Author: MySEOBlog

Things That May Affect your Organic Traffic

If you have paid any attention to insights and data analysis based on your website traffic (perhaps using official Google tools like Analytics), you will rarely find that your organic traffic is completely stable, or improving at a constant rate. In almost every single case you will see random jumps and drops at least every now and then, and it can be hard to figure out the context behind these sudden changes.

Fluctuations in organic traffic may be normal, but they are always caused by something, it’s just a case of determining whether that factor is within your control or not. If it is, you may need to act fast to rectify a problem and prevent further loss of potential traffic. Here are some examples of common issues that might explain sudden dips in traffic.

1) Indexing – To appear on Google’s search results pages, a webpage needs to be indexed. You can stop pages from being indexed, for various reasons, and sometimes this option may be enabled accidentally. A noindex tag or your robots.txt file may be to blame if your pages are missing from Google’s database.

2) Updates – If you have made major changes on your website, Google may detect this and take some time to go through the process of re-indexing the affected pages according to their new content. Expect some fluctuation in organic positions and traffic following a big overhaul of any page. It’s especially important when making updates to make sure you don’t break valuable links (setting up redirects can preserve these).

3) Google – The main search engine we’re usually all focused on is constantly making changes of its own. It ranks every website for every keywords based entirely on algorithms and calculations (with some rare exceptions), so when these algorithms are changed the rankings may be disrupted for a while. The engineers behind these changes tend to test new ideas quietly in the background, and at first the effects can sometimes be too extreme and require fine tuning. This could explain sudden changes in your organic traffic.

4) Competitors – You can’t control your competition within your market, however much you would love that power. Even if you are doing everything right in terms of SEO, someone else with a higher budget and a better website may spring up ahead of you out of nowhere. Unfortunately this may have a temporary (or permanent) effect on your own traffic, depending on how quickly you can react.

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The Most Common Google AdWords Mistakes

Although it’s not technically part of search engine optimisation, paid advertising is often considered an important part of digital marketing for websites that can usually work in conjunction with an organic traffic-based strategy. There are some similarities with SEO and PPC (pay-per-click), although there are many key differences too. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when starting out in the world of paid Google listings.

1) Not bidding high enough

Some people are overly cautious about spending too much on clicks, and they limit their spend too much which allows their competitors to get ahead of them. Higher bids mean higher positions, so if you’re saving money on bid amounts you’ll probably be too low down to see good results. If you set your maximum bid above what you are really willing to pay, this will give you a competitive advantage in terms of ad impressions, and you will rarely have to actually pay that much for every click.

2) Lacking focus in AdGroups

A single AdGroup should only apply to people searching for one specific solution. All ads within a group need to be close variations on a theme in terms of what they are promoting, even if the wording is totally different. With organic SEO, you want to have specific landing pages so you can optimise them for particular keywords. The same is true for paid ads, as you will get better results with a narrow focus.

3) Using search and display network together

By default, when you set up a campaign Google Adwords will assign the setting “Search network and display network” automatically. This is never the best solution, because your text ads on the search network will be aimed at people who are currently searching for your keywords, while your display network ads will be targeting people who are browsing other sites at the time. Since these users are at totally different points in their search, how could you possibly optimise ads for both of them? The answer is you can’t! Run separate campaigns for best results.

4) Ignoring AdWords features

If you are spending time optimising your campaign and you’re serious about getting the best results, you really need to commit to learning about all the additional tools and features on offer beyond the basics. You are very unlikely to get the best possible conversion rates from your paid listings if you only use the traditional text-based ads, while your competitors are exploring other options such as sitelinks, callouts, call-only adverts and so on.

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Are Links Still Vital for SEO?

Google is regularly introducing new factors into its ranking algorithms, and in recent years a few newer elements have been rumoured to have a huge impact on search results for the majority of users. However, a few of the top factors have stayed the same  since the search engine’s inception, and show no signs of changing. But are links still one of these? Are there any SEO services that can help?

Historically, the more links a website has pointing to it, the better it ranks. This has been the case since the beginning of search engines, as it’s one of the clearest ways to automatically calculate the relevance of a web page. Since Google’s algorithm is all mathematically determined by crawling sites and looking at aggregate data, it’s easy to see why counting the number of links was quickly adopted as an important method.

Having said that, the sheer number of links is not the only factor at work here. Quality is equally important, if not more so, since just a few high quality links can have a huge impact on overall ranking. This contributes to organic traffic and the total success of a website. Meanwhile, hundreds of low quality links can do nothing to boost SEO scores, and just a handful of particularly bad links can have a noticeable negative effect on rankings. So how can an algorithm assess quality in a similar way to a human?

Firstly, there is the traditional keyword-based way. Ranking for certain keywords is supported by those terms being mentioned alongside links to the target site. If the content on these websites is all somehow relevant, that helps too. The authority of the domain will also have an impact, as well as the chain of links going to that site, and so on.

In more recent years, new additions to Google’s calculations such as the Rankbrain element can be used to determine more intuitive connections between words, phrases and their meanings in popular colloquial use, so Google is actually starting to understand the context behind simple words based on other information it can gather. All this means that links are becoming more important than ever, since search engines are getting more “intelligent” through machine learning which helps them decide on the quality level of those sites, leading to their rankings changing accordingly.

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What Would We Do Without Local SEO?

Although a few short years ago, Google was only in its early stages, it may be hard for us to imagine now. At one point, there were many different search engines still in the game. Of course, there still are now, but none have anything close to the monopolistic power of everyone’s favourite search giant. We feel like it knows us personally, and a lot of that is down to developments in the last few years, with an increasing emphasis on local and personalised results, plus the additions of many different modules and widgets on search pages that link to Google Maps and try to connect us with the most geographically suitable answers to our queries.

But what if we suddenly went back to a time when all of this didn’t exist? It wasn’t really so long ago when Google would basically return the same results for anyone searching on it, regardless of their precise location or even what country they were in. Local competition in terms of SEO is so fierce now, imagine what it would be like without that specificity? Not only that, but imagine how difficult it would be for search users to make informed decisions! It would basically become impossible for certain industries, including…

1) Healthcare – Currently if you were to search for a doctor’s surgery or a pharmacy, you would almost certainly be presented with a local map widget labelling all your nearest options. If these businesses were not optimised to appear on Google properly, an emergency situation could become a lot more serious.

2) Jobs – Looking for jobs is almost a complete waste of time if you have no way of narrowing it down by location (amazing you will still find careers services online where this is the case). Currently Google will assist with this, but if it didn’t, you’d almost certainly miss all the best opportunities and waste a lot of time.

3) Food delivery – This is something many of us enjoy using Google’s local search powers for. If you look for just the word “pizza” in any given location you will usually see red pins appearing all over the place, for example. Without this, it would be frustrating trying to find somewhere that’s within easy reach or delivers to you, plus you have the issue of comparing user reviews to find the best option.

All this information is supplied through Google’s intelligent local pack, thankfully. But it is worth thinking about what would happen if we didn’t have the search features we now take for granted. What will be the next development that Google sees success with and we start to feel like we couldn’t live without?

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Google Bans Payday Loans from PPC

If you ever use organic search to look for financial help, you may see results popping up for what we commonly refer to as payday loan companies. However, anyone paying close attention to the paid ad listings at the top and bottom of those pages would have recently seen such websites disappear entirely. That’s because Google has decided to put a blanket ban on these companies advertising on their massive pay-per-click network, which could be expected to have a huge impact on traffic to these sites.

After all, Google has been making its ads stand out from the organic results less and less. In the last few months it has taken away the distinctive yellow colour of the “Ad” labels, for example, which means they are sometimes almost indistinguishable from organic results. It is perhaps for reasons like this that misleading or predatory advertisements must be taken more seriously than ever, otherwise Google could be seen as complicit in encouraging search users to make poor financial decisions.

The morality of some of these companies may be debatable, but clearly Google is sending a message here about what kinds of business practices it is willing to be associated with. It has set certain standards to decide what is not permissible on its advertising network, including companies that offer interest rates in excess of 35% (for US advertisers) or require repayments within 60 days of borrowing money from them (applying to advertisers in any country worldwide). These characteristics are typical of so-called payday loan companies offering short term cash for people who are struggling to make ends meet between pay cheques.

The terms of use for AdWords have now been updated to ensure things like this will be used as reasons for disapproving ads on its system. Of course, many ads will still be running that advertise these kinds of companies and were previously approved. It is unknown how long Google will take to contact these advertisers and disapprove their ads according to the new policy changes, or if they have some kind of automated system to help them do so.

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Why Content Isn’t The Only Thing That Matters

blog and blogs

Content is important for SEO. This is a fact, and it isn’t news. There’s no getting away from it any more, and if you don’t have it there’s very little you can do to get your website ranking for your target terms. However, content is not the only thing you should be focusing on. You need to have a clear strategy behind what you’re doing with your blog posts and webpage text, and you also need to make sure the rest of the elements of your SEO campaign are in place. Content for the sake of content is almost certainly going to do very little for your success. Here are a few points to bear in mind when you’re making your plans.

Great content doesn’t automatically rank

You should be making sure your content is interesting, engaging, relevant, informative, full of different types of media, and all those great things. However, don’t expect it to rank on Google and boost your website just because it’s high quality. Without proper promotion on your website, on social media, via email and so on, progress is going to be extremely slow.

Not all content will be successful

Even if you consistently promote your content and make sure it’s all written to a similar standard, not everything is going to catch on. There’s just too much competition out there for you to see the same success every time. Over 2 million blog posts are added to the Internet every single day, and on average only 25% of these will ever get even one single link back from a website. Just keep at it, and when a post finally gets the balance right and takes off it will make all your efforts worthwhile.

Links are still important

We know that links are still one of the absolute top factors which Google looks at when deciding its rankings every time someone runs a query. If you want your content to succeed online and pull in plenty of relevant organic traffic which leads people to look at the rest of your website, it’s important to try and get links back from other sources.

There are many ways to promote content

You can spread the word about your content through a variety of channels, and in fact this is the best way to get more engagement. Facebook and Google+ are good channels to share new posts on if you want to boost your SEO, as well as Twitter. You can also make use of mailing lists to distribute your content, and use news feeds on your website to announce new posts. As well as pushing new posts, don’t make the mistake of only mentioning them once. If your content truly offers value to readers, you can share it again and remind your followers to check it out. Visibility drops off very quickly once you’ve shared on social media, so posting a different update with the same link can really help counteract this.

Overall you simply need to ensure you have a good strategy and you’re confident that the content you’re posting is in line with your SEO objectives. With a little effort you should be able to make your posts stand out from the crowd and help your website gain traction.

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Facebook’s New Local SEO Tool

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Facebook has been an important platform for local businesses since it exploded in popularity over the last decade. Pages can be designated as local business pages, which allows you to add details about the industry you’re targeting, plus specific details like your opening hours, contact details and so on. This is all very helpful for people visiting your page, and a Facebook page that’s filled in to a high standard can rank well on Google search result pages.

However, until recently people weren’t that likely to find your page within Facebook. Its search function still leaves something to be desired, since it’s trying to take into account people, pages, groups and more while heavily customising the results shown on a personal basis. Facebook business pages also feature customer reviews, but since there was no centralised place to see them all you would be unlikely to use the social network to shop around for different businesses in your area.

Now Facebook has rolled out a tool which aims to tackle this problem, although it’s in the early stages of development according to their spokesperson and it hasn’t had any promotion yet. People have stumbled across the new area, Facebook Professional Services, when trying to optimise their pages. It effectively functions as a business directory, and is being interpreted as an attempt to muscle in on the market for review-based business listing websites such as Yell and TrustPilot.

The system is fairly simple at the moment. You can search for a business or service you’re interested in, but for your query you are limited to a predefined list of options. These are the categories that business pages are allowed to be placed under when you set one up, and you might find that the business you’re looking for (or your own business, if you’re creating a page) doesn’t exactly fit into one of these. You have to simply choose the closest match, which is an issue we expect to see fixed in a future version of this tool.

Once you select a search term, however, the tool becomes more sophisticated. It takes into account a range of variables when deciding how to rank businesses, such as geographical location, average customer rating and other unknown factors. For every Facebook user, the results will also be personalised depending on your own history with the business pages shown. For example, if you or your connections have previously interacted with the page it is likely to appear higher for you than it would for someone else.

At the moment, Facebook has basically asserted that this tool isn’t ready yet. The fact that it launched without any fanfare was enough of a clue, but since it has been confirmed since we can assume that it’s going to keep an eye out for early feedback and make adjustments before promoting it nationally or globally. For now it’s a good idea to make sure you get your page in order, however, and see if you can encourage people to leave reviews for your business when they’ve had a good experience. Staying active on your company Facebook page is a good way to ensure you stay ahead of the curve, whatever changes the social network chooses to make later.

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Are Keywords Still Important?

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Google is always trying to improve its algorithms, so it can more accurately judge the relevance of a particular webpage when someone enters a search query. The algorithm allows Google to instantly and automatically make an informed and calculated decision about what order to display thousands of results in. It’s pretty impressive that it can understand all the information on your website to make this judgement call, right?

Well, the answer to that is mixed. Yes, Google is making an extremely fast decision (and as you’ve probably noticed, it always loves to brag about exactly how fast that decision was by displaying the time it took to show your personalised search results). However, it is not taking everything on your webpage into account the same way a human does. It’s looking at particular things, which we normally refer to as ranking factors. We know that keywords have always been a very major ranking factor, which is to say, the text content on the page you’ve created needs to contain some words which match the query a user typed into Google in order for that particular page to be shown on a search results page for that particular person.

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What Rankbrain does and how SEO should respond

 

Google recently revealed it has been secretly testing a new element in its infamous algorithm, the set of codes and calculations that decide what order websites are ranked in when people run searches. It’s been nicknamed Rankbrain and the announcement confirms that the rollout is already complete, having been phased in throughout early 2015.

Now Rankbrain is fully implemented and it’s estimated that it’s involved with rankings for around 80% of search queries. “Google has actually said that Rankbrain is the third most important ranking factor now,” says Diana Esho, Managing Director of prominent Leicester SEO company, 123 Ranking. “Although it refuses to confirm what the top two factors actually are. It has been speculated that these two factors are text content (i.e. the words that are used on the website matching the search term) and inbound links from external sources.”

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Google still heading towards semantic search

Google, the world’s largest and well-known search engine, is soon to be undergoing yet more changes that will affect the way results will be organised in the SERPs. This may wreak havoc among the SEO community, because many of the webmasters have already been adjusting their websites to the recent updates that Google has released. On the other hand, this is something we have heard many times. Is everything really going to be turned on its head?

In fact, the answer is probably not. Google has made its intentions obvious for several years now, presenting more facts and direct answers relating to the search query that the user performs. More and more different features have been added to the main search page so users are presented with a plethora of different displays when they search for queries that Google has a lot to say about. This was marked some time ago by renaming“Web” search to “All”, which reflects the fact that images, videos, maps and other interesting snippets of information tend to be displayed above organic text-based listings.

This system is making the keyword-based algorithm gradually redundant and less useful. The direction that Google is heading towards is called “Semantic Search.” With old priorities like PageRank becoming almost entirely irrelevant, Semantic Search uses the science of language and context to “understand” (albeit in a clunky, robotic way) queries and produce relevant, intuitive search results. The aim is to get to the desired answer in as few steps as possible, improving user experience and securing Google’s massive market share for the future.

Rankbrain was a major step for Google’s “artificial intelligence” development plans when it was rolled out in 2015, focusing on less literal interpretations of queries and attempting to understand context to provide answers that are not directly related to the words in the question. Rankbrain was built with the intention of feeding it historical information in batches and monitoring the results to ensure accuracy, so it’s still one step away from actually learning dynamically without the help of human test subjects. However, Google’s intention is to delve ever deeper into the field of semantic search and we can only expect this to go further in the next few years.

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