Posts

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Can Grammar Issues Eliminate Featured Snippets in Google Search?

Recently Britney Muller of Moz Blog indicated in a brief article titled Does Google Drop Featured Snippets Over Typos? on the Search Engine RoundTable site that a simple typographical error was the probable cause behind Moz losing a featured snippet.

When the error was corrected, Moz reportedly regained the featured snippet in search. As mentioned in the Moz article, the only entity that could confirm or deny this activity would be Google themselves. Without their input we can only speculate.

So do typos, spelling mistakes, and grammar issues stop featured snippets from showing Google Search?

In the instance experienced by Moz, the difference between the word choose and the word chose was the underlying cause. In the article, it only indicates that “…the page had a typo, a spelling mistake.” It wasn’t specified if that spelling mistake was in the page content, in the page URL, or both. That doesn’t provide us with enough information. Here’s what I think happened.

Grammatical Errors Change Featured Snippet Context

If the URL was spelled correctly, but the on-page content was not (or vice versa), I could see Google having grammatical issues with the page vs. the URL.

Choose = (verb) Simple present tense and future tense

Chose = (verb) Simple past tense

The difference in tenses might suggest that Google interpreted the feature snippet compared to the URL. One of them was not linguistically correct.

Grammatical Errors & Featured Snippets Linguistics

Most of us may not think a simple typo should warrant the change that Moz experienced. However, Google has teams of linguists working to correct just such grammatical errors. It’s possible that Moz experienced one of the changes that Google initiated based on recommendations from their linguistic staff.

In a Quora post titled What do linguists at Google do? from 2014, Dave Orr (a Google employee at that time) responded:

“If you have a working system, it will get stuff wrong. What is it getting wrong and why, and how do we fix it? Linguists help answer those questions.”

Eliminate Grammatical Errors & Featured Snippets

Grammatical errors should probably be a concern for anyone writing content for SEO purposes. Muller hypothesizes that Google could have just been doing some testing, which altered the listing temporarily.

However, on a larger scale in the grand scheme of things we know that Google is constantly striving for better quality content. Behind Google’s masterminding stands a team of linguists. We should all be striving to make our content more grammatically correct and typo-free to appease the experts on this team.

Correct Grammatical Errors in Featured Snippet SEO Content

If you ever have to ask yourself the question “Why did we lose a Featured Snippet?”, it should not be because of a typo, or because past tense was used instead of simple present tense. Content has to become linguistically-friendly if we expect it to fly through Google’s ever-widening bevy of tests.

Give yourself a head start on the daunting linguistic issues by using programs such as Grammarly, Hemingway App, and a host of others to check, recheck, and triple check your content before posting.

Your site visitors will appreciate clear, concise, grammatically correct content. So will Google. To adequately serve both of these masters, you will need to set up your writing skills to match the ever-evolving world of SEO.

If your content needs a literary boost, call 1st on the List today for more information on SEO Content writing at 1-888-262-6687.

What You Don’t Understand About SEO and Why It’s Hurting Your Business

Search Engine Land recently posted an informative article in which author Trond Lyngbø shared the ways a leader with a “quick fix” attitude towards SEO can hurt their business. In this blog post we’d like to unpack several of the very important and common misunderstandings towards SEO that he points out.

1. Great SEO can’t fix what’s wrong with your product.

Google wants to provide searchers with the very best results possible. If someone is searching for a new dentist or the best built in vacuum cleaner Google wants to recommend the most trustworthy websites and businesses. Are you truly the best or would your customers beg to differ?

Lyngbø suggests that your visibility will eventually be affected by the way your customers feel about your products and services. We believe that Google is already making the move to incorporate your customer reviews and general reputation into your visibility. Faulty product? Poor customer service? Your SEO success may soon come to an end.

2. SEO is not a “quick fix” or “duct tape” solution for your business.

Lyngbø makes this point in reference to using SEO to cover up your bad product or customer service but the statement is true in a broader sense as well. SEO works best when backed by a stellar brand, great customer service, strong understanding of customer needs, an informative and easy to use website, and so on. SEO is often the final missing piece of the puzzle for brands that are already doing everything else right.

3. You can’t just “install SEO” quickly and easily.

This misunderstanding stems from a number of valid sources. For example there are SEO companies out there who claim to do SEO at a very cheap price and very quickly. This makes many business owners and managers believe it’s a quick install or that there’s just one way to do SEO. There are also SEO software programs and even WordPress plugins that claim do SEO for you. But SEO isn’t quick or easy, and can’t just be installed. It takes an experienced person to analyze your website and all the various factors (between 200 and 300) that come into play when Google decides how to rank the website. They then have to know the best strategies to optimize the most important factors to get your website to start ranking better and for more and more relevant queries as time goes on.

4. An expert can use SEO to make your marketing stronger and prevent expensive mistakes.

The basics of SEO can be fairly easy to understand and start to implement. But would you know how to run a detailed audit of your website to identify areas where you can make it even faster? After all Google favors fast websites. Would you know how to confirm that Google is properly accessing and crediting all of the pages on your website? If you are getting a site redesign do you know how to ensure that all of your credit is properly passed on to your new pages? Will you risk losing rankings and traffic with your new site design?

5. Paid and Natural Search traffic are highly connected.

Lyngbø comments that:

“Some business leaders consider paid traffic to be completely distinct from search engine optimization, not realizing that an SEO specialist can help you amplify the reach and impact of your paid search campaigns … But both address search users, and having SEO and PPC teams work together can be powerful.”

It can be a costly mistake to think that your PPC is driving all your traffic or that Search is driving all your traffic. The two can be highly correlated and can work best together.

6. Just getting more visitors isn’t enough.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If 500 visitors to your website a month doesn’t result in any new leads then is it reasonable to expect that 5,000 visitors would? At some point you have to stop chasing more visitors and start going after better visitors. The other option is tweaking your website so that you start getting more out of the same number of visitors, which is called Conversion Optimization.

On a bigger picture level, Lyngbø challenges any business owner:

“If only a tiny fraction of what you do is effective in bringing you desirable results, why repeat everything that doesn’t work again next year?”

7. Insights gathered from Google can help future-proof your business.

Over the years we have had to have some hard conversations with clients who were in what seemed to be dying industries. After seeing the total number of people searching for their types of products and services decline they questioned if they were still relevant or if people still wanted what they had to offer.

On the other hand, we’ve also been able to point out exciting opportunities we can find through search behaviour. The conversation often goes like this:

Us: “We’ve noticed an increase in the number of searches for X product or Y service. Is that something you would be able to offer?”

Client: “We have actually been considering adding that to our business.”

Us: “Well now may be the time because a lot of people are looking and very few other businesses are offering it. You can be a first mover.”

After all as Lyngbø it’s free to access Google’s search data and glean it for new insights. For example, do you know the most frequently asked questions on Google about your type of products?

8. SEO is built into your website design.

There are several factors that you may not think of as “SEO” but in fact have a pivotal effect on the success of SEO: website structure, navigation, internal link architecture, information architecture.

In addition to the above items that Lyngbø mentions a more recent belief is that Engagement Metrics such as time on site and bounce rate will (if not already) affect rankings. So if your website is poorly designed and your visitors are constantly leaving after spending only a second or two, your SEO could suffer.

9. Your rankings on search engines are not limited to your own site, either.

One important thing to understand with SEO is that many components are outside of your control. As much as there is to do when optimizing a website there are a number of things you don’t control, such as:

  • The area your searcher is located
  • The age of your domain
  • The direct competition going after visibility for the same types of Search Phrases
  • Plus indirect competition that Google also favors for your targeted Search Phrases

Changing Your Thinking Towards SEO as a Leader

In conclusion Lyngbø gives words of encouragement:

“Integrating SEO into all that you do, both offline and on, can enhance your results and speed up your growth.”

So how are you doing with integrating SEO into every fiber of your business? In our experience our clients who achieve the best success with us are all in and willing to do everything it takes – both online and offline.

If you need to start SEO for the first time or have realized it’s time to start taking SEO more seriously by hiring a qualified and experienced SEO expert give us a call at 1-888-262-6887 and we’d be happy to speak with you!

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Will You Adapt and Evolve With Google?

Do you ever read an article where you find yourself thinking, “I couldn’t have said it better”?

This Search Engine Land article written by Trond Lyngbø (Head of SEO at MediaCom Norway) caught my attention as I found myself agreeing, Yes, Yes, Yes. Lyngbø makes several bold statements about how many businesses fail to keep up with Google’s rapid rate of change and the risks of doing this:

  • You’re losing revenue if you ignore how Google adapts and evolves.
  • Your business’ success is intimately linked to Google.
  • Many companies do not think about SEO in the early planning stages of website development. They mistakenly believe SEO is itself a “one-off item”.
  • SEO has never remained static. It never will.
  • Google’s efforts to evolve and adapt are driven by the desire to server users better. When you align your business with Google’s quest … you will win.

Trond Lyngbø’s key takeaways actually apply to running a successful business in general, and not just SEO.

  1. Don’t hurry – make strategic long term plans.
  2. Adapt and evolve, just like Google.
  3. Integrate organic search into larger marketing strategies.
  4. Spend time on what drives revenue.
  5. Care about your users, just like Google.

Read the entire article here: http://searchengineland.com/will-business-adapt-evolve-google-203373

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How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google?

This is probably our most commonly asked question by prospects and clients a like.

It is such a loaded question for so many reasons, including:

  • Each website is unique.
  • The credibility and history of each business is unique.
  • Search Engines use 300+ factors when evaluating your website.
  • Each industry and local area have varying levels of competitiveness.

A recent study by BrightLocal took an objective approach to trying to answer this question by asking 18 experts and pooling their responses a variety of different cases. What category does your website fall into and what is a realistic timeframe for results?

How long does it take for a new site to rank in Google?

Answer: 78% say 3-9 months. In non-competitive markets this could be cut down to 1-6 months.

How long does it take for a website with some previous optimization to rank in Google?

Answer: 89% answer between 3-9 months. In non-competitive markets this could be cut down to 1-6 months.

How long does it take for a local website with previous low quality optimization to rank in Google?

Answer: 55% answer 6-12 months and 28% say 3-6 months. In non-competitive markets this would be around 3-6 months.

Key Takeaways from this Age Old Question

  • “It takes 6-10 weeks generally for Google to index and insert a brand new listing, let alone have it rank for anything.” – Joy Hawkins
  •  “Ask yourself: why should your business rank higher than the approx. 7-10 others that currently occupy the top positions?” – Chris Silver Smith
  • “I’m convinced there’s a sort of “waiting period” imposed by Google after they notice a lot of changes being made to a site, almost as if they don’t want the site owner (or site editor) to believe that their changes can affect rankings.” – Scott Hendison
  • It is interesting to note experts’ opinions towards the difficulty of getting websites to rank. Only 6% feel it would take more than 9 months to rank a previously optimized website and 11% said it would take 9 months to rank a brand new website. But 28% say it will take more than 9 months to rank a website with poor optimization, NAP inconsistencies, poor backlinks and other issues. This proves that poor SEO causes lasting harm, where in some cases it could be easier just to start all over from scratch!

One Final Question –
How long will SEO last after you stop spending money on SEO?

A common fallacy of marketers is to see all the hard work pay off with SEO and feel there is no longer a need to continue investing in SEO. When optimization stops there isn’t an immediate noticeable effect like you have when you cancel advertising in the newspaper or stop running an AdWords campaign. Most experts agreed it is usually between 6 months and 2+ years before you may see a ranking or performance drop.

While at first you may think this gives the go ahead to stop SEO with the assumption you’ll be safe for a couple years. The other side of the coin is that your competitors will continue on with SEO and keep gradually growing. When you come back around to SEO the second time, you’ll be at a disadvantage and have over 2 years of updates to do.

Is it time to stop wasting time and get on with SEO? Give us a call a 1-888-262-6687 so we can evaluate your website and develop a localized SEO Strategy to help get you local rankings sooner than later!

Are You Losing 70% of Sales? How to Avoid Shopping Cart Abandonment

If current website sales are $10,000 per month and you can improve shopping cart abandonment rate by just 10% you would end up earning an additional $12,000 in sales for the year!

In case you are new to this concept, the official shopping cart abandonment rate definition is the loss of customers who enter the shopping cart or checkout portion of your site but do not end up making a purchase, for whatever reason. This is like a person who comes into your store, picks up a product and heads to the till but doesn’t end up buying.

On Average, 68% of Customers Abandon the Shopping Cart

The most  documented online shopping cart abandonment average rate is 67.91% according to Baymard Institute and based on 27 different studies analyzing e-commerce shopping cart abandonment. This means that nearly 7 in 10 people who come into your store, interact with your product and show intention to purchase end up backing out.

In this article we are going to take a brief look at the reasons for shopping cart abandonment, what causes shopping cart abandonment and how to decrease shopping cart abandonment in order to grow your sales.

So why do web buyers abandon shopping carts?
Top Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment

  • High shipping costs or unexpected costs
  • Just browsing/ Not ready to purchase
  • Website navigation too complicated
  • High product price
  • Want to save produce for later consideration
  • Did not clearly mention shipping costs
  • No guest checkout option
  • Needs too much information
  • Complex checkout process
  • Website is too slow
  • Process was taking too long
  • Pay extra for taxes
  • Do not have enough payment options
  • Slow shipping
  • Spam with offers
  • Website crashed
  • Just comparison shopping
  • Shopping cart technical problems
  • The prices was too high.
  • Payment issues

Best Practices for Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment

Now that you’ve read the post popular reasons for leaving a shopping cart without buying your mind should be racing with ways to try to stop these objections from happening. Here is a brief list of best practices to get you going.

  • Make a secure shopping cart and add 3rd party verification seals.
  • Add a quick shipping calculator to the website.
  • Make sure your site hides or displays current quantities of products, to eliminate the chance of a product being out of stock when the person goes to the shopping cart.
  • Make sure your shopping cart is compatible with all browsers.
  • Add a guest checkout option.
  • Remove or decrease website navigation during the checkout process.
  • Keep data input errors to a minimum (accept various formats for entering phone numbers, etc)
  • Make the layout design easy for the eye to follow
  • Remove multiple calls to action buttons that can detract from the checkout.
  • Show the progress of checkout (ex. Step 2 of 3).
  • Put your discount code box during early stages.
  • Don’t ask for unnecessary information.
  • Keep cross-sells and up-sells during checkout to a minimum.
  • Consider quantity-based discounts such as 10% off or free shipping over $75.
  • Make your return policy easy to find.
  • Offer support during the process.
  • Send an automated shopping cart abandonment recovery email.
  • Consider an email recovery campaign if your e-Comm platform has the capability.
  • Keep your shipping costs competitive and reasonable.
  • Offer various payment methods.

Do you know your shopping cart abandonment rate or even how to track or calculate shopping cart abandonment rate? Our Analytics and Conversion Optimization team can help you set up the proper tracking to measure ecommerce shopping cart abandonment and start recovering sales from customers from leaving!

Give us a call at 1-888-262-6687 or complete our quick contact form for more information.

EAT This! What We Can Learn from Google’s Leaked Quality Guidelines

Have you heard the news that the Google quality rating guidelines which is essentially a handbook used by Google employees to manually review websites was leaked to the public recently?

The Google quality guidelines handbook gives us some very important clues as to how Google evaluates your quality in terms of:

  • Expertise
  • Authority
  • Trust
  • Reputation

This forms the basis of the EAT quality concept – that quality websites display expertise, authority and trust, thus creating a solid reputation.

The EAT concept isn’t completely new – we’ve known for the last couple years that Search Visibility is a result of credibility – but some specific points on how Google determines credibility is new.

You can still view the entire 160 page Google Quality Guideline March 2014 document on scribd.com for the time being. If you don’t have time to read through it in its entirety, here are a few major takeaways you may be interested in.

1. Expertise varies by topic.

Each subject area has its own way to qualify as an expert – qualifying as a medical expert is much different than qualifying as a hobby expert.

2. Ads still contribute to low quality.

These new guidelines place a bigger emphasis on advertising, and not just deceptive or spammy advertising above the fold. Raters need to evaluate if there is an overabundance of ads.

3. Supplementary content matters.

Google places a higher emphasis on supplementary content and not just navigation and footer. An example is showing similar makes of an item on an e-commerce site. Overall, supplementary content contributes to a better user experience.

4. Poor page design will hurt you.

Some page design features Google points out as hurtful are popups and inserting ads between content.

5. Each page must have a purpose.

Google will give a low rating to any page that has a lack of purpose. This includes auto generated pages.

6. EAT sites give About and Contact information.

Google’s raters look for signs of credibility on each website which includes an About Us page, contact page, customer service information.

7. Evaluation can be done by the page or by the website.

Google raters are told that sometimes they will need to evaluate based on the whole website whereas

Essentially you need to think of your visitor needs and how you can provide the best experience and give them exactly what they are looking for when they come to your website.

Need help with a Website User Experience Audit? Contact our SEO Team to get started!

What is a Hashtag Anyways and What’s the Big Deal?

You may call it a pound sign but the next generation will likely only know it as a hashtag.

The Hashtag phenomenon is taking the internet by storm. Once used exclusively on Twitter to categorize topics more efficiently, today it has evolved into a global icon.  Search engines, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+ are all using the hashtag and tracking hashtags.

In today’s article we will take a closer look at why this little pound symbol is creating such a storm and discuss how you can start using hashtags in  your marketing campaigns and branding.

So what is a Hashtag?

Have you seen # littered throughout posts on social media? That’s a hashtag! Hashtags are a word or phrase prefixed with the number sign. Examples of popular hashtags are:

#android

#selfie

#giveaway

#dwts (dancing with the stars)

#tbt (“through back Thursday” – a hashtag used on Thursdays when people post a picture from their past)

You can visit http://www.hashtags.org/trending-on-twitter/ to see what hashtags are popular at any given time and to see a full directory or dictionary of existing hashtags.

What does the Hashtag Do?

Essentially the hashtag is used to identify or tag messages on a specific topic.

Conceived in 2007 by Chris Mesina to help organize the jumble of tweets on Twitter, the hashtag allowed users to create, find and engage in conversations relating a specific topic of interest in real time. By placing the (#) symbol in front of the keyword or phrase, the user or searcher then is linked to everything that involves the word.

Because the hashtag categorizes in real-time, it allows analytics to track what is “trending”, shared and getting talked about. It is this analytic potential that has industries racing to implement the hashtag into their marketing content and corporate branding.

Optimizing with the hashtag opens the door to audiences from multiple media platforms who share a common interest in the message you are sending.

Examples of how hashtags are used in real life

Here are three basic examples to get you thinking about how hashtags can be used.

1)    Events –  often conferences will assign a hashtag to the entire event (ex. #smxwest) or to individual sessions so that everyone in attendance can give their feedback, ask questions of the speaker in real time and so that people not in attendance can follow the events.

2)    Campaign Promotions – a restaurant or airline may create a hashtag for their guests to use to tag all their photos or stories about their experiences.

3)    Branding – many big and small brands create a branded hashtag (ex. #Target or #Chipotle).

Where can you use hashtags?

Hashtags are used across many social platforms including:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  • Flickr
  • Tout
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Okurt
  • Friendfeed
  • And many more!

What do hashtags have to do with Web 3.0 (the “Semantic Web”)?

The hashtag is now firmly established as a linked data identifier in the online experience, and is the driving force behind the new web – semantic web or web 3.0. What does that mean?

Hashtags help search engines understand what is trending, who likes the topic, where a topic is most popular, when topics are most popular and even why a topic or brand is most popular… in real time. This helps in the analysis of people’s feelings and is a huge leap toward semantic analysis in the web environment.

In fact Google+ stream now assigns hashtags to posts automatically, says MarketingLand.

How do I create a Hashtag?

All it takes is # in front of a word and you have a viable hashtag.

Visit the official hashtag creator at hashtag.org. You can register your hashtag to claim it as part of your brand. You can also do a search for your hashtag on Twitter, G+, Instagram and other accounts by doing a search within their platform – or you can just search “#yourhashtag” on Google.

Remember that no one owns a hashtag and anyone can potentially attach ‘your’ hashtag to their own comments, opinions or pictures – whether it be the good, bad or ugly.

Hashtag Best Practices and Rules

The hashtag is based on simplicity and has a simple set of rules:

  • The best hashtags have shown to be short and to the point. Keeping it to a maximum length of 6 characters using only numbers and letters as the keyword tends to make the most impact.
  • Don’t use special characters, hyphens or dashes. This will just cut off the rest of your phrase similar to how a period divides sentences.
  • Don’t use spaces. If you are using two or more words, leave out the space. For example the hashtag for following a fundraiser would be #RunforLife as opposed to $ Run for Life.
  • Put words first, then use numbers to categorize recurring events. Hashtags like #2014Learning won’t get the recognition you want, whereas #Learning2014 will direct all traffic regarding 2014 learning trends to your posts.

How to make your hashtag worthwhile.

Give as much thought to your hashtag and its popularity as you do to your business name and marketing focus. Here are a few rules to follow that will make your hashtag experience pay.

  • Check if your hashtag is new or if it is trending at Search.Twitter.com or #hashtag.org. If you find an existing conversation that is not in the direction you want to go, then find something that is equally targeted but not as frequently used or is trending in the direction your want to go.
  • Avoid sentiment.  The public doesn’t like words like love or hate used to sell them on politics or trivia – many who have tried have failed. Always make sure there is really a following for the topic in the sense of the emotion you use.
  • Use your Brand or Industry keywords – Brands and popular industry terms do well in relatable traffic. Using Brand endorsements to trigger search user conversation is a great way to stimulate traffic. For instance, you have a sports jersey retail store and want to sell more product. Using #HockeyJerseys may not be actively searched, but with the NHL Playoffs in full swing, micro bloggers will jump into anything “hockey” and create massive conversations around your simple hashtag.
  • Be careful where you use your hashtags – Stay away from controversial hashtags to market product lines. Also be aware of hashtag hijacking. Have a backup plan to deal with offensive tweets or hashtags not going the way you planned.  

How to Harness the Hashtag Phenomenon

Hashtags have the ability to help marketers to make real time connections. The question is, how do you incorporate them into your marketing campaign? You cannot just sprinkle hashtags willy-nilly throughout your pages.

  1. How your followers use hashtags. You need to find out how people are using hashtags and what will prompt them to follow yours. Check out what is trending and brainstorm how you can target the keyword hashtags.
  2. Know when to post.  Twitter reports engagement for brands are 17% higher on weekends, yet only 19% of brands bother to utilize this huge potential.
  3. Get the right number of hashtags. Posts with one to two hashtags show a 21% higher engagement than those with none and a 17% drop in engagement with more than two hashtags.
  4. Ask for attention. Those who ask to be shared or retweeted, get – those who don’t get nothing. The statistics show a 12X increase in sharing and referral by simply asking for it.
  5. Get your content right first.  Produce quality, relevant content that will create followers. Make your blogs and site articles highly informative, entertaining and applicable to your hashtag.

The power of the hashtag is growing exponentially. Have you found a way to cash in?

If you would like to build a campaign using the hashtag to advance it, contact our experts by email at contact@1stonthelist.ca. We can help you define marketing goals and optimize your online outlets.