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Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) just a buzz phrase you hear floating around the office among your colleagues?

In this article our goal is to help you understand SEO better by explaining the fundamentals of how Search Engines work, what Search Engines need to rank your website and how we “SEO” a website in an effort to give the Search Engines what they need.

Understanding How Search Engines Work

Search Engines are the directories of the Internet. Imagine the Internet as the largest library in the world. Now picture finding an image or article in this vast library. Unless the image has some defining terms to enter into the library directory, that picture is just a piece of paper floating around without categorization in the miscellaneous drawer. Now envision the billions of pages that users around the world have deposited onto the internet.

Search Engines were originally created to sort through all the information uploaded to the web daily. Search Engines use spiders to find and crawl the information on each new page. The Search Engines then have to decipher how this information fits with every other page on the Internet. The page is then categorized and added to an index so that is it faster to recall and show in a Results page for a relevant search.

There is a big difference between what Search Engines actually show in results and all the potential results they could show that are stored in their results. In fact, Google uses more than 200 factors in its algorithm and is continually updating the formula to meet user demands. In the last year alone, there have been almost 900 updates!

What Search Engines Need from a Website and How You Get Ranked

Before any website can be shown in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) the Search Engine must be able to:

  1. Find your website.
  2. Crawl (or spider) your website pages.
  3. Understand what information is on your website.
  4. Categorize each of your website pages in the indexes based on what it understands from your Source Code.
  5. Understand the intent of any Search Query by a person and display the pages in its index it believes are most relevant.

This means that your website must be easy for Search Engine spiders to find, to crawl all your pages, understand what is on your pages (including text and images) and be confident that your web page is the most relevant. Sound like a lot of work? This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in.

How Search Engine Optimization Works in 5 Simple Stages

At 1st on the List we like to break SEO down in 5 stages that work together to make the website most accessible to the Search Engines and most relevant to what visitors expect to find.

1. Site Analysis:

Taking stock of the current state of any website provides a good strategy for moving forward and determining what needs to be fixed to make it easier to the Search Engines to access and crawl your website.

    • Review the site to make sure the Server and Hosting is set up properly, to make it as easy as possible for the Search Engines to access any page on your site at any time.
    • Review the website for duplicate content, spam, slow load times, broken links and other things the Search Engines will demerit your website for.

2. SEO Keyword Research:

A large part of Search Engine Optimization is making sure that the words people are using to search for a company like yours are visible on your website for the Search Engines to read. Keyword research provides the basis for optimizing the content on your website and seeks to discover:

    • What phrases people are using to search for your company? (these are your “keywords”)
    • What SEO Keywords are the most popular (search volume), have the fewest competiting pages and are most relevant to the content presented?
    • What phrases are most attainable for your website and will attract the most qualified traffic?

3. SEO Content Optimization

Once the research stages of the Site Analysis and Keyword Research are completed it is time to start optimizing the content on the website. This SEO work includes but is not limited to:

    • Proper page source code
    • Internal link structure
    • Meta Data
    • Alt Tags
    • Page headings and sub-headings
    • Sitemap creation
    • Body text content that supports the keywords searcher’s use.

A site must attract visitors and it must hold the visitor’s attention. Google uses engagement metrics as one of its ranking factors. The more people who visit your website and stay on it for a long time and look at a number of pages, the more often the Search Engine will show the site in Search Results.

Content optimization focuses on accessibility, reliability, readability, currency, credibility and more as these all affect site rankings. Content optimization also focuses on giving visitors the exact information they are looking for, plus anticipates what additional information the visitor will need in order to complete a conversion, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a consultation.

4. Website Analytics

Once most of the initial grunt work is complete to bring a website up to Search Engine standards the best way to increase value is to monitor its progress and growth. This stage is called “Analytics” and includes:

    • Monitoring visitor traffic to the site over a set time period
    • Tracking and understanding visitor motivations
    • Tracking where and how visitors use the website
    • Tracking and measure sales conversions

Often Analytics can give additional insights to go and tweak items from the Site Audit, Keyword Research and Content Optimization stages.

5. Ongoing SEO Maintenance

If you think SEO is a one time task you are wrong. SEO is always ongoing as the Search Engines like to see fresh and new content on your website. With more than 500 websites created every minute and with your competitors working on their SEO strategy you can’t afford to just sit back. Ongoing website optimization and maintenance keeps web content current, relevant and maintained to meet the changes that the search engine algorithms make, changes in HTML standards and what visitor searching habits indicate.

Search Engine Optimization has changed drastically in our 17 years of experience. However, our general process for optimizing websites has remained stable and is able to achieve lasting results for clients.

Do you need help applying the SEO Process to your website? Give our consultants a call at 1-888-262-6687 to set up a free meeting to discuss your needs and the SEO Plan best suited for your goals and budget.

It is one of the most basic metrics used to measure user experience on a website and we’ve been using it for years. Do you know everything you need to about your bounce rate?

In today’s post we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about bounce rates so that you can make sure your website is providing the best user experience possible!

What is Bounce Rate?

An easy to understand bounce rate definition is:

Someone who comes to your website, looks at one page, and leaves the website for whatever reason.

Bounce Rate = Total number of visitors viewing one page only / Total visitors to the page

So What Does Bounce Rate Mean to You?

The bounce rate of each page can tell you the interest people have on your website based on first impressions. If the majority of visitors are leaving without looking at another page you may not be doing a good job of meeting their expectations or catching their interest. You want visitors to come to your website, peruse pages, become familiar with your brand and offerings, build up trust and eventually make a move (ie. conversion) whether it is a sale or give you their lead information.

Does Bounce Rate Affect Rankings?

Google and other Search Engines use bounce rate as a factor when determining how to rank your website. A high bounce rate means people are going to the site, not liking what they see and leave. From the Search Engine’s perspective, these type of pages or websites do not provide a good user experience and in fact agitate the searcher. Essentially a high bounce rate signals your pages aren’t relevant or good enough for visitors and the Search Engines will start showing them less and less in results.

Understanding Bounce Rate vs. Exit Rate

Exit rate measures the percentage of people who leave after viewing the page. The visitor could have viewed three or four pages, found the information they needed and then exited on your contact page. Bounce rate on the other hand is a person who leaves your website on the first page.

How Do Visitors “Bounce”?

There are several ways visitors can bounce or leave your website:

  • Hit the back button
  • Type a different URL into their browser
  • Close the browser
  • Close the tab in the browser
  • Click a link on your website that goes to another website.

What’s a Good Bounce Rate?

There is no single magic number for an acceptable bounce rate. A good bounce rate is specific to your website and a website can always be tweaked to improve its own bounce rate. When looking at your bounce rate, ask yourself:

  • Is it consistent?
  • Has it changed over the last several months?
  • Are there spikes anywhere? Can you attribute these spikes to any major changes on your site?
  • What specific pages have high bounce rates? Should the person be leaving here?

Bounce Rate by Industries

KissMetrics recently published an infographic on Bounce Rate and published the following bounce rates:

Service Websites:            10-30% bounce

Retail Sites:                         20-40% bounce

Content Websites:          40-60% bounce

Lead Generation:             30-50% bounce

Overall Average Bounce Rate:    40.5%

Normal Bounce Rates Differ for Different Functions

Depending on the type of page and its purpose you can expect to have different “normal” bounce rates. For example, pages with news, entertainment, sports and other information should have lower bounce rates because people are in the exploration mode. Pages with specific functions such as weather, contact forms, hours of operation should have higher bounce rates because the visitor is coming to find a single answer.

What Else Affects Bounce Rate?

There are several aspects that can either drive visitors away or help keep them on page. Consider the following factors that can affect bounce rate:

  • Pop-up ads
  • Music
  • Streaming video
  • Type of audience
  • Landing page design
  • Emails and newsletters
  • Load time
  • Links to external sites (more visitors click away)
  • Purpose of the landing

20 Tips on How to Reduce Bounce Rate

Whether your bounce rate  is 70% or 20% you can always make tweaks to lower bounce rate, including:

  • Create clear navigation
  • Have a clear purpose to each page
  • Keep content on topic
  • Make sure you meet visitor expectations
  • Check website speed here (if your site takes too long to load visitors won’t wait)
  • Make sure website has cross-browser compatibility
  • Make content scannable with titles and some images
  • Make sure site is mobile responsive so it looks good regardless of what type of device a visitor is using
  • Look in Analytics and Webmaster Tools to see what types of phrases are bringing traffic to your website – are you attracting the wrong type of traffic?
  • Have a clear Call-To-Action on each page
  • Cut out too many distractions
  • Offer related content based on the page
  • Add an internal search bar to make it easier to find
  • Make sure you have a good 404 page
  • Consider splitting long pages into two shorter pages
  • Consider getting rid of pop-up ads, customer help widgets, music
  • Make external links open in a new tab
  • Improve your brand’s story
  • Keep content up to date and current.
  • Make sure fonts and colors are readable.

Ultimately you need to meet or exceed your visitor’s expectations when it comes to each and every page of your website.

Start Improving Bounce Rate Today

You can start looking at bounce rate by exploring the Landing Page report from Google Analytics. Look at pages that have the highest bounce rates and higher levels of traffic.

Do you have a high bounce rate and have tried everything to lower it? Perhaps it’s time to speak with an expert. Call us at 1-888-262-6687. Our conversion optimization services can be a great place to start.

Recently a business owner emailed us with some good questions about us as he was obviously searching for a new SEO company to hire. We felt we should share these with everyone as these are the types of questions (and more importantly answers) that will help you find an ethical and experienced SEO provider. You can find more information like this on our complete FAQ page as well as our brand new eBook “14 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring an SEO”.

If you still have questions we’d be glad to help! Send us a quick email to contact@1stonthelist.ca.

How will you determine which keywords will be the target of your optimization efforts?

This is a great question. You can check your main keyword now with our Instant Site Evaluator tool. It gives you a quick overview of the URL you provide (usually your home or index page), with an analysis of your keyword ranking, your content, your popularity and technical health. For a full site review, we perform Keyword Research which investigates what your website(s) already has credit for with the Search Engines, what your potential customers are actually searching, search volumes and competitiveness of different search terms, all while considering your target areas and what is achievable within your budget

Will the optimization program include an analysis of site’s design, navigation, coding, content, and incoming links?

All of these items are addressed in our detailed Site Audit. The Audit is the very first thing we do on any SEO project. We believe our thorough analysis (most client’s audit reports are 60+ pages and include a prioritized list of recommendations) allow us to achieve the best results possible for our clients. Many times we can find issues that have gone unidentified by previous SEO companies.

Do you have a link strategy for your site and the ability to promote the site through content on appropriate third-party sites (i.e. article directories, blogs, video, images)?

Backlinks have changed dramatically in the last few years with Google’s strong stance against artificial links. This includes any links you personally pay for or hire an SEO company to build for you. Our approach to help our clients develop unique, useful content that others will naturally link to.

Are your techniques White Hat or Black Hat?

We follow 100% White Hat SEO that you can read more about on our SEO Ethics page. As a side note I don’t think that any shady SEO would actually admit to you that they use “black hat” or questionable techniques.

Can you please provide with some references or samples of successful results in the major search engines?

You can read both our Client Results page and our Client Testimonials page. We will gladly provide some relevant testimonials based on the type of project you are interested in once we have determined what your project needs will be.

Kindly tell us how long have you been in business?

Our company was founded January 1997. Take a read through our Corporate introduction which covers our background in the business and our philosophy.

Kindly tell us the price and the pages and the words optimization?

Each website and SEO campaign has its own specific needs and we develop a custom strategy to help each client meet their goals. Because each site and campaign has its own timeline and focus we gladly provide custom pricing once we have had a chance to discuss your project in more detail. In the meantime, here is an overview of our general pricing.

What is your Google Places strategy?

We highly recommend Google+ Local for locally-based businesses who serve customers within their own city. This said we help all clients by claiming the listing, writing optimized descriptions, coaching the client on how to get more reviews and so on.

What offerings do you have in traffic generation or conversion rate optimization? 

Traffic generation and conversion rate are part of the strategy we build with you. We have several options and a Conversion Optimizer on staff. Once we know more about what you are looking for we can provide more details.

How will you take care of Panda and Penguin Algorithm?

Panda is Google’s algorithm regarding Content on your website. Our optimization services focus on quality, onsite updates including unique and relevant content. Since the last Panda update on May 20 we have seen several of our client’s traffic increase because of how we have helped them build great content.  If you feel you have been penalized because of Panda we can help strategize on how to generate new, unique content for your site.

Penguin is Google’s algorithm regarding Backlinks. Over the years we have avoided link building and focused more on the quality of your own website. As a result our clients have not been affected by Penguin because of linking from our end. If you have a Penguin penalty (you can see a Manual Penalty applied in your Webmaster Tools) we have several different approaches to helping you clean this up, depending on your budget.

What question are you itching to ask?

We are here to help. For the past 17 years we have worked to find the solutions to helping businesses like your find their niche in the online marketplace. Whether you have an existing website that needs updating, a new business just launching into the marketplace, or are reaching out in new directions into social media, we have the team that will help you define your strategy, tweak your content to its optimum potential, or even build your site. You can find many of your answers in the Resources section of our site or just drop us a note at contact@1stonthelist.ca