This month has been a tumultuous one for many website owners. I’ve been reading about the most recent Google algorithm changes and how large numbers of sites have been affected for the worse. Some web properties have likely been penalized in one way or another for not adhering to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. These are straightforward, easy-to-follow directives, but some people either decide that these rules don’t matter or don’t do enough research to understand them.
I always say that in most cases, as long as you are doing everything you’re supposed to be doing, you shouldn’t need to worry too much about these regular fluctuations. When Google changes its ranking algorithms, site owners need to learn how to respond by potentially adjusting their SEO efforts to mitigate the loss of valuable ranking positions.
Whether people understand them or not, it’s essential to follow the rules and dial in your SEO with as much “white hat” SEO as you possibly can and avoid anything even remotely “spammy” or manipulative to game or influence search results with nefarious intentions. Even if you get away with it for a while, eventually you get discovered, and losing access to Google’s search results does not sound fun. Google serves over 86% of all search traffic, so missing out on such a large “piece of the pie” can and will be devastating to any small business.
When you consider that it’s not that hard to create your content or pay a few bucks for an SEO to do that job for you – it’s difficult to understand why anyone would try to game the system based on the possible negative consequences alone. You could end up seriously affecting Google’s opinion for an extended length of time, and they will do their best to keep your business website far, far away from the 1st page of their valuable result pages.
Even if you are genuinely on hard times and cannot afford to hire someone long-term, it is an absolute waste of time to try to trick the search engines when help is just an email away!
You can think of a Search Engine like a massive library for the information age. However instead of accumulating thousands of copies of books, they warehouse copies of billions of websites. When you go to enter your search query into Google, it will look through every page within its index to try to return the most relevant search results to you.
To handle this monumental task, Google uses a proprietary computer program known as an algorithm. No one knows exactly how their algorithms work, but we have been given a few clues, at least as far as Google is concerned. Here is what they have to say on their “How search works” page:
To give you the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors, including the words within your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources and your location and settings. The weight applied to each factor varies depending on the nature of your query – for example, the freshness of the content plays a bigger role in answering queries about current news topics than it does about dictionary definitions.
While we’re on the subject, we’re highlighting this search engine because it’s the one most of us use—at least as far as web searches go. It’s no accident, and it’s primarily because they have the most dependable algorithm by far. With that said, there are several other search engines you can optimize for.
How Search Engine Optimization Works
In the simplest terms, Search Engine Optimization works because you can demonstrate to any search engine that your website contains the best result for the search query at hand.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have the exact same goal: To show the search engine users the best, most relevant results, every time. This consistency is what keeps most of us utilizing Google, because the information they give back is far more reliable than what you get from Bing or Yahoo.
There are some Indian SEO Companies giving the entire SEO industry a bad name and a terrible reputation – particularly when it comes to the quality of the services being delivered. Current clients tell us horror stories of being outright lied to by Indian SEO companies, or worse – told false premises about what will help their website rank (which the clients believe). These are not isolated incidents, we’re now hearing about this far more regularly than we’d like.
This is infuriating, we offer a trustworthy local SEO service in Spokane, WA and do our job right, but we’re constantly fighting a wave of misinformation that we’re finding often originates with foreign SEO’s who are not performing SEO services correctly. They’ve found they can take advantage of folks here in the United States that simply don’t know better. We also understand that there have to be some good Indian SEO companies out there, and we purposely used words in this blog post like “most” and “many” for that reason.
However, the good SEO companies in India would not be the ones who use a contact form on your current website or email you about how poor your current website is. Many of our own clients receive emails from random gmail addresses which state that there are “errors on your website”, or “you’re not being found online”, “you have a problem with your google rankings”, just about anything they can do to provoke a reply from the target. I don’t know about you, but I think many would find this kind of behavior predatory at best. In fact, we usually prepare our clients when we begin working with them that anyone who has to email you like this can be considered a “fake” SEO provider – which often charge low prices, but never really get results. A client who hires these people is usually quite confused about things when we start speaking to them, and have been led to believe all kinds of things about what is going to help their website get better rankings..
Many Indian SEO Companies = Fake Providers
Having a full understanding and fluency with the English language is critically important to performing search optimization efforts. Naturally written language is the cornerstone of any organic search marketing campaign, so you should choose your SEO provider accordingly – based on your perception of their understanding and mastery of the English language.
DO NOT CHOOSE any provider who is based outside of the United States, unless you have an extensive phone interview with them to determine how well they speak and write. The quality of your search marketing efforts are only as good as the person writing for you.
Here’s another article from Forbes to drive the point home about these scammers, along with some examples of the emails they use to trick people.
You may not have even noticed, but there have been some huge changes in the SEO world in July 2018. Not only did we see Google keep their word on notifying visitors about unsecured (non-https) websites, they also implemented penalties for slow loading pages on mobile.
Both of these changes have the potential to greatly impact your ability to be seen in Search Results.
We offer free website analysis reports so that you can identify these types of issues, most people are relieved to hear that the issues can be fixed. Improving your website with an HTTPS certificate isn’t difficult, but making your website load faster on mobile devices can be a bit more tricky.
Contact August SEO today to see where your website lands in terms of your mobile website speed.
I quickly want to touch on some of the characteristics of businesses that will usually be a good fit for trying out Search Engine Optimization Services.
First off, we recommend that almost any business be successful before you even consider contacting an SEO provider. You might then say well, isn’t everyone supposed to be doing SEO? To an extent, that’s true, but there are some qualities/characteristics that most Search Experts will check for to ensure any new clients are going to be successful. Not everyone is in a position to be helped by SEO, and that’s a difficult concept for many business owners to understand!
You’re Stable – Many SEOs have tried to help startup businesses (with shoestring budgets), but it rarely works out. It would be best if you had a steady flow of income already coming in to afford a decent Search Expert. It’s helpful to have a solid foundation of incoming funds to afford your SEO plan for a minimum of 6 months (this is the absolute lowest possible term for us, and even this may not produce any substantive results). Suppose you can’t see yourself paying each month for a period of this length. In that case, you should wait for a while and exploit traditional marketing avenues until you are better with your digital marketing budget.
Established Website – A reasonably obvious requirement, I suppose, but people have approached us before talking about improving something that doesn’t even exist. What are we supposed to work on? It’s essential to differentiate the two fields of Design vs. SEO. They are different fields with very different directions. They must work together to provide a great user experience and satisfy Google’s growing list of UX (user experience) requirements. While the design is fundamental to user experience, it won’t rank your website on its own. If the plan is the foundation, your SEO is the framework.
I admire your decision to do SEO on your own. However, I also have some words of advice. As you’re getting started – the onslaught of SEO tutorials and guides you’re going to read will often provide 100’s of different optimization methods to you all at once, sometimes leaving you even more confused than when you started.
Of course we also understand that some smart business owners are just trying to do their homework to get an understanding of what Search Engine Optimization is so that you can either save a few bucks, or at least come to understand SEO well enough that you don’t get taken advantage of when the time comes to select an SEO consultant.
Recommendations for Doing Your Own SEO
Our recommendation is to always choose ONE main source of SEO guidance – and stick to it like glue. Find an author you like, follow their advice, and see if you get anywhere. The only way to know that your “Guru” knows his stuff is to test their methods for yourself. Though we’d love to be that source of guidance, we still recommend limiting your information intake to one agency or provider regardless of who you choose. At least try to stick to a “one-at-a-time” strategy. If the first person you follow doesn’t work out, move on to the next best option. The worst thing you can ever do is put your eggs in multiple baskets at the same time – or even worse, hire multiple agencies. Wires are going to become crossed over time – and then you’ll be putting out fires as the SEO penalties from Google start to stack up.
Another warning about self-taught learning would be to watch out for out-of-date sources like SEO blogs & articles. For example you might come across a website that lists a method you want to put into practice for your business, but you miss the fact that the post date is from 2009. Why is that so bad you might ask? Well, any “cutting-edge” methods that may have worked well back in 2010, are quite likely to be of zero use to your website today in 2021. Google makes major updates to their PageRank Algorithm on a weekly basis! It’s completely understandable that most people running a business have little to no extra time to read an SEO blog every day to keep up with the latest best practices.
Double-Check EVERYTHING When You’re Doing SEO on Your Own
Do you really have any way of knowing whether that method you want to use really works? Aside from that blog post – is your first instinct to do additional research to see if everything checks out? In a nutshell, that’s SEO. You’ll be trying to read up and discover new options, strategies, and tactics. Test them out, record / measure the results of your changes, rinse and repeat. I say that so you have a realistic understanding of what you need to be doing to be successful if you really want to handle your own SEO. If you just about fell asleep reading that, you may want to re-think being your own Search Consultant because you’re going to be doing a whole lot of this type of thing!
By jumping all over the place and getting your information from multiple sources (self proclaimed SEO gurus etc) you will damn near guarantee yourself a boatload of confusion even if you do begin to comprehend bits and pieces as you go along. There’s really no way to get around that and it stems from the fact that there’s no agreed upon magic formula for success in the SEO industry. Those who do know how to improve position rankings are usually very guarded with those secrets (and with good reason) until the point they become common knowledge. There are online discussion forums full of disputes and arguments about SEO best practices and without any true authority on the subject – we may never know who’s right! How crazy is that?
We honestly wish you the best of luck should you choose to do your own SEO, just be aware you have your work cut out for you if you didn’t get started early on in the process (Early 2000’s). Those of us who have watched the industry grow from it’s infancy will always have a bit of a leg up on any late bloomers and that has much to do with being able to learn from the evolution of PageRank as we’ve watched it grow up. I remember the good old days of being able to rank my pages by tricking Search Engines with all kinds of “spammy” methods. Then, overnight it seemed everything changed in what Google, Yahoo, and Bing found to be “fair” and as things got more difficult, I became determined to focus on doing things the right way.
As the founder of an SEO company I’ve been able to view the traffic information for thousands of websites over the years – and as a result I have a solid understanding of what is going to improve website traffic, and what will negatively impact a site.
If you choose to heed my warnings about the pitfalls of doing your own SEO and decide you’d just as soon hire these very time-intensive tasks out, please schedule a FREE consultation and we’ll get started on turning your web properties into finely tuned SEO machines!
There are a number of websites which exist solely to help you determine how fast your website loads, often from many different geographical locations. That helps you get a sense of your overall “User Experience” which is a major part of SEO in 2018 and beyond.
A few of our favorites are as follows:
By using the aforementioned tools, you can research how to modify your server, .htaccess, caching mechanisms, and various other enhancements. Once your website is loading faster, Google is going to take notice. You see every so often as Google’s bots hit your website to cache them and understand what you have there (in terms of content and links), they also take note of your webpage load times.
Content Optimization is a very large area to cover with one blog post so I’ll briefly touch on what it entails and follow up this post as a series. One key component of Search Engine Optimization has to do with your page load times – which is part of the overall user experience angle that Google is uber-focused on at this time. By making your pages load faster, you improve your visitor’s browsing experience, and Google wants to reward you for providing this valuable service.
Content Creation & Optimization is a bit different than traditional SEO.
It may be surprising to some, but Google actually cares about issues like how well you’re building links within your own site. Repeat after me, “It’s all about relevance”. If you can link one piece of your highly informative content about “Icebergs” to a larger relevant article about the “Sinking of the Titanic” (all within your own domain) – Google will reward your efforts. Their robots are able to form loose associations and get it right about 99% of the time. When they see that you’re providing multiple pieces of content on your domain that have been linked together correctly, they’re going to eventually give you some kind of credit for this and increase your website rankings. This preference on their part for selecting the most relevant websites using their algorithm – is the very reason so many people choose Google as their preferred search engine. People understand that a “Bing” or “Yahoo” search is not going to provide them with as much accuracy. It’s Google’s very stance on relevance that is driving an exodus from its competitors. Who wants their search results full of irrelevant articles or content? No one does.
Next up – Compression. By shrinking or compressing the images that are being served to your visitors, you will lessen the amount of time it takes for a web browser to load your web pages on your visitor’s computer screen. In addition to your images, there are also various free compression modules to also condense the actual HTML code (or PHP in many cases), again helping to shorten your page-load times. Every line of code on a webpage, adds to the page load time. Removing even a few lines of code using minification could be a 15KB savings for example, which you might then say doesn’t seem like much.. and you would be right.
However, think of the cumulative effect that this 15KB turns into when you’re repeating the process 100’s or 1000’s of times per day. You not only save bandwidth doing optimizations (which is ultimately saving money on website hosting fees), but you also save your visitors unnecessary headaches by reducing page load times. Because let’s face it, who wants to wait for one website to load when there can be as many as 20+ other relevant articles in any Google search. Your competitors are only one click of the “back” button away in the event that your website doesn’t load fast enough. Remember that. It’s often a thankless job making these changes, but I assure you people will notice the difference over time. Some websites inherently earn “loyalty points” with their visitors simply by serving their sites up quickly and may not even realize the effect it’s having.. Think of Craigslist, or eBay or Facebook. Do they have flashy, gimmicky user interfaces, or bulky websites that take a long time to load? No. Now let’s look back at MySpace. Well, let’s not and just use that for our cautionary tale against getting out of hand with too many design elements, and not enough focus on what matters – Good Content people!
Since the introduction of mobile websites, Google has asked that you pay close attention to your visitor’s experience on hand-held mobile devices. It’s certainly one thing to design a website for people who browse on their laptop’s and desktop’s, but it’s an entirely different ballgame when it comes to mobile-responsive websites. By not catering to this group, your rankings will absolutely be harmed in the process in 2018 and beyond.
More than half of all web traffic now originates from iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices. Do you really want to neglect half of your visitors? I would hope not… Just understand that the more attention you pay to how your website appears & loads on multiple types of devices, the higher your website is going to rank in Google.
With some testing and a few improvements, Google, Yahoo, and Bing are going to start to see your website in a whole different light. Designers nowadays even use code to tell a web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge) which device our visitor is using, so that we are able to serve a “View” which will fit an iPhone screen or even that 77″ Smart TV in your living room.
Rather than setting our sizes with set static dimensions using Pixels (ie: 1920px x 1280px) for all visitors, it would be best to serve up modified heights and widths based on percentages (i.e. size your column to 80% instead of 1080 pixels). The advantage then is that we are making adaptive changes based on the size of the device that we’re serving our pages to.
If you still haven’t moved your website to a mobile friendly responsive design, you are way past due and I recommend you reach out immediately to see how we can accomplish this for your organization.
You don’t know how many do-follow backlinks you have, do you?
That’s ok, don’t panic just yet.
Why Are Backlinks Important?
Backlinks matter because they’re a clear sign to Google’s magical search algorithm that other websites consider your domain to be a good source of content and believe your site to be somewhat relevant to their own. As a webmaster myself, I wouldn’t dare give a dangerous website a “vote” by linking to it, because I may get penalized by Google in the process. There’s a certain amount of trust involved with handing out what are known as “do-follow” backlinks. Links tagged as “no-follow” provide some value, but pale in comparison to the value of a “do-follow” link originating from a relevant website in your industry.
Help Search Engines Understand Your Site
The no-follow tag provides a way for a website owner or SEO to link “out” without casting your “vote of trust” to it in the process. By default a link is considered to be a “do-follow” link without specifying the “no-follow” attribute. Many people are unaware that they are passing what SEO’s call “link juice”, potentially even to their competitors, and may continue to do so for years to come simply because they aren’t in the know about a simple tag.
I write all of this to say that now may be a good idea to consider a consultant like myself that can give you a much better understanding of the tactics your competitors are most likely already utilizing against you. I’m always available for guidance and coaching in these areas and we can work towards making your website more well-rounded and improve your overall search presence.
Call us at (509) 381-2700 or schedule a consultation today so we can discuss these options for your busines