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SEO Basics: Three Parts of SEO

By Kris Heiberg | Feb 27, 2020 | 8 Comments
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Image with three scrabble tiles spelling SEO and the title text for the article - SEO Basics: The Three Parts of SEO

I hear this often. How come no one is finding my website? I ask myself the same question.

The most often answer, you need to work on your Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

Let’s define Search Engine Optimization as a starting point and then we will jump into the Three Parts of SEO.

The process of optimizing a website – as well as all the content on that website – so it will appear in prominent positions in the organic results of search engines. SEO requires an understanding of how search engines work, what people search for, and why and how people search. Successful SEO makes a site appealing to users and search engines. It is a combination of technical and marketing.

Search Engine Journal

That is a really good definition but it is a bit long. Here is a shorter version I came up with.

SEO is a set of techniques and strategies used to push your website’s SERP (search engine results page) higher on the search page – organically.

You should notice that I said “organically”. This just means not using “pay per click” to get your ranking. If you are interested in pay per click then read my two articles on Google Smart Campaigns: Google Ads Smart Campaigns: Designed For Small Business and Google Ads Smart Campaigns – Part 2: Getting Expert Advice

Gone are the days of just having a website and people will find you or your business online. The number of websites and information on the Internet has exploded over the last 10 years.

SEO – Three Main Components

Each SEO component correlates to a search engine process.

Table showing the correlation between the SEO components and the related Search Engine processes.
SEO components and their related Search Engine processes.
  • Technical SEO allows Search Engine Crawlers to find your content.
  • The content of your website is added to the search engine database and is indexed (Indexer) so it can be compared to search terms for relevance.
  • Promotion/Authority SEO allows the Query Engine (what shows the results to the searcher) to determine whether your page is the best selection for the search query. This is also known as Pagerank.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO are those tasks and implementations that allow search engines to find the best content for their searchers on your website.

Search engines want their customers to have the best results that answer their customers query. To do so they need well structured, fast, and descriptive content. It directly relates to the search engine process called crawling where the search engine has bots crawl your site for content. It allows search engines to access your content efficiently.

Technical SEO Tasks

Website Speed/Performance – Better website performance gives your user a better experience and allows the search engines to get to all of your content before timing out. Images should be optimized and right sized. Code (CSS, Javascript, HTML) should be organized so that it does not slow down your website. The use of a CDN or Content Delivery Network can greatly improve the performance of a website.

Well Structured – A well structured website will allow someone to find information easily. This includes descriptive categories and tags for your products, services, and blog articles.

This also includes a good menu structure and descriptive URLs or Permalinks. Having links in your footer to those important pages that you may not want listed in your menus (privacy policy, terms of use, etc) allows search engines and users find content.

If the structure is confusing then your user won’t be able to find your content easily and neither will search engines. Since search engines use the descriptive terms of your content to index it then it is best to include your keywords in the proper headings, categories, tags, and URL structure. If you can glance at a website, page, or post and determine what it is about then it is probably well structured.

Noindex Tags – Make sure the pages you want indexed by search engines do not have the Robots Meta Tag set to “noindex”. If you have content that should not show up in search then set this directive to “noindex”. Example for something that you want to set as noindex might be pages hidden behind a login or internal business pages or documents like proprietary pdfs. This is also a good thing to check if a page or post is not showing up in the SERPs.

Sitemaps – A sitemap is kind of like a phone directory for your website. It tells the search engine those pages you want indexed on their system. Noindexed pages/posts should not be in the sitemap. If you find that a page is not being found in search, look at your sitemap and make sure that page is listed. If not, add it and submit the sitemap via the search engines’s console. Google Search Console has many tools to help you work on boosting your SEO. Most SEO plugins in WordPress will have a sitemap option.

Mobile Friendly – Does your site look ugly on a phone? It is estimated that over 60% of internet searches are taking place on mobile devices. You want your website to load fast and present well on mobile devices. WordPress with a well developed theme will present well on mobile devices right out of the box.

Use HTTPS/SSL Certificates – This is how web servers and web browsers communicate securely. All websites should have an SSL Certificate. Never use a credit card on the internet without https in the address bar. Some or all of your data will be transferred unsecured. Having an SSL Certificate builds trust with users and search engines. Google says they prefer websites that are secured and safe. Most hosting services provide these certificates.

Content/Relevance SEO

Content/Relevance SEO are the techniques you use to make your content readable. It is about using the keywords you know your customers will use to find your content. This shows search engines whether or not your content is relevant to the search criteria entered. Remember this relates the search engine process that indexes (Indexer) your content.

Content/Relevance SEO Tasks

Content – What is website content? – It includes text, images, videos, animations, headings,  articles, products, product descriptions, author pages, category pages, landing pages, etc. Your content should have the relative keywords for search engines and be readable by humans. It should be relevant to the topic or key phrases to find your content.

Do not “keyword stuff” your content as this will confuse your reader and search engines. If your content is relative to the search your visitors will stay on your pages longer and search engines will use this metric to bump your posts in the SERPs. It is about engaging your reader/visitor.

Another point I’d like to make about content. Make sure your content is unique. Duplicate content is a negative ranking factor for SEO. If you copy and paste content from another website search engines will figure that out. This also includes product descriptions for products that you are reselling. Instead of using the manufacturers descriptions, try to come with your own.

Descriptive Anchor Text on Links – When adding links in your content whether they are internal or external you should create descriptive anchor text. Anchor text tells search engines and users what the link is about and whether it is relevant or not. Most of the time a link should not show the page’s URL but a title of what the link is about.

Title Tags & Meta Descriptions – These are the two things a searcher will see first on the search page. It’s kind of like the Headline and Lead on a news site. This gets your reader to click on your SERP.

Google uses the Title Tag on a page or post as a ranking factor but not the Meta Description. It is important to use the post or page’s keywords in the Title Tag. It is recommended to use a secondary keyword in the Meta Description and make sure you add a Call To Action.

All of the SEO plugins I have used include the ability to edit these fields for the page or post.

Image that shows an example of how the Title Tag and Meta Description show in a search. It shows that the Title Tag is the main link and the meta description is the text under that.
Example of the Title Tag and Meta Description on a SERP

Readability – Readability is an important part of keeping your reader on your website. The time a reader is viewing a page or post is a factor in Pagerank. First, no walls of text! Let’s repeat that again just for emphasis. NO WALLS OF TEXT. Why? Unless you are a research scientist no one wants to read something that looks like work.

Break up your sentences and paragraphs. Use bolding, bullets, images and color to lead your reader through your content.

A post/page should be scannable. By scannable I mean the reader should be able to tell if your content is relative to their inquiry with a glance. If it is they will then read the article. For instance, I bolded “NO WALLS OF TEXT” to drive the point of this section’s content.

Topical focus – This is kind of self explanatory but important. This is essentially staying on topic for the article. If your post or page is about bananas do not talk about apples unless it is relevant. If you want to rank for bananas, staying on the topic of bananas is important.

Keywords – This is really important and often misunderstood. Many people think if you are selling beach balls that adding “beach balls” a hundred times on a page will get you search results. Nope. Too much of this can negatively affect your rankings. Search engines consider this keyword stuffing.

I usually start with an idea, topic, or set of keywords. Then I write a draft of what I need to convey to the reader. During the review process, I make sure to work in the search terms I want the article to be searched by. This allows me to focus on good content for my reader and not keywords.

Alt Text on Images – Google not only does search on pages and posts but also the images you have on your website. Alt Text is text/copy that appears in place of the image if the image fails to load.

It also allows screen reading tools used by the visually impaired to provide a description of the image. Google and other search engines use this text to crawl and rank your website. Plus it’s the right thing to do.

When I do website audits I find that most people don’t add this information. In WordPress, there are fields in the media center that allow you to add this information easily. A good rule of thumb is to be descriptive and specific. Do not keyword stuff and be as specific as possible.

Compare these two examples for the Alt Text for the image below (I am a Rush fan so you get a Rush reference).

Musicians Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neal Peart of the progressive rock band Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in 2013
Rush being inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame

“Musicians being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”

“Musicians Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee, and Neal Peart of the progressive rock band Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in 2013”

The second example includes many more details about the image. It allows you too add additional keywords and details to the image.

Promotion/Authority SEO

What is Authority in regards to SEO? Authority is the ability of your website to acquire new links to your site. These are also known as backlinks. Just having content on the internet does not mean anyone will find it. Google and other search engines base your position in search on many factors. One of the factors in page ranking is the number of good backlinks to your website.

This needs to be earned based on your great content as buying backlinks is not a good way to gain Pagerank.

Promotion is getting those backlinks.

Promotion/Authority Tasks

CornerStone/In-depth Content – Studies have shown that longer in-depth content earn more backlinks. People do read longer articles. That does not mean you should only write long content. It does mean that some of your content needs to be in-depth so that you can build up your CornerStone content.

CornerStone content is the content on your website that gets the most links and exposure. It is the content that is “working”. CornerStone content should be promoted as it will give the most benefit of your time. This is a good article that goes into content length and ranking  – The Third Pillar of SEO: Authority.

Social Media Sharing – Most or all blog posts should be shared on your social media accounts. This keeps those that are following you updated on new articles and events going on with your business or life.

I like to think of social media as bubbles of influence. Let’s say you have 100 followers on Facebook. Each one of those followers has a bubble of influence with their own followers. So if 3 people share your post and they each have 100 followers you have the potential to reach 400 people. Also, remember to remind people to share and like your posts.

One thing to remember about Social Media Sharing is that it does not directly affect your page rankings. From what I have studied, Google does not give you a boost for social media shares. Even though, I recommend you always share new content since the more people that read your content the better your rankings will be.

Social Media Sharing Buttons – This is the act of adding a link or button so your reader can easily share your content on their social media accounts. Notice that I did not say Likes. Likes are OK but what you really want is shares as they will have more impact (see the scenario above for social media sharing).

Backlinks from Trusted Websites – In my opinion, this is probably the most important aspect of getting ranked well by search engines. It is probably the most difficult to implement also.

Remember that search engines rank websites based on the quality of content and authority of their content. So if a website consistently has great content and posts often they get better ranking than other websites. If your content gets backlinked from those highly trusted websites you get a boost or better ranking as their ranking passes through to you. So anytime you can get a mention or even guest post on a well ranking website it will help your website’s ranking.

Conversely, backlinks from untrusted websites will do just the opposite and hurt your rankings.

The Wrap Up

We have covered the three basic parts of SEO: Technical SEO, Content/Relevance SEO, and Promotion/Authority SEO. I provided some examples and explanations of how each part correlates to a Search Engine Process. For each, I have included some tips and examples of what you can do to rank better.

Hopefully, this will help your website rank well on the search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

If you have any comments or if I have missed something please comment below.

Cheers and have a great day! No pressure.

WordPress Blogging Checklist/Guide

By Kris Heiberg | Jan 28, 2020 | 0 Comments
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WordPress Blogging Checklist/Guide

Happy New Year! Tis’ the time of New Year’s Resolutions. I know some of you have added “blogging more” to your resolutions. Hopefully, you won’t procrastinate like I do.

During projects with clients, I always include a task to explain the importance of creating regular content on their websites. One of the best ways to do this is posting articles and information on their blogs. This is true for the established business, new business, hobbyist, and anyone wanting to increase their website’s traffic.

As a designer and developer, I do not create “content” for the websites I build. I am no content guru but I have found that a good starting point is to have a checklist/guide of those items needed for every blog post/article. This also allows you to think about your post strategically and include those things that the search engines and readers are looking for.

A strategy I suggest to my clients is to post any content to the website’s blog first and then share that post across their social media outlets as part of their link building process. This can be automated using tools like https://zapier.com/. A Zapier article is in the works.

Why is blogging/posting articles important? Simply stated – It Builds Trust. It shows your reader quickly that you know something about your topic. Regular and consistent blogging shows Google that your website is being updated on a regular basis with fresh and new content.

Blog Posting Checklist/Guide

This list can also be applied to pages on your website. Just remember that these are suggestions. The important thing is to post to your blog and do it as regularly as possible.

You may notice that I put keywords/keyword phrases after the Content and Title. This is where I get sidetracked in posting. Instead of focusing on the article sometimes I will go down the keywords rabbit hole. I have to repeat to myself, You should focus on creating content. Keywords/phrases can be reviewed during the editing process.

Title

I start my articles usually in a Word or Google doc for outlining, notes and rough drafts. Once I get some ideas down, the Title then becomes easier to determine. When entering the article in WordPress, I set the title of the document first as this will be end up being the URL/permalink to the article.

  • Keywords: Title should have the article’s main keywords/key-phrases.
  • Permalink: This will end up being the permalink/URL/website address to the blog article – According to my research Google and other search engines do check the URL for the key words.
  • Title Tags: When you create a title for your article, WordPress adds a Title Tag automatically to the <HEAD> section of the web page. These are hidden but these will show up in Search Engine Results Pages or SERPS.
Title and Permalink – title and permalink match.

Content

This is what you are trying to communicate. The content of the article. I suggest starting your post in a Word or Google doc until you get your ideas, etc organized. This will help you with coming up with a great Title.

  • Scannable: Articles/posts should be scannable with bullets, headings, bolding, columns, etc. Your reader will scan your article first to see if it is worth reading.
  • Shorter Sentences: Sentences in general should be short but descriptive.
  • Shorter Paragraphs: Paragraphs should be shorter than one would think. If the text looks long people will not read as much. People see a wall of text and think – work. Let’s repeat that… No walls of text.
  • Images and info-graphics: Images and especially info-graphics can help you convey your information quickly.
  • Video: Including video in your posts and pages, allows you to communicate with another medium besides test. Plus, most people would rather see a video rather than read.
  • Headings: Headings should be organized correctly with main topics having larger headings than subtopics. For instance, this article has the title at H1, main topic – H2, and subtopics – H3. This will help your reader and search engines understand your content.
  • Cornerstone Content: For cornerstone content expand on details and do a thorough in-depth explanation. What is “Cornerstone Content”? This is the content that regularly appears at the top of the search engine results page for your important keyword and phrases. It is important to keep cornerstone content updated on a regular basis. Here is an article that covers this in more depth: The Complete Guide to Cornerstone Content for Your Blog in 2019
  • Internal Links: Remember to link to any other relevant articles or pages on your website.
  • External Links: All links to external content should open in a separate tab or window. You want to keep your reader on your website as long as possible.

Keywords/Key-phrases

Now that you have written the first draft of your content/article you need to review it and make sure you are using the proper keywords and phrases you want your reader to be searching for.

  • Content Review: Proof read your article and make sure you are using the keywords and/or phrases. This is where you want to refine what words your searcher may use to find your content.
  • Focus Keyword: We used to make sure the focus keyword field (Yoast SEO) is filled out but apparently most search engines ignore this field as it was highly abused. I would say put a couple of keywords in that field but do not over worry about it.

Meta Description/Snippet

This is one of the most important pieces of information. It is what the searcher will see on the search engine results page.

  • SEO Plugin: Using a SEO plugin like Yoast or The SEO Framework will open up this field on your posts and pages.
  • Marketing Hook: It is the first chance to hook the searcher into reading the post or page.
  • Short summary: Should be related to the content of the article.
  • Length: Most SEO tools like The SEO Framework (this is what I use – free version) or Yoast SEO recommend about 130 characters. This is just a guide set by many SEO plugins and agencies. Google truncates the meta description at 160 characters on desktop and 120 characters on mobile SERPs.
Example of Meta Description – The SEO Framework

Featured image

  • Optimize Images: Remember to optimize images before uploading to your WordPress website. They should be “Right-sized” and optimized so that they are the smallest possible size without losing the image quality needed. Image size is a major factor to website performance and performance is a factor in ranking on SERPs. I use Caesium as it will compress and resize the images at the same time. I will be creating an article to cover this topic in depth so stay tuned.
  • Related: The featured image should be related to the content. 
  • Original Images are Better: Most articles you read about blogging say to avoid stock images. I try to do this, but I do use stock images from Unsplash. If you do, remember to cite the authors.

Right-sized images: So what are right-sized images? This is the idea of reducing the dimensions of an image so that it is only as large as what is needed. For instance, if you are using an image in an article and the blog’s container width is say 800 pixels then do not use a image larger than that. With today’s cameras and smart phones images can be very large. I have worked with images that were 6000 x 4000 and over 10 MB in size. I can usually get these images down to 100 KB or less by right-sizing and compressing. A detailed article on this is in works so stay tuned.

Tags/Categories

  • At Least One Category and Tag: Remember to assign a category and some tags for each article.
  • Rename Uncatorized: It is recommended that you either remove or rename the “uncategorized” default category in WordPress.
  • Related posts: This will allow the reader to easily view and find other related articles/posts.
  • Edit in the Sidebar: You can set these in the sidebar in the WordPress post editor for the article.

Excerpt

  • Summary: The excerpt field can be used in a couple of ways. It is mainly used as a summary of your article when you are listing your posts in an archive.
  • Other Uses: I use the excerpt field as the text for my social media posts. Using Zapier.com, I created a Zap that automatically posts to Facebook and LinkedIn. Zapier allows me to use the excerpt field as the text of the post. Do not forget to use your hashtags… Pretty sure this will be another article on this blog.
  • Similar to the meta description/snippet: This is what people will often see first on social media or your blog archives. As you can see below, I used the same verbiage as the snippet and I have added the most important hashtags.
WordPress Excerpt – found in the right sidebar

Hopefully this guide is helpful and will get you motivated to “post all the articles…”. We all procrastinate. The important thing is to post to your websites blog on a regular basis. It is all about building that trust.

Have a great day! No pressure…

Google Ads Smart Campaigns – Part 2: Getting Expert Advice

By Kris Heiberg | Feb 15, 2019 | 1 Comment
Posted in
Laptop with eCommerce website loaded.

This article is a follow up to my previous article, Google Ads Smart Campaigns: Designed For Small Business. It covers what Smart Campaigns are, how to quickly set up a Smart Campaign, and what are some pros and cons of Smart Campaigns. If you are unfamiliar with Smart Campaigns, I would suggest you give it a read. Also for reference: Google Ads

Free Expert Advice?

Before I cover my experience with Google Adwords Experts, I just want to rant about “free”. Severin Web Design offers a Free Consultation. It is part of the package I offer my clients. I always do this as it helps build trust and allows me to determine if Severin Web Design can help your business. I cannot create a thorough proposal without a consultation. It also allows my new clients to get to know how I work and whether my business is a good fit for their project. “Included” or “No Obligation” Consultation just doesn’t work as well as “Free” Consultation…

Everybody likes FREE. But sometimes free means either it is not free, it could be an up sell or it could be a complete waste of time. No business owner likes their time wasted.

Rant over.

In reality, the Google Adwords Expert advice isn’t free since you are paying for your Google Ads so support should be included and it is. Really. No up sells. Plus, it was well worth the time spent.

Here is what I stumbled upon…

Check Your Notifications

When working with products and services like Google Ads, Google Search Console or Google Analytics it is always a good idea to check your notifications. These are normally in the upper right corner. Google and other services like this will notify you if there are things that need your attention. I check these weekly as part of my tasks that also include checking my website’s performance and statistics.

When checking my Google Ads notification (the red exclamation point), I saw a notification about booking a free call with an Adwords Expert.

Image showing an example of the notification for Google Ads about a free call from an Adwords Expert.
Google Ads Notification

Fully expecting to be up sold, I thought well why not I will try it. I clicked Schedule Now, selected a time slot and entered my contact information. I booked a meeting for a couple of days later and almost immediately forgot about it.

The phone rings two days later around the time I had booked. I screen all unknown numbers because most calls are spam nowadays and will waste my time. I checked voicemail and it was Michael, my Adwords Expert. He left a pleasant message about calling him back.

20 minute Review

I called back and we had just enough time to discuss my Smart Campaign I had set up. We talked about 20 minutes. Seriously, only 20 minutes. But it was 20 minutes that were very much worth my time. As a small business owner, thank you, Michael and Google, for not wasting my time.

Michael was very nice and knowledgeable. He was already reviewing my Smart Campaign before I called back.

We covered three main topics/issues related to my Smart Campaign.

  • More Specific Product and Services Listings
  • Location and Audience Size
  • Multiple Ads Per Campaign

Let’s cover each.

More Specific Product and Services Listings

According to Michael, the Google AI (artificial intelligence) uses the products and services you create to build your keywords list. (The AI also uses your business category so make sure you use the appropriate category.) He explained that using more specific listings would make the AI pick more specific keywords.

For instance, I selected “private customers” thinking that more is better. If you think about it “private customers” could mean just about anything. The Google AI could pick keywords that are not related to your campaign. And more than likely, clicks that you really don’t want to pay for.

Michael also stated the sweet spot for Product and Services listings was 3 to 5 per Smart Campaign.

After some thought, I now have these four services listings that better define my business and the ad campaign I am implementing.

  • Commercial Website Design
  • E-Commerce Website Design
  • Website Maintenance
  • Mobile Friendly Website Design
Image of the new services listing in Google Smart Campaigns after discussing with Adwords Expert
New Services Listing – Severin Web Design

Location and Audience Size

Next, we reviewed the Location and Audience Size settings. Here, I chose to use a 20 mile radius around my business. That gave me an audience size of over 28 million people searching per month. My logic being again bigger is better. I even added 5 miles from the default 15 miles.

I explained my logic to Michael. Michael stated it this way “That’s great for Google but not necessarily for your business.” You need to have impressions (views) and clicks. The trick is to have impressions and clicks that relate to your business. Otherwise, you are paying for unrelated clicks.

Although I can design a website for a client anywhere in the world, the clients I want are small local businesses. For example, when I was looking for a legal adviser and accountant for the business one of my main criteria was to be close. It’s just more convenient especially in Atlanta. Again, you need to think like the person searching.

I decided to use a 10 mile radius around Severin Web Design. That still gave me a potential audience size of 8 million people per month.

Image of the radius selected for the new campaign. It is set to 10 miles and shows 8 million people per month.
Google Smart Campaigns – Where to Show Your Ad

We also discussed the other option on this screen, Set up specific areas, where you can select the zip codes and/or cities you would like to advertise in. That option might be something I look into if this ad campaign is not delivering. I will follow up this article if I find that more successful.

Multiple Ads Per Campaign

Michael then reviewed my ad and said it looked good. The ad included good keywords and a call to action (CTA – see definition below). But… (there’s always a but) did you know you can run multiple ads per Smart Campaign.

CTA – Call To Action

A CTA is a marketing term to compel your audience to do something. This could be to click for more information, purchase, or sign up for something. They take many forms like “limited time offer”, “while supplies last”, and “call now and get another for free”. It gets the audience to feel compelled to purchase or click.

Why would you create more than one ad per campaign? Apparently, the Google AI will show the ad that best matches the keyword the searcher typed in. This means you can target your audience better.

I wondered if there was a limit to the number of ads per campaign and Micheal did not think so. He has seen up to 24 ads per campaign.

I needed to create a couple of more ads that targeted my potential clients or keywords better. You can see what I ended up with below. As I work on my Smart Campaigns, I will be creating more and probably rewriting these as I understand my audience better. The good thing is Google makes this easy to set up.

Image showing 3 Google Ads set up for the Severin Web Design Smart Campaign.
Google Smart Campaigns – Multiple Ads Set Up

Wrap Up

In this article, we covered the included “free” advice you can get with Google Ads. My Google Adwords Expert, Michael, was very helpful and knowledgeable. Kudos Michael!

We covered three ways Michael assisted me in improving my Smart Campaign. By creating more specific product and services descriptions, focusing on a smaller radius around the business and creating additional and better targeted ads for the campaign.

Overall this was a good experience and very helpful. Hopefully, you will find these suggestions helpful to your business. I would recommended talking to an Adwords Expert. For me, it was not a time-waster.

Have you had a good or bad experience with Google Ads Experts? Anything we should know about that experience? Or any questions about Smart Campaigns? Leave a comment.

Upcoming Article: Landing Pages!

If you read my last article on Smart Campaigns you might have noticed that I changed where the Smart Campaign links to. I created a specific landing page for this ad campaign. Landing pages are essential to online advertising. So look for that article in the next couple of weeks.

Thanks for reading! Kris