay (FID), or the time between a discrete user input and when a browser responds to that input

3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), a measure of how much page elements unexpectedly shift around the page 

To see where you stand and where you can improve in these metrics, use the Search Console report for Core Web Vitals and PageSpeed Insights and Google Lighthouse to measure your progress as you make changes.

• Mobile-Friendliness. Over 60% of Google searches are made on mobile devices, so mobile website UX should be your top priority. Using AMP pages can significantly improve loading times on mobile devices with cache-optimized results. Google recommends the AMP Page Experience Guide as a way for AMP developers to analyze and improve mobile page performance.

• Safe Browsing. Web pages that feel spammy, choppy or unresponsive are likely to cause users to turn the other way and never look back. Be vigilant for any malware, spyware or malicious scripts that may be running on your site. Watch for any ads or content that may deceive or mislead users toward harmful sites. 

• HTTPS. Data encryption is critical to today’s website user experience. A massive amount of sensitive identifying and payment information is exchanged between web users and web servers every second. A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate scrambles this data during transit so hackers cannot intercept it. Sites with an SSL certificate begin with https:// (as opposed to http://), with the “s” standing for “secure.” Google already flags sites without an SSL, so if you have not purchased one for your site, make sure you do so immediately.

• Nonintrusive Interstitials. Pop-ups are rarely a welcome sight. The more that the content a user wants to consume is obstructed and/or disrupted, the more annoyed and turned off that user becomes. If you must use interstitials, take care to make them as minimally intrusive to the user’s experience as possible. 

Examples of interstitials you won’t be penalized for include disclaimers, cookie usage info, sensitive content warnings, login dialogs and those that are responsibly proportioned (i.e., do not block all or most of the screen).

Preparing For The Page Experience Update

While the new Google ranking signals we’ve identified are important, there is plenty more you can do to create a superlative website UX, including:

• Upgrading your hosting service

• Compressing/resizing images

• Redirecting broken links/pages

• Observing user behavior via a heat-mapping tool for cues on how to improve user flow and navigation

As Google continues to refine its ranking signals and further flesh out its Core Web Vitals, UX is only going to become more crucial to search engine optimization (SEO). Take the time to look critically at yourself and your competitors — it promises to pay off handsomely in the end.

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Highlighting Great Experiences in Google Search

Believe that providing information about the quality of a web page’s experience can be helpful to users in choosing the search result that they want to visit. On results, the snippet or image preview helps provide topical context for users to know what information a page can provide. Visual indicators on the results are another way to do the same, and Google is working on one that identifies pages that have met all of the page experience criteria. Google plan to test this soon and if the testing is successful, it will launch in May 2021 and Google will share more details on the progress of this in the coming months.

The Tools Publishers Need for Improving Page Experience 

To get ready for these changes, Google have released a variety of tools that publishers can use to start improving their page experience. The first step is doing a site-wide audit of your pages to see where there is room for improvement. Search Console’s report for Core Web Vitals gives you an overview of how your site is doing and a deepdive into issues. Once you’ve identified opportunities, PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse can help you as you iterate on fixing any issues that you’ve uncovered. Head over to web.dev/vitals-tools for a roundup of all the tools you need to get started.

Additionally, AMP is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways for publishers looking to achieve great page experience outcomes. Based on the analysis that the AMP team has done, the majority of the AMP pages achieve great page experiences. If you’re an AMP publisher, check out the recently launched AMP Page Experience Guide, a diagnostic tool that provides developers with actionable advice.

Google continue to support AMP content in Google Search. If you publish an AMP version of your content, Google Search will link to that cache-optimized AMP version to help optimize delivery to users, just as is the case today.

At Google Search, mission is to help users find the most relevant and quality sites on the web. The goal with these updates is to highlight the best experiences and ensure that users can find the information they’re looking for. Our work is ongoing, which is why Google plan to incorporate more page experience signals going forward and update them on a yearly basis. Google hope that the tools and resources Google have provided make it easier for you to create great websites, and thereby build a web ecosystem that users love.

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Boost Your Social Media Marketing

Successful digital strategies are not about aesthetics or style, but a fit between what your brand promises and delivers. To develop your strategy, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What are your goals?

In the case of startups and niche products, your social media marketing strategy may begin with the need to test ideas, create awareness and build anticipation for new products and services. In other cases, the goals can be far more specific — boosting sales, geographic expansion, increasing real-time brand engagement, or generating quality sales leads.

Once you’ve set your goals, identify your metrics for success. Are you looking to gain “likes”? Do you want to spark an online dialogue around an issue? Or do you want to inspire behavior change, for example, encouraging your followers to recycle? Your metrics must align with your marketing goals.

The sheer volume of available data can make this task challenging. Clearly defined metrics, including a timeline and budget, will ensure that your campaign is on track. Not only do goals allow you to clearly measure your progress, they will also give you a clear answer to the next question that you need to ask which is…

2. Which platforms should we be using?

Decision making around platforms must be rooted in an understanding of your customer’s identity and preferences. Different social platforms appeal to different demographics, and you need to do the research to find out where your target audience hangs out online. For example, younger audiences may be more effectively reached on newer platforms, like TikTok or Snapchat. Health and wellness brands, with their emphasis on aesthetics, may want to develop on a more visual strategy, focused on Instagram. The same logic applies to geography — WhatsApp is popular in India, whereas if you want to reach people in China, you’d need to focus on WeChat or Weibo.

3. What is your content strategy?  

Quite often, organizations have the budget, team, agencies, and ideas in place, but they have haven’t thought deeply about content. This leaves both revenue and goodwill on the table: One survey revealed that 46% of consumers reported they follow brands because of the inspirational content. You need to understand what types of content — for example, articles, video, pictures — will drive engagement with your audience. Great content strategies create conversation and sharing with the brand and amongst other users.

4. Are you ready to talk with your audience — in real time?

Social media interactions are two-way — driven by both brands and consumers — so your organization needs to show that it is listening and engaging with questions, concerns, and suggestions. Companies that seize a moment can generate brand awareness and goodwill. For example, when a Twitter user recently mocked a South African man who proposed in a KFC, the fast-food chain responded by providing the couple with a wedding planner. Many other brands, including Coca-Cola, Woolworths and Audi, also chipped in to support the couple, showering them with gifts and experiences.

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Email Marketing vs Social Media Marketing

Email Marketing and Social Media Marketing are two of the important components of digital marketing. Email boomed in the 1990s, has stood the test of time, and to date, is still preferred by marketers for direct marketing. In fact, in the B2B space, around 86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes (via HubSpot), 59% count email as their most effective channel in terms of revenue generation (Myemma), and nearly nine out of every ten marketers use email marketing to distribute content organically. Hence, it would be right to say that email marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

On the other hand, a decade late to the party, social media has conquered the current digital world. With the vast availability of the internet and smart handheld devices, social media has taken the digital world by storm and has caught the keen eyes of marketers. An average of three hours is spent by a person per day on social networks and messaging, as per Globalwebindex, 2019. Emarketer, in 2019, also categorized the users on social media as 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers. As our reliance on digital media continues to grow, social media is too going to stay with us for a long time.

So if both mediums are great which one should you choose? Would it be a good idea to pick a side or favor one over the other? Or it would be better to create a balance between the two? Let’s compare the dynamics of the two and find out which side should you choose.

The Dynamics of Audience

Individual vs masses. That’s the difference in audience dynamic between email marketing and social media marketing. Practically people of every age group use email. However, the use of social media varies by age, platform, and demographics. Have a look at Facebook’s demographic data for the US:

73% of those living in an urban area use Facebook

69% of those living in a suburban area use Facebook

66% of those living in a rural area use Facebook

While every person has an email, it very unlikely that they also have a social media profile. That too in diverse platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. However, it would be a good chance that person is on Facebook as it has an impressive 2.7 billion monthly active users.

Hence, you will have to consider your audience before prioritizing a channel.

The Dynamics of Growth

In its initial days, social media had the ability to broadcast your message to thousands of people and grow organically. However, as time passed by, this growth got locked behind a paywall. The social media platforms went for cash to prioritize content. You have a pay a significant amount to reach a specific audience and impressions. While there are still slight chances of organic growth, without hefty investment, there would be no reach, and consequently no engagements.

In contrast, your email growth depends on your email list, which is entirely yours. You have the will to email them at your own pace and time. There are no social media algorithms, no paywall, although you might have to invest in some automation or CRMs for the integration and collection of data. The factors where email marketing struggles are; deliveries (15% of email never reach recipients), personalization (74% of people hate irrelevant emails), content quality (47% of people open an email solely on the subject line), amongst others.

You have to consider your growth perspective before diving into a channel. Within the evolving digital world, who knows what social media have in store for us, but email marketing has the power of staying longer.

The Dynamics of Revenue

Social media marketing has the potential to influence people on decision-making processes whether they are shopping, seeking tips on health/products, and many other things. Another powerful feature of social media is to viral things, even silly ones. The content of social media can be shared uncountable times before it spreads all over the world. While social media does not bring in revenue directly, it still plays an important role.

Marketers will attest to the fact that nothing is better than email when it comes to digital marketing channels. It is reported that every email has the highest return on investment (ROI) with an average of $42 for every dollar spent. Statista also notes that marketers find more ROI using email than organic or paid social. However, it just can be sent to prospects and subscribers, or can even be forwarded. There’s likely any chance of getting your email going viral.

The Dynamics of Content

There is a vast difference between the content of both platforms. Social media favors those who keep their content quick, short, and straight to the point. Microsoft conducted a study two decades earlier where the attention span of an average person was 12 seconds. Fifteen years down the line, it dropped to eight seconds. One-to-two minute mark videos, memes, striking images have become the core part of social media. Users don’t stick around social media for lengthy content.

However, email grants you the ability to customize, write lengthier, engaging copy without worrying too much about the customers’ attention span. They are likely to read the contents of the email as they have time to see their emails. No matter if it is an informational, promotional, full-length newsletter, subscribers/prospects do ingest the content of your email.

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Vital SEO first steps for a new website – Part 2

Step 4: Optimise your code

While writing content for people is very important, you need to pay attention to how you optimise your website’s code so search engines can read your content too.

Let’s look at how you can properly optimise your site’s code and help your site rank higher in search engines:

SEO-friendly URL structure

URLs are another important element but often overlooked. If your URLs have gibbering numbers and punctuation marks then, just like users, search engines will have a hard time understanding what that page is about.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to achieve an SEO-friendly site URL structure:

Consolidate your www and the non-www domain versions. If you type in http://www.example.co.uk into your browser and then you type in just example.co.uk and the “non-www” version does not redirect to http://www.example.co.uk, that means that search engines are seeing two different sites which is considered duplicate content. This isn’t effective for your overall SEO efforts as it will dilute your inbound links, as external sites will be linking to http://www.example.co.uk and example.co.uk. So what you need to do is to set your preferred domain, whether with or without www, and implement 301 redirects for all other versions of your URL which will redirect visitors to your preferred domain. It doesn’t matter which URL version you choose as long as you are consistent with it.

Avoid dynamic URLs. Dynamic URLs are ugly and don’t say anything about what’s on your page. So instead of a http://www.example.co.uk/?p=3355474 you might want to use static URLs like http://www.example.co.uk/topic-name. Descriptive URLs allows visitors to figure out what the page is about just by looking at the link.

Use canonical tags. These tags tell search engine bots which pieces of content are the original and which are duplicates. This way the bot will pass over the duplicates and only index and give link credit to the primary piece. To specify the canonical URL, you need to add the rel=”canonical” tag into your URL. 

Create an XML sitemap. Sitemaps are like a roadmap for search engines. They include every page on your site, making sure search engine bots don’t miss anything. Once your XML sitemap is created, you should submit it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools so that search engines can crawl and index your website more easily.

The title tag

Each of your web pages needs to have a unique title tag that describes what that page is about. Pay attention to the title tag because it’s what people see in search engine results when they’re searching for your products or service. In addition, the title tag also shows up in posts shared on social media sites like Facebook, for example. So you not only need to include your main keyword in the title but you also have to make it enticing enough to convince people to click.

So, when you write your title tags, make sure you:

Have a unique title tag for each page

Include the name of your product or the main topic you’re covering on the page

Keep your title tag between 42 and 60 characters, including spaces. To make sure your title isn’t cut off, try not to go over 60 characters.

The meta description tag

The meta description needs to summarise the content on your page because this too will show up in search engine results together with the title tag. While it won’t help you rank higher, a well-written meta description can have a big impact on whether users decide to click through or not so it should be written to “sell”.

Step 5: Technical setup

Set up and verify Google Analytics

You need to measure the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and see how your website is performing. How many visitors a month is your site attracting? Which pages are the most popular? How much time are they spending on your site? These are just a few of the things you can uncover by using an analytics tool so make sure you set up your analytics software now so you can start collecting data right away.

Google Analytics is a very good choice because it’s free, easy to set up and use, and provides loads of useful information about your visitors’ behaviour on your site.

Set up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

The webmaster tools products from Google and Bing allow you to go more in depth and see things like: who is linking to your site, what search terms are sending visitors to your site, whether your site has any issues that need to be fixed quickly, and more.

Install an SEO plugin

If you have a WordPress website, make sure you install an SEO plugin to help you optimise your content. One of our favourites is Yoast. Why? Because it’s free, easy to use and packed with powerful features. Having an SEO plugin like this installed will help you meet all of the recommended SEO criteria with ease.

Robots.txt

The robotx.txt file contains instructions for search engines as to which pages of your site to ignore during the crawl. Basically, this file includes a list of commands, such as allow and disallow, that tells web crawlers which web pages they can or cannot retrieve. So, if a URL is disallowed in your robots.txt files, that URL and its contents won’t appear in Google search results.

Make sure you’re not stopping search engines from indexing your site. While some prefer to use the “disallow: /” command while their site is under construction, it’s important to remember to remove it once the site is ready to receive visitors.

Step 6: Earn links

Links are an important ranking factor and continue to be a great indicator of what content is relevant and important.

Today your link building strategy should be about earning links, which you can do by:

Creating purposeful content (for example, guest posts or infographics) that is so useful and engaging that people want to link to it and share it with others.

Promoting your content so that it reaches the right people who will be motivated to link to your content and share it online.

Building relationships with influencers and convincing them that your content is of a high enough quality to share.

If you’re using our Search Engine Optimiser, make sure to check the “Increase Popularity” tab. It will not only tell you where your links are coming from but will also show you where competitors are getting links from so you can get a good idea about what other websites might be interested in linking to your site too.

Step 7: Things to check post-launch

Test usability

Usability is super-important for SEO and it also helps keep your visitors happy. Great user experience refers to a site that is easy to navigate through, with information that’s easy to find and useful.

Check to make sure there aren’t more steps than necessary in the checkout process and that it’s easy for visitors to navigate through your site, to buy a product and to contact you.

Test your site speed

Site speed is an increasingly important ranking factor, so don’t forget to test your site’s speed and improve loading times if necessary. If the speed is less than 90, you will need to make some changes such as optimising and compressing images, and loading scripts after your website’s main content, wherever possible.

At this time having a web developer is useful as you can send them a link to the site speed report and ask them to follow instructions supplied by Google in order to increase your pages’ loading time.

Check your mobile website

Having a website that works properly on all devices – desktops, tablets and smartphones – is extremely important. With mobile devices now driving 56% of traffic to top sites and with mobile-friendliness now a ranking factor, you need to make sure that your site is mobile-ready and that there aren’t any issues.

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Vital SEO first steps for a new website – Part 1

There’s no question that getting a new site live and into the search index is a daunting task. And what if you don’t know the search engine optimisation (SEO) tips and tricks that will get your site to the top? Not understanding the best SEO practices can leave your site in the dark which means no one will know you even exist. No clicks, no visitors, no sales.

What are search engines looking for?

Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing want to direct users to websites and content that are relevant to what they’re searching for. But how is relevancy determined?

There are four main elements that search engines look at when determining which site is more relevant and should show up higher in search engine results pages (SERPs):

Content: Is the content relevant to what the user is searching for?

Performance: Does the site load fast and does it work properly?

Authority: Is the content useful enough to link to or do other authoritative sites use that website as a reference or cite the information that’s available?

User experience: How does the site look and behave? Is it easy to navigate around? Does it look safe? Does it have a high bounce rate?

These are the most important elements you need to focus on when optimising your site. Here are the vital SEO steps you need to follow to make sure your site has what search engines are looking for.

Step 1: Choose a great domain name

Choose the best possible domain name for your site. When selecting this important piece of digital real estate, think about:

Spelling: If your company name can be easily misspelled, then it can be easily missed too. While many people will look online and probably find you if your SEO is right, many others will find out about you through word of mouth so if your domain name sounds a bit too much like something else, they could end up missing you. So make sure your domain name is short, easy to spell and easy to remember.

Branding potential. It’s easier to build credibility and links to branded domains as people will take a yourcompany.uk more seriously than keyword-keyword.uk which looks spammy and isn’t fooling anyone. A branded domain can help build trust online and also increase the value of your content.

Keywords. Having keywords you’re trying to rank for in your domain isn’t as important as it used to be. So while it can’t hurt to register a domain with a keyword in it, you shouldn’t stress over it.

Step 2: Research the right keywords

Before you start adding content to your new site, you need to do a proper keyword research to find out which words your audience is using when they’re searching for your products or services.

Before you get started with your keyword research, ask yourself:

What is your page about? Is it about a product or service you’re selling, like water heaters or burst pipe repair? Or a useful how-to guide on how to fix a garbage disposal unit. When you know what will be the main topic and what information you’ll include, you’ll have an easier time determining the type of keywords you’ll need to target on that page.

What is the main intent of the page? What are your main goals for this page? Is it to sell a product or a service, or is it to provide more information that can help visitors make an educated decision? By figuring out the main intent for a page you’ll be able to focus on more relevant keywords, rather than generic ones.

Now, let’s take a simple example to show you how you can perform your keyword research.

Say you’re selling water heater repair services. Use this as the starting point of your research. So, add the “water heater repair” to various keyword research tools to get more suggestions on what word and phrase variations people are using to search for these services.

Step 3: Craft your content

High quality content is the cornerstone of your interactions with customers and how sites achieve top rankings. By content we’re referring to anything you publish on your site that educates, attracts and delights customers, such as:

Web page content

Blog posts

Ebooks, white papers, and reports

Brochures, tips sheets, and frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Sales pages

Videos

Pictures, infographics and more

Now that you have a better idea of what users are searching for to find a page like yours, you need to start writing your content and optimise it. Search engines will crawl your website and try to figure out what it’s about and then decide what queries each of your web pages should rank for.

Make sure you write for your visitors first, and then for search engines. Your content needs to be fresh and enticing, otherwise you won’t stand a chance converting visitors into customers. Don’t ever sacrifice the usefulness and persuasiveness of your content for SEO-friendly content.

When writing your content for both users and search engines, pay extra attention to:

Titles. Write catchy titles that grab your visitors’ attention.

Keywords. Focus more on adding relevant and useful information that will bring people to your site. Also, combine relevant keywords together and focus on adding varied forms of keywords rather than adding as many keywords as you can.

Topics. Every page needs to focus on a unique topic. At the same time, make sure you don’t optimise more than one page for the same product or intent as this not only causes confusion but you’ll have two pages competing for the same keywords. You don’t want to be your own competitor, do you?

Quality. Your content needs to be unique and purposeful. The reason people come to your site is because they’re searching for information, for a solution to a problem so make sure you can provide it to them so they don’t go elsewhere. 

Freshness. Add new content on a regular basis. You can create a blog where you constantly share information your visitors might find useful, or you can share ebooks or whitepapers.

Length. We recommend having more than 500 words on a page. But the idea is this: your content should be long enough to answer visitors’ questions about your product or service.

Our Search Engine Optimiser tool can save you lots of time on research. It will show you the type of keywords that users search for on search engines so you know what to focus your page on.

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