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Don’t skip these critical recurring SEO tasks

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No matter how perfectly you’ve optimized a website, it will always require constant maintenance. This is because figuratively speaking, much like a vehicle, there are a lot of moving parts and many of those parts have an impact on others.

In other words — SEO will never be done. It’s a constantly moving target.

There are some tasks, like migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, that are done once. Other tasks are performed on a weekly or monthly like content development, and others that might be conducted on a quarterly or yearly basis.

As we near the end of the year, many marketers will begin planning for next year. It’s equally important to review what we’ve done throughout the year to make sure that our work didn’t inadvertently cause issues in other areas. This helps us to get the most from our efforts as well as to begin next year with a head start.

In this article, I’m going to dig into the tasks that we typically handle on a quarterly or yearly basis, because frankly, they often get ignored until there is a crisis. Proactively handling them will give you a powerful advantage over competitors.

Crawl for broken links

Pages get moved or deleted. Images get replaced. External resources move or even disappear.

Over time, these seemingly minor changes can have a significant impact on a website. Often the impact is positive. But when it results in broken links that aren’t resolved, the negative impact can add up quickly.

It’s easy to fix some broken links on the spot by updating the main navigation when core pages are moved or deleted. It can be more complicated when internal links within content come into play.

This is where specialized tools are especially useful.

Rather than manually reviewing each page, which is what we had to do when I first got into SEO, you can simply use automated software to do the heavy lifting. An added benefit is that unlike humans with short attention spans, the software will catch every broken link.

Review content for quality and relevance

You should be producing content regularly.

If you’re doing that, you’ll typically find that over time, some of that content will become irrelevant or may no longer meet your quality standards. Some of this content may need to be pruned or improved.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the nature of content development.

As we approach the end of the year, now is the effect time for this. Most business owners are elbow deep in evaluating their performance for the year and planning for the next year.

I recently reviewed one of our client’s websites for this reason and found a tremendous amount of content, that while useful at one point, no longer served a purpose.

This happens for a variety of reasons.

For this particular client, in some cases, it was news related to their industry that was no longer relevant. In others, it was content about specific internal events. And in some, fortunately, rare cases, it was content created by the client’s staff that never should have been created in the first case.

Once you’ve identified the content on your website that doesn’t meet your quality and/or relevance standards, you’ll need to determine what to do with it.

Some content may no longer be relevant because of changes in your industry or your business. This content can be deleted, and the URLs should then be redirected to the most relevant content that still exists. If there is nothing relevant to a particular page that’s being deleted, then you can delete it without setting up a redirect. However, if that page has any inbound links or has received any organic traffic in the past twelve months, I highly encourage you to find something on your website to redirect it to.

Some content may simply no longer meet your quality guidelines. Perhaps your writing skills have improved dramatically. Or maybe the content is simply too thin.

The solution to lower-quality content is simple — improve it.

This may mean rewriting the content, adding additional information, and even including images, data, and links to other external resources. Just remember — longer isn’t always better. You should aim to answer your visitors’ query clearly and concisely. Skip the fluff. If you can say everything that needs to be said with just 750 words, then there won’t be anything gained by inflating it to 3,000 words.

Test for page speed

We already know, thanks to data from a variety of sources, that page speed has a dramatic impact on user experience. We also know that it is a ranking factor, both because we’ve seen the evidence and because Google has told us.

Just as low-quality content can grow over time, small tweaks to your website can add up to adversely affect page speed over time as well.

A font file here, a JavaScript library there, and before you know it, your website is crawling along slower than that dump truck you got stuck behind at rush hour. And don’t even get me started on WordPress plugins.

I can tell you from first-hand experience that this happens to most websites that are maintained and updated regularly. That’s why it’s so important to regularly test page speed especially on your highest traffic pages.

If you have a small website (under 1,000 pages), then I recommend testing all of your pages. The task isn’t as monumental as it may seem. We’ll talk about the execution shortly.

For websites over 1,000 pages, my recommendation is to first test the pages that drive 30 percent of your traffic. Next, test any pages not included in that dataset that are critical to your business. And finally, identify the pages in the bottom 10 percent in terms of organic traffic, highlight any that are somewhat to moderately important, and test them.

The good news is that you don’t need to manually test each page. You can collect the initial data right inside of Google analytics.

If a page typically loads in under three seconds, you’re good to go. If it typically takes longer than three seconds, it’s time to use a tool like WebPageTest.org or GTmetrics to identify the elements that are causing the issues.

If fixing these type of issues is something you’re not familiar with, you can check out a recent article I published on the topic, titled How to rev up your page speed for better website performance.

Review WordPress plugins

I mentioned earlier that WordPress plugins could have a negative impact on page speed. This is because they often include CSS and JavaScript files and sometimes will even include JavaScript libraries that have already been enqueued by WordPress core, the theme or other plugins. Some will also include fonts like FontAwesome or Ionic Icons, which more often than not, are loaded remotely. This has a tremendous and adverse impact on page speed. But the problems don’t end there.

Plugins must be updated by the author regularly to continue functioning properly. This is due to changes in:

  • WordPress
  • PHP and JavaScript
  • HTML standards
  • Browsers

But for a variety of reasons, plugin authors may infrequently update their plugins to keep up with changes in this environment, or in some cases, may simply abandon them entirely.

This can affect functionality, appearance, page speed, and even technical SEO. In some cases, it can even render an entire website inaccessible.

It’s wise to review WordPress plugins regularly—not just in terms of you having the most current version installed, but also in terms of whether the author has kept the plugin up to date with current standards.

While doing this, I also recommend putting serious thought into whether each plugin is really necessary. If you can eliminate a plugin, not only will you typically improve page speed, but you’ll also reduce your maintenance workload and potentially improve security. It’s a win all the way around.

Test layout and functionality in major browsers

I explained how incremental changes to your website could impact page speed, but they can also impact how some pages look and function.

I had this happen to me recently with a client’s website.

We made a change to the CSS file to change the appearance of a particular section but didn’t realize until it has been live for a few days that it also changed the appearance in another section. It was pure coincidence that we stumbled across the other section and spotted the issue.

Imagine how small changes throughout weeks or months could inadvertently add up to drastically affect the layout and functionality of unintended elements.

I recommend taking an approach similar to the one I explained for testing page speed. First, identify the pages that drive 30 percent of your organic traffic for testing. Then identify any pages not part of this group that is critical to your business. You can skip the pages that deliver the bottom 10 percent of your organic traffic.

Unfortunately, to test layout and functionality, you will need to manually check these pages, but in most cases, it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds per page.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a digital marketing agency in Tampa, Florida. He’s also a proud father, husband, and US Marine Corps veteran. After 18 years in the digital marketing industry, he’s learned a thing or two, and today, while still serving his clients, he’s working to share his knowledge with the industry to help even more people.





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5 Easy SEO Wins with Powerful Results

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5 Easy SEO Wins with Powerful Results


Search engine optimization, when done correctly, can take a lot of work. This is why so many people are so eager to take shortcuts.

Fortunately, there are some tasks that don’t require as much effort, compared to tasks like link building, yet still yield significant gains.

I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I love tactics that deliver a greater return on my investment of time and/or money.

In this article, I’m going to explain five of these tactics which are easy to execute successfully but can deliver powerful results.

These easy SEO wins will help you get more out of your efforts and sprint past your competitors. They will also help to leverage better results out of your other SEO efforts like link building and content development.

1. Prune Outdated /Low-Quality Content

You probably created all of the content on your website with the best of intentions, but still, it’s almost a certainty that some of it is garbage.

There are a variety of reasons for this, and it happens to the best of us. The solution in many cases is to prune this content. In fact, Danny Goodwin and Loren Baker recently hosted a webinar on exactly this topic.

Some people are hesitant to get rid of any content, no matter the reason. The thinking is generally that it can’t do any harm to leave it there. And Google has reinforced this thinking time and time again.

But the reality is that despite what Google’s representatives say, outdated and/or low-quality content can negatively impact your ranking and traffic.

It probably should impact your credit score too, but apparently, I don’t have the clout necessary to make that happen.

Identifying Content to Prune

Once you’ve worked up the courage to start pruning, the first step is to identify the content that should be deleted.

The easiest and most complete way to do this is to use software like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and generate a list of URLs. This helps to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Next, you’ll need to begin the tedious task of reviewing this list, URL by URL, to determine which content is outdated or low quality. This means you actually need to manually visit each page and review the content.

It may help to prioritize this list. Google Search Console gives you the ability to export a CSV file of the URLs Google has indexed for your website, which you can then sort by traffic.

From here, you’ll want to start evaluating the URLs with no traffic, working your way up.

sorted URLs

It’s important to point out that a lot of this content you’re deleting can and should be redirected to a stronger, high-quality page.

But don’t fall into the misguided approach of redirecting them to your homepage. If there is a legitimately relevant page on your website, redirect it there, otherwise, just let it 404.

But what about the content that’s not a complete dumpster fire, and is still relevant?

2. Improve Quality Content

If you’ve been doing things right, a lot, if not most of your content should survive the executioner’s blade.

This content should be improved based on your visitors’ needs.

The advantage here is that this content already exists, the URL has a history in Google, and it may even have some inbound links. Because of these factors, it makes a lot more sense to improve that content rather than starting over from scratch.

Depending on circumstances, this might include:

  • Editing your content to improve readability, increase engagement, and to make it more comprehensive.
  • Adding relevant and useful media, including images, video, and PDFs.
  • Including original data, research, statistics, and case studies.

We’ll want to prioritize the content to improve based on quick and easy wins. This means we won’t be targeting topics we don’t already rank for, but we also won’t be focused on improving positions we already rank highly for.

So let’s go back to our Google Search Console export and sort the data based on URLs that rank anywhere from Position 5 to 30 in the search results.

sort URLs by position

We’ll then further sort this data by relevance and potential search volume. From here, we will compare these URLs to our competitors who outrank us to identify opportunities to improve.

Some of the things we’re looking for could include:

Word Count

Despite what you may have been told, size does matter.

While not a worthwhile metric on its own, it can help to determine how comprehensive several URLs are in comparison to each other.

Depth

Generally speaking, the top ranking pages across all industries tend to be more comprehensive than those that they outrank. This doesn’t mean that longer content will always win, but it can be a powerful factor.

Does your content effectively and completely answer not only the original query, but also any related questions that may come up as a result?

You need to think about not only the immediate topic, but everything related to the customer journey. This might include:

  • Related definitions
  • Frequently asked questions
  • A summary of relevant laws and regulations
  • Explanation of a process
  • Technical specifications
  • Statistical data
  • Case studies

Readability

How well-written is your content?

This is not something you want to evaluate by gut feel – you need an objective measurement.

  • Yoast gives you a readability score while editing content right in WordPress.
  • SEMrush enables you to test readability both within their platform and with a Chrome add-on that integrates with Google Docs.
  • There are countless other tools as standalone websites, apps, and addons/plugins, available.

Your immediate goal is to make your content easier to read than the content that’s outranking you, but that’s just a starting point.

If your competitors content reads like someone spilled a bowl of alphabet soup, don’t set out to simply be a little better than them. Your goal should be to blow them away.

Media

Are original and useful images included within your content? How about video and/or audio files?

Images can provide additional context that helps search engines understand what your content is about. So can video, provided that schema is properly used.

But both serve another more important role, and that is to improve the user experience.

Look for opportunities to use media to provide additional information that’s not included in the text.

Both images and video are great at making complex topics easier to understand, but video is particularly effective at keeping visitors on your website longer, which is always a good thing.

It’s always a wise idea to include a watermark on your images to prevent competitors from stealing them.

Sure, you could file a DMCA complaint after the fact, but it’s always easier to avoid the problem in the first place.

3. Update Internal Links

Internal links can be a powerful tactic in your SEO toolbox, but it’s important to review them from time.

Your internal links should point to any pages that you want to rank well, and they should be placed on any pages with content relevant to the link destination. Equally important, these links should be direct.

redirects

This is a pretty common problem in websites where content is frequently published, moved, or deleted. The solution is to use a tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush to crawl your site and identify any redirect chains.

As for managing these internal links, I’m a big fan of automating this task, and this is easy for WordPress websites.

There are several plugins available that enable you to specify certain words/phrases to automatically link to specific URLs.

This allows you to instantly create, edit, and delete links across your entire website, whether you have a few pages or a few million pages.

4. Improve Page Load Speed

The longer a webpage takes to load, the fewer leads and sales you’ll generate. To compound this problem, slower websites also tend not to rank as well compared to faster websites.

This makes page speed monumentality important.

Most websites are painfully slow, but the good news is that it’s relatively easy to improve.

While improving page speed requires a moderate level of technical expertise, I still consider this to be an easy win because the improvements you make will have an immediate and sitewide effect.

I’ll briefly share a few tactics here, but I encourage you to check out another article I wrote, explaining how to improve page speed, in great detail.

Dump the Budget Web Hosting

The cheaper web hosts tend to oversell their services, so your website is crammed onto a server with hundreds or even thousands of other websites.

Because these servers often lack the horsepower necessary, the websites they host often suffer in terms of page speed.

Reduce HTTP Calls

Every part of your website – each HTML, CSS, JavaScript, image, video, and any other type of file — requires a separate HTTP request.

Fewer HTTP requests typically means a faster website.

So how do we get there?

The first step is to remove any unnecessary plugins. Then, you’ll merge multiple CSS and JavaScript files into a single CSS and JavaScript file.

You should also minimize the number of image files by using CSS to create the desired design effect and/or using sprites to merge multiple frequently used images.

Optimize Media Files

Images and videos on many websites tend to be larger than they need to be.

The first step is to to make sure your media files are in the ideal format. For example, JPG is best for photographic images, while GIF or PNG are better for images with large areas of solid color.

Then, you’ll need to ensure your media files are properly sized. Images and video should be no larger than they will be displayed.

For example, if a particular image on your website will be never displayed at more than 800px wide, the image file should be 800px wide.

Finally, you’ll need to compress your media files. There are a number of free tools available online for compressing various file types. There are also WordPress plugins that can compress all of the images already on your website.

These three steps are a good start, but as I mentioned earlier, I highly encourage you to check out my previous article on improving page speed for more tactics and greater detail.

5. Implement Schema Markup

There is no definitive evidence that schema markup has any direct impact on ranking, however, it’s still critical to SEO.

That’s because it has the potential to increase your website’s visibility in the search results, which results in higher click-through rates.

Since most websites today still don’t use schema, this creates a tremendous opportunity for those that do. Take a look at this example and tell me which result caught your eye first?

schema in SERPs

Fortunately, implementing schema is relatively simple. There are three types, and they are used in different scenarios.

  • Standard schema microdata, which is marked up directly in HTML.
  • JSON-LD, which is marked up in JavaScript and is the most recommended format.
  • RDFa, which is used in a variety of different document types including XML, HTML 4, SVG, and many others.

In some cases, you’ll use JSON and add it to your website just like you would any other script. In some cases, you’ll add markup to specific elements on your website, and in others, you might add RDFa to a different document type.

Roger Montti wrote a great, in-depth post on schema, so rather than reinventing the wheel here, I’ll just direct you to his article.

But schema goes a lot deeper than where it is today and I anticipate that it will play a much larger and more direct role in the search algorithm. Especially as voice search begins to gain traction.

Montti explains in another article how Google is currently using speakable markup, which I believe will become a more prominent factor in search in the coming years.

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Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, April 2019
All screenshots taken by author, April 2019





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7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation

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7 Expert Tips to Protect Your Online Reputation


Ready for some detailed advice to help protect your reputation online?

The advice you’ll read in this article works for both proactive reputation management, and for those that already have online negative content/reviews about them.

Be advised, however, that some sites may be impossible or very hard to beat.

Major news sites (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, New York Times) require significant work to manage.

If a major news site has posted negative content about you, then you really need to be (or hire) an expert in SEO.

The do-it-yourself option is just not feasible at that scale. That said, these tips will help some DIYers before moving on to an expensive reputation management firm.

Up until recently, popular complaint website RipoffReport was also hard to beat.

Recent changes to Google’s algorithm (which we think occurred in September 2018) have pushed some complaint sites lower in search ranking. Read my prior article for more details about this.

Tip 1: Provide Excellent Service

You want to make sure that you really are providing an excellent service to avoid getting negative reviews in the first place. Consider going above and beyond your current efforts.

For example, if you run a restaurant, maybe provide a free appetizer to surprise new or returning customers.

If you notice even the slightest sign that a customer is unhappy, try your best to resolve the issue ASAP. The next best thing is to offer a free service or refunds to make up for the issue.

You can’t make everyone happy. I have been doing SEO services for over 20 years and there have been many times when I’ve had unhappy clients.

I have always either offered free services or provided refunds to my unhappy clients, and this is how I have kept a near flawless record online.

They say the client is always right. I know that sometimes they are not, but consider whether arguing with your customer is worth your reputation.

The decision may come down to the dollar value of your services.

Maybe a negative review on Yelp or Google Maps would not affect your overall rating because you have many positive reviews.

But what would happen if you got a negative review on a complaint site like RipoffReport?

Often, these kinds of reviews rank high for the brand name and can do more damage in a few months than the amount in dispute with your client.

I have offered full refunds to several clients over the years because the threat of a negative review on the right site can hurt.

My firsthand knowledge of the damage done to businesses has made me overly cautious.

One negative review can cost thousands of dollars in online reputation management (ORM) services to try and repair.

Tip 2: Ask for Reviews

Certain professions are more likely to have more negative reviews than positive.

For example, dentists for some reason usually get a high number of negative reviews.

My guess is that no one goes to a dentist with a happy feeling. One usually goes to a dentist to fix a cavity or do a cleaning, which could result in the discovery of cavities and require more work.

Having to spend money you had not planned on spending is a pretty good reason for most people to get upset. Even the best dental insurance requires some kind of a copay, so dental procedures can be expensive.

Even if you aren’t a dentist, you’re more likely to get positive reviews if you ask for them.

If you avoid asking your best customers for reviews, you may end up with more negative reviews than you would have wanted.

Just make sure that you know your customers are happy before you ask for the review.

If you are seeing your customer in person, you may start by asking how they felt about your service right after you finish the job.

Alternatively, you may want to follow up after a few days.

Another tip is to use a different person to follow up then whoever served the customer. If it is one of your staff that did the work/sale, then either a manager or you should do the follow-up.

This way the customer is more likely to tell you about a negative experience, and you won’t feel as defensive about it since you were not the one involved.

Tip 3: Incentives for Reviews

Consider offering some kind of incentive for reviews, but be warned that this practice is against Yelp. If you do this, make sure to never ask for it in writing, but always verbally.

If someone reports you to Yelp for doing this, you may get a warning or a demotion in Yelp’s search results.

I have seen businesses post messages behind their business cards asking for Yelp reviews, with a discount for positive reviews.

A customer just needs to take a picture of this and send it to Yelp. Yelp will quickly follow up with a Consumer Alert on your account.

Tip 4: Offer Refunds to Unhappy Clients

If you have clients that are unhappy with your services, at first try to resolve or fix the issues, but if this is not possible, then offer a full or partial refund or some other incentive such as discount coupons or even retail gift cards.

Accept that you were wrong. Trying to resolve issues will always sit better with clients than trying to argue.

Refunds can either help avoid the negative review or lessen the damage and turn the negative review into a somewhat positive one.

I’ve had clients where even a partial refund has meant the difference between a 1-star and a 4-star review. Even a 5-star rating may be possible.

Tip 5: Review Generating Platforms

Many companies offer platforms for review generation. The basic concept is to collect your customer’s emails and/or phone numbers.

After their visit, or every so often, you can send a survey email or text message to ask for feedback.

The message will ask how they felt about your services and if the answer comes back positive you can then ask them to give you a review on the review site of your choosing, such as Yelp and Google Maps.

If the answer comes back negative, you will see the message and can reach out to them to try and resolve the issue before they think about posting a negative review in the first place.

These services typically cost as little as $30 per month to run yourself, or up to hundreds of dollars for a full-service provider (ORM company). Some companies that offer this service include:

Tip 6: Consider Revising Your Business Model

I have a client with an ecommerce fashion store that dropships items from China, even though the business is based in the U.S.

The delivery time is usually 2 to 5 weeks, which is slow for most people. In addition, sometimes the Chinese sizes run smaller than US sizes.

So this business often gets many negative reviews and requests for returns/refunds. They also further upset clients by asking the customer to send back the item at their own expense.

As you can see, this kind of business cannot avoid negative reviews unless they change their business model.

The main benefit of their service is that it’s affordable. In fact, they are extremely cost-effective compared to similar fashion items found at major department stores.

So, what can a business like this do?

My advice begins with an adjustment to their sales copy informing customers that items are delivered from China and that shipping may take 2-5 weeks.

This tactic reduces some of their sales, but it avoids so many unhappy customers and unnecessary refunds.

Most people would probably not mind waiting a little if that would save them some money.

The customers that don’t want to wait that long are usually the ones that would complain most because they probably needed the item to be there for an occasion.

Also, they can offer free or reduced shipping costs for returns.

If the item is pretty cheap, another option is to provide a full refund and have the customer simply keep the item. Amazon used this tactic effectively in its growth phase to encourage Prime users.

The good news with this business is that they decided to change business models and keep inventory on hand to ship from the U.S. after I consulted with them.

They have been getting fewer negative reviews since they did this couple of months ago.

So my point here is to take a look at your business model to see what adjustments you can make to avoid situations that lead to negative reviews.

Even if it is going to cost you some business or money, you would be better off in the long run.

Not only will you increase business from new customers (thanks to positive reviews), happy clients will return and refer others to your business.

Tip 7: Be Proactive, Not Reactive

There are a number of things you can do to create a positive online image.

Your goal should be to populate the top 20 of Google with positive content about your business, which in turn may help to keep negative content out.

I plan on writing another article soon to cover more specifics, but in general, here are a few recommendations:

  • Register your social media profiles on the top social media sites, and stay active on those platforms.
  • Active Twitter profiles often get in the top 10 for their brand names, and Google may even show the latest feeds from them taking additional real estate space.
  • YouTube videos will often rank well for brand names. You can create a professional video for less than $1,000, or an even lower budget video using your smartphone. Also, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr to do a slide show type video about your business.
  • Distribute press releases every few months. Try to use different networks for distribution to get maximum coverage.
  • If you don’t already have a blog, create one and post on a regular basis (once a week is what we recommend to our clients as a minimum).
  • Create mini sites or blogs with subdomain blog platforms, such as wordpress.com or tumblr.com. Make sure your brand name appears as part of the subdomain (i.e., yourbrand.wordpress.com).

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Official AMP Plugin for WordPress Now Supports AMP Stories

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Official AMP Plugin for WordPress Now Supports AMP Stories


A new version of the official AMP plugin for WordPress supports the creation of AMP Stories.

Google recently added a dedicated section to search results for showcasing AMP Stories.

So there’s no time like the present for learning how to create them.

While AMP Stories can be created with or without this plugin, its drag-and-drop functionality certainly makes things easier.

Official AMP Plugin for WordPress Now Supports AMP Stories

The AMP Project team explains how WordPress offers an ideal platform for creating AMP Stories:

“Building on top of WordPress, and specifically the new Gutenberg editor available in WordPress 5.0, allows the AMP Stories creation process to benefit from the rich media management architecture available in WordPress.

In Gutenberg everything is a block. This makes it easy to create rich post layouts, provide enhanced authoring tools (word count, color contrast, document outlines, etc.), and extend with custom blocks.”

Capabilities of the latest AMP plugin update include:

  • Creating and reordering AMP Story pages
  • Dragging and dropping blocks
  • Managing your content overall as part of WordPress
  • Creating new elements, such as text, videos, images
  • Changing the background color and opacity, and adding a gradient
  • Animating the text, rotating it, and selecting a Google font

This feature is currently available in an experimental alpha version of the AMP plugin, which is said to work best with Gutenberg.

With that said, download and install the plugin at your own discretion.





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