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Strategy SEO 2021

We’ll get this out of the way first: Google rules the internet. Google’s 22 years of operation have seen their search engine become the reigning king of web indexing and the default framework by which consumers access the internet, evolving into an all-in-one tool through which the casual internet user experiences web content. As the internet’s commercial applications have matured, so has Google’s search technology; just like changing markets, the inner workings of Google’s search are always adapting, and the methods by which search results are recalled and ranked for viewing are updated as technology improves and consumer behaviors change. If you’re wondering how to bolster your online reach in 2021, these key SEO strategies should point you in the right direction.

 

  1. Technical Improvements

In 2020, just over half of all internet use was attributed to smartphones. As smartphones get more advanced and traditional desktop and notebook computers shrink in relevance, the number of people using smartphones will only increase, so it’s in your best interest that your content is mobile-ready. While smartphone browsers will display regular web pages, the results are often frustrating; the palm-sized screen of a smartphone doesn’t lend itself to excessive zooming, horizontal scrolling, and pinhead-sized plaintext links, not to mention sluggish load times for heavily scripted and content-rich pages meant for computers. Thankfully, there’s AMP, Google’s universal framework and toolkit for rendering mobile-friendly websites that load quickly, make efficient use of screen real estate, and take advantage of the unique functionality of touch-screen devices. If you haven’t made use of AMP, there’s no better time than now.

 

Now that you’ve created a more mobile-friendly experience, it’s time to talk about security. Though the typical casual internet user might forgive unsecured web connections, Google won’t, and if your website doesn’t meet security standards, even the most daring internet cowboys will be discouraged by their browser’s almost impenetrable security warning screen. Additionally, an improperly secured website will suffer poor ranking in Google searches, limiting your exposure. So what does “unsecured” mean to you and me? There’s no need to dive too deep; it’s all about HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, the foundational protocol for transferring data over web connections. (You might know it as those letters at the front of a URL). HTTP works well enough for data transfer, but it does little for security, and in 2018, Google began flagging HTTP URLs as “not secure” in an effort to make HTTPS (the S stands for secure) the new standard. If your website, or any individual pages, are still using the outdated HTTP standard, you should rectify this immediately to avoid a damaged ranking and user inaccessibility.

 

  1. The Human Voice

In the past, a successful search query was a lean search query. If you wanted to find helpful results quickly, your query would be limited to keywords. Efficiency was important. With voice command, this is no longer the case.

 

What began as one of Google’s wishful-but-clunky technologies has gradually been refined into “an ultimate mobile assistant that helps you with your daily life so you can focus on the things that matter,” and now 55% of smartphone users (those people who account for more than half of internet traffic) use voice command. If the past can serve as a lesson, voice command is poised to grow in use, and your website should be formatted with this in mind.

 

How do people around you use voice command? You’ll notice people are more likely to speak to their phone the way they speak to a person, with natural, casual syntax and little concern for efficiency. This goes double for younger internet users who might not have experienced the limitations of yesterday’s search conventions and committed proper search phrasing to habit. Instead of manually activating voice command and saying “grilled cheese recipe,” people are now more likely to ask, “Hey Google, how do I make grilled cheese?” Google’s search engine has learned how people talk, so questions, interrogative words, and conjunctions have become part of its vocabulary. To make your website more search-relevant, consider reformatting your site’s written content to reflect conversational language. F.A.Q. sections are an easy, helpful, and natural-looking way to include this type of language since all or most of your frequently asked questions will ideally have come from actual people. If your resources allow, this strategy can be expanded even further with the publishing of a blog, which is ideal for infusing text-rich content into what might otherwise be a textually sparse website with few opportunities for including conversational search phrases.

 

  1. Your Rate of Bounce

Are you noticing large numbers of unique IP addresses visiting your website, but confused to see no proportionate increase in search ranking or even a concerning drop in your ranking?

 

Bounce rate is SEO-speak for the percentage of unique visitors who leave your website without making meaningful engagements, like buying something, submitting contact requests, or clicking an internal link to another of your webpages. If your bounce rate is high, Google will notice, and your ranking will drop. Diminished rankings manifest as fewer unique visits since fewer people will be directed to your website by Google. It might be terrible for you, but imagine you’re a consumer with limited time: would you rather your search engine point you toward a poorly constructed website with broken links, unclear navigation, and an unintuitive point of sale system, or a sleek and well-organized website that allows you to quickly and easily access whatever information or product you’re after? Google’s handling of bounce rate is a form of quality control, with every bounced visitor akin to a bad review. The best way to conquer quality control is to improve quality.

 

Updating your security protocol, making your site mobile-friendly, and translating your written content will already go a long way to reducing bounce rate, but there are likely more improvements to be made. Pretend you’re a first-time visitor and do some exploration; do you notice any dead links that lead to 404 pages or blank screens? Are there glaring formatting issues that will benefit from editing your HTML tags? Are images crisp and clean, or are you using poorly compressed .jpeg files for your banners? Do a Google search for something that is found on one section of your website; when you click the link, are you directed to that section, or to your website’s homepage? If you sell material goods, what payment methods are available, and are they convenient?

 

Your website should be visually welcoming and easy to navigate, appear professional, and be reasonably transparent if you want people to not only visit but feel comfortable and confident enough to stick around.

 

  1. Youtube Presence

If you don’t feel old yet, here’s a fun fact: it’s been fifteen years since Google’s $1.65 billion purchase of YouTube. What at first seemed like a weighty business gamble has more than paid off, with YouTube growing in popularity thanks to Google’s infrastructure, and Google supplied with a functionally infinite pool of video content, which can usually be found at the very top of a Google search.

 

YouTube is triply useful, providing a standalone platform for your business, videos that are easily embedded on your website, and increasing your Google search presence. YouTube’s own sophisticated search engine — the worlds second-largest — responds to SEO strategies just like Google’s search, with emphasis on written material. A YouTube video has three major searchable components: its title, its description, and its hashtags. Making the most of video titles, descriptions, and hashtags is key to your channel and videos enjoying maximum search visibility.

 

Your video title is the first thing people will see. If you can, try to find the middle ground between keyword-rich and concise, but don’t worry if your title is wordy — wordiness is better than sparseness. If your video is about Thai resorts, and you’re trying to attract viewers seeking information on possible vacation destinations in Thailand, consider scrapping titles like “Jeff’s Favorite Vacations” in favor of more specific ones, like “Best Thai Resorts for the Budget Conscious Traveler.” Your description should include as much information as possible; this is your opportunity to pack your video with keywords. Some video publishers hire transcription services for their videos, or perform the transcription themselves, in order to have the full content of the video in written form and searchable as part of their video description. Lastly, you should never neglect hashtags. While they are less important on YouTube than they are on some other platforms, they still boost your search visibility and help categorize your videos, making it easier for viewers to stumble upon them during trips down the topical rabbit hole.

magento2 migration tips

 

 

It’s June 2020, and the “closing bell” of Magento 1 support termination has rung. Although the deadline has been previously postponed several times, this time it’s final: online stores that are built on Magento 1 won’t be supported any longer. While they’ll still be functioning, they won’t be getting any more updates (and YES, this regards the crucial question of security patches and means that such stores will be deprived of new functionality). The bottom line, there’s no more time left to put the process off. And due to that, many Magento 1 store owners who haven’t begun their migration yet are biting their nails in anticipation of what they are to encounter ahead.

Without a doubt, you won’t make it without a devoted team who’ll provide you with professional Magento 2 migration services. But what are the possible stumbling points that you can face along the way? In this post, we bring you a detailed explanation of what you can expect and give recommendations on how to prevent unfortunate turns of events.

Why is Magento 1 to Magento 2 Migration Needed?

Before we jump right over to the possible issues that may occur, let’s dot a couple of “I’s”. As stated earlier, there are many reasons why it makes sense to migrate your Magento 1 store to Magento 2. As such, you wouldn’t want your website to lack behind in terms of modern features that are so vital in the ever-changing and progressing world of eCommerce. You surely don’t want your store to be unsafe either, as you’re legally responsible for safeguarding the data and contact details of your customers (data leaks on your fault can result in large fines, that’s how it works).

So although the idea of keeping things just as they are for now is tempting (after all, your M1 store works pretty fine as it is), you’ll still have to eventually make the move from Magento 1. Of course, this means investment from your side, but it’s a great chance to:

  • improve your site’s visual appeal,
  • get a better store checkout,
  • make navigation more user and mobile-friendly,
  • make the store safer,
  • get an overall better performance both in terms of speed and SEO,
  • plus, with M2 you can even think in the direction of progressive web applications.

 

So why later than sooner? Wild guess: because you’ve most likely heard a lot about the struggles and long time frames that it takes to make the move?

Why is Migration to Magento 2 Challenging?

Fair enough, the process is as far as easy as it can get. Thinking that the migration is some simple copy-paste is a common misperception. The root of the problem lies in the fact that even though Magento 1 and Magento 2 differ in a single digit in the name, these two versions are completely different from each other on fundamental levels. At times migration to M2 can basically mean the same as building the entire thing from scratch (what store-owners often tend to do). It takes a lot of coding, untangling data, bug fixing, testing, upgrading, and implementing custom solutions to get things done the right way.

5 Most Common Obstacles During Magento 2 Migration

The mentioned above are just some of the things explaining why the process is hard, but what can cause serious roadblocks for your worry-free migration?

1. You’ve Hired the Wrong People for the Job

As simple as this may sound, it’s true. Despite the fact that there are many Magento developers out there, finding those specialists who are competent in both Magento 1 and Magento 2 is not an easy task. Especially keeping in mind that, by all means, you want people with previous migration experience to handle your store.

 

Things can go completely wrong just because those who you’ve entrusted to work on your case might not have the needed expertise that’ll be equal both for M1 and M2, who might not have the necessary knowledge of the core differences between the platforms, and who don’t really know how to deliver a seamless migration.

You don’t want your store to be the field for trial and error, this is a waste of your money, time, and resources. So how do you choose the right people? Pay special attention to:

 

  • the similar migration projects that were carried out by the person or team previously,
  • make sure they know Magento 1 and Magento 2 equally well,
  • ask for estimates,
  • discuss milestones.

2. You Decide to Add on Things On the Go

Avoiding the planning phase as a way to “win time” is a rookie mistake. Making up your mind regarding what you want after the migration process has already started always results in bottlenecks. If doing so, you:

  1. multiply the development time that’ll be wasted on building – tweaking – demolishing – and rebuilding,
  2. increase the costs,
  3. jeopardize getting smooth results in the end.

 

Hence, it follows that with a clear vision of the result and a mapped out journey, you can count on better communication and migration. Tip: get your development team on board as you plan the work ahead, this way, you’ll all be on the same page.

3. Your Magento 1 Store Has Incompatible Modules With Magento 2

Practically every store makes use of external plugins, third-party extensions, and even custom modules, apart from the functionality that’s offered by Magento out-of-the-box. When it goes down to the work with module migration there are many things to be handled:

  • getting rid of unneeded plugins;
  • finding appropriate M2 analogs for the modules that were used on M1;
  • updating and upgrading the modules;
  • coping with all module compatibility tweaks.

But these four points only cover the cases when that can be done with the currently used modules. If there are no analogs for them or when there was a custom-designed solution on Magento 1, this may result in the necessity to develop new custom solutions. And custom development takes time.

Moreover, migration is the moment when store owners generally want to recalibrate their website and introduce innovations. Meaning not only the migration of old modules but a pack of new ones that’s been added on to the top of the pile, resulting in… Yes, you’ve guessed correctly, additional hours for implementation, testing, etc.

How can you solve this problem?

  1. Allow your developers the time they need for performing an audit of your current modules.
  2. Don’t rush them with finding the best-fit solutions for M2, it’s in your interest to get ahold of the top-pick options and tools that’ll boost your store’s performance.
  3. Don’t be afraid to cut loose “dead weight”, since a lot has changed since the times when you just built your Magento 1 store, there’s so much you won’t need anymore.
  4. Listen to the suggestions of your developers, as, for instance, the old module that you believe is vital for running your business shouldn’t be migrated at all since it can be replaced with a smarter and more modern way out.

4. Migrating Data Can Get Tricky

The scope of data for migration is much bigger than you think. It’s not just the modules, it’s not just your product inventory. We’re talking about all of your information that has been collected over the years: orders, clients, logs, the list can go on for good.

 

At times barriers arise when stores have product inventories kept in external custom systems. For such situations, there can be a need in custom transfer logic, and that’ll gobble uptime. Other backpedaling situations that could be mentioned include dealing with the required data reorganization or re-systematization. Not to mention the long hours spent on fishing out what to dispose and what to move to Magento 2.

Again, here you can confront multiple progress stoppages. The best advice is to make sure that this stoppage isn’t you! Be open to new enhanced solutions as opposed to sticking to the way things were done in the good old days. Ask yourself questions like: “Are logs from 2008 really that important to the business to be transferred?”

5. The Whole Process Takes Much Longer Than Expected

As mentioned before, many things can influence how long the project takes: bad planning, poor team performance, unexpected difficulties with implementing new features, or shifting what’s been accumulated over the years. So it’s no surprise that the estimated deadlines are often pushed forward. Sometimes this isn’t critical. The question is how far are they pushed?

When agreeing with your developers on deadlines, you’re most probably counting on them to be met. Most often, expectations might not be fulfilled due to either broken promises or real issues that have occurred in the course of work.

How can this be avoided? Don’t forget to be involved in the process after you’ve agreed on the migration but don’t push it over the top. Your presence matters but it shouldn’t be distracting. Talk to your developers, ask for updates on what has been completed, request intermediate results, establishing milestones that help a lot too.

To conclude, the idea of moving your Magento 1 store to Magento 2 may be intimidating, yet at the same time migration gives you the opportunity to pick up your online store’s game. In order for everything to roll smoothly, be prepared, plan thoughtfully, and find the perfect team to guide you along the way!

Businesses spend a lot of time and money in building a brand. From an SEO perspective, there are two reasons why you must focus on branding. Firstly, branded search queries are relatively easier to rank for. search engines, including Google, are likely to rank your website on top if it’s your brand that the user is looking for. Studies also show that branded search queries have a higher CTR than non-branded queries.

There are however a few challenges to contend with. Because of the relatively lower competition that branded searches face, it is easier for competitors to influence the search user with content that disputes your business’ claims. For example, a search for a query like “MailChimp” or “Salesforce” can show results containing reviews of these products that are put up by competitors. These reviews could undermine the product to show competing products in a better light. 

Owning these brand searches is thus critical to ensure that your branding exercise is not hijacked by competition. Here are a few tips to get this going.

Create content on third party websites

Marketers have little trouble in ranking first for their brand search. However, you have nine other spots in the organic listing on Google that can be hijacked by competitors. To avoid this, it is a good idea to create company pages on authoritative third-party platforms. For instance, a search for “Hubspot” will show results from websites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Crunchbase, Facebook and Pinterest that all point to profiles owned by Hubspot. This leaves little room for competitors to butt in with counter-claims about your brand or your products.

Simply creating these pages alone may not be enough to get these pages to rank on Google. To achieve this, it is important to work on a coordinated link building strategy that will make these pages move up the ranks on Google search for your brand query.

PPC ads

Over time, Google has constantly redesigned their search results page to give more primary real estate to paid results. As a result, it is not uncommon for more PPC ads than organic search results in the top-fold of SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages). What this means is that competitors can occupy a slot above your organic listing if they paid Google for this. The only way to own this space is by advertising for your own brand query. 

Not surprisingly, a search for terms like ‘MailChimp’ or ‘Hubspot’ will show you two results to their homepage – one from the ad spot, and the other from the organic listing. But unfortunately, this is still inadequate to completely own your listing. Competitors can still bid for the second or third spot on the Paid results and this can take away a significant number of visitors to competitor pages.

You can avoid this by creating landing pages on multiple domains and advertising them all for your brand search. If you are targeting the mobile web, you may also advertise the Play Store or App Store link for your app. If your mobile analytics shows a lot of search coming for app-related queries (example: “GPS app for Android”), then you may also create content targeting these queries and advertise them. 

This shoots up the ad costs for competition and acts as a disincentive. While this may not completely protect you from competitor ads, it is still a viable strategy to keep most of your search users on your own websites.

Content marketing

Branded search queries do not stop with just the search for your brand name. Prospective buyers also lookup several other related brand searches pertaining to your pricing, reviews, and alternatives. Given the long-tail nature of these keywords, it is not realistic to rank for all these terms with just your homepage or third party profile pages. 

Content marketing is an effective strategy to tackle this issue. This refers not just to your blog content, but also your YouTube channel, Facebook posts as well as guest contributions you make on related industry blogs. With hundreds of such content pages, it is possible to rank prominently for your related brand search queries.

Similar to your website SEO, it is a good idea to build backlinks for all these third party platform pages as well. Google typically restricts the number of search results from any one domain to two per result. Building backlinks to all your third party platform content is a good way to get all these pages ranking for your long-tail brand searches.

Customer reviews

Sometimes, Google tends to show your business profile prominently on the right side of its brand search results. This is usually the case with big brand businesses. These business profile boxes also contain links to reviews posted by users on the Google business page. Invest resources in capturing reviews from legitimate buyers on your Google business page. This allows prospective new buyers to get a real-world account of your product or service and helps them make an informed choice about your business.

As your business grows, the volume of visitors coming to your website from branded queries is only expected to increase. With the right strategy, it is possible to make sure that visitors who come to your website off such queries continue to trust your business and convert into paid customers.

As most of us (hopefully) know, one of the greatest problems facing our planet today is pollution. Tons of carbon emissions and immense trash heaps drown the environment, and this problem only increases with the population. We continue to create more and more waste, and fail to find an effective way to manage it.
But what does this have to do with Google search results?
Well, there is another kind of waste hiding beneath the headlines, impacting our daily lives: digital waste. This “digital waste” clouds up our search results, inhibiting us from finding the answers we need.
Google uses a variety of highly complex algorithms, with simple and often adorable code names (like Panda or Pigeon) to bring us results for each query we make. Googlebot constantly crawl public websites and add them to the system index. These sites are ranked on many factors to determine where they appear in the results page. The most important factors include technical aspects, popularity of the site, quality of the content, and age of the site. Google’s algorithms mostly produce accurate, relevant results from authoritative and trusted websites, and everyone’s happy. However, in specific types of searches this system fails, leaving us with stale results, feeling frustrated.

What are stale results?

Stale results pop up when the older, authoritative sites are shown by Google, even when they are offering outdated, maybe even inaccurate information.

Let’s look at some examples.
Here you would like to know the shortcut for taking a screenshot on your mac computer, so you search “how to screenshot on mac.”

 

 

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For awhile we have known that speed is an important factor in Search Ranking but over the last week we have seen an interesting notification for this being tested.  As reported on SearchEngineLand, Google has been testing a bright red “Slow” warning that can be found in Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) for sites that are slower than normal.  This way users can be warned that clicking the link will result in a slow page load time. (more…)

UPDATE 10/19: Google has confirmed the rollout of Penguin 3.0

I’ve only got one anecdote to support my suspicion, but a client who was a victim of Negative SEO lost all of their top 10 rankings, and as of today they are all back 100%!

Google Penguin Update

Photo Credit: omoscowonder.com

Backstory: This client  hired us  in December 2013 to figure out why their rankings and organic traffic had dropped overnight on Oct 5, 2013 (date of the last Penguin update).  We analyzed their back links using a variety of tools and didn’t take us long to discover they had been a victim of negative SEO.  We found over a period of 3 months there were random spammy links added to their site to the tune of about 20,000 links a month!  They had never done their own link building nor hired an SEO. Other than these links they had a very small link profile, with just natural links and only a few.

Because the rankings and traffic did drop right in line with the Penguin update, and there were no warnings in Webmaster Tools of a manual penalty, we knew this was an algorithmic penalty associated with these links.

It took us about 3 months to discover and disavow these links, and the reason why is interesting. The links were not showing up on the page every time – they would only occasionally show up upon a refresh.  Each refresh of these spam pages was filled with about 100 random links, and each refresh showed a new 100 links.  So any link checker would find the links some times, but not other times. We had no choice but to continue to run a link checker, 3 different link checkers as a matter of fact, about 1x a week.  Each time we would discover new links that we hadn’t disavowed yet.  It was a brilliant sneaky black hat SEO attack.

By around February, we were confident we had disavowed about 90% of the spam links. But no recovery.

As we have all learned since then, a site must wait on Google to update the Penguin algorithm before any changes in rankings or recovery can take place. Unfair? Absolutely. Especially in the case of Negative SEO, which is real and does work.  And in this case it took Google over a year to update Penguin.  Imagine us reassuring this client that as soon as Google runs their update, their rankings will be back. “When will that be?” “Uh, Google won’t tell anyone, should be within 3 more months”.

In the meantime, we worked hard on content marketing, blogging for the client, getting high quality content published on their site and blog, building out Google Local pages, hoping that when the update hit, their site would be stronger than ever.

SUCCESS!  ALL of their previous important keywords are back to the top 10, as of today October 18, 2014. Some of them even higher!

We are torn between being thrilled and being sickened that Google can allow something like this to happen.

 

January 2013 – Last spring Google posted about Responsive Web Design on their official webmaster central blog and though the flavor of their article was fairly mild, they made it very clear that their “commitment to accessibility” includes a very important message to web designers – “Mark up one set of content, making it viewable on any device.”

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I’m sure by now everyone has seen that Google allows you to set up authorship credit for the content that you create.  Credit is given by a picture of the author along with a link to the author’s Google Plus page as well as a link that allows you to read more posts by the author.

SEO Moves - Author Credit in SERP Example

Setting this up for a blog with only one author that is posting content is pretty straight forward and there is a lot of good information available on how to do it.  The problem comes when you have a website or blog that has multiple or more than one authors posting content.  Unfortunately the steps that would allow this to work in a single author instance do not work when there are multiple authors and you would end up with the wrong author receiving credit for the content.

After a fair amount of searching I was still not satisfied with any of the answers I had found on how to create the authorship credit when there is more than one author.  A lot of the posts that I found contained old and outdated information or steps that are honestly not necessary to this process.  Finally after piecing together a bunch of information, I was able to find a solution to my problem that was surprisingly even easier than I had expected! In these next couple sections I will cover how to configure the author credit for both of these scenarios (single author or multiple authors) in WordPress.

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SEO Moves - Waves - Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/onigiri_chang/Aaron Wall of SEOBook recently predicted that, in 2013, SEOs who “remain overly-public will continue to invent language to serve their own commercial purposes while chastising those who do not fall in line.” I appear to be living up to (the first part) of that promise because I’m calling it: the breakthrough ranking factor of 2013 will be “waves,” a term I just made up.

This will be a somewhat speculative post, so I feel compelled to say that these opinions are my own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of Northcutt as a whole.
Where did this crazy idea come from? It started with the realization that, back in 2009, Google’s Chief Economist told McKinsey Quarterly “I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?”


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Google Logo - SEO MovesIf you work in the field of SEO, you probably understand that Google controls everything. We constantly bend to its will and try to outthink it at every turn. Just as space travel is unpredictable because we haven’t yet experienced much of it, SEO is also a largely new frontier and we seldom know what to expect from our environment. Our environment, of course, is Google. But what if Google didn’t exist? Where would we look for sites? How would we get links? Your brain is probably boiling over with great ideas right now, and that’s the point of this whole thing—if we eliminate Google from the equation entirely, those paths that we come up with are almost completely organic.

Google is extremely popular with both the general public and with SEO professionals, but it often locks us inside of a box. At some point we’re not exploring the web on our own, and instead we are relying on an algorithm and some web spiders to explore for us. We can break out of this box and choose our own destination in a natural, organic way. Considering the question “what if Google didn’t exist?” is a great way to answer the question “where can I get more links?”

What If?

Playing “what if?” is a fun, but sometimes dangerous, game. It’s easy to get stuck down in the mire of negativity and use “what if?” to fuel your own pessimistic fire. If you use it correctly, however, “what if?” can be a great catalyst for ideas and innovation. For example, think about the popular post apocalypse genre of fiction, where a shovel might become the protagonist’s best weapon, best tool and best friend. Similarly, in a world without Google, a message board buried somewhere inside of a mediocre site with low domain authority might become an excellent research tool. After all, if all of these people are willing to brave an underwhelming site just to talk to each other and share about a topic, that means they’re passionate about it. Passion leads to great info, great leads on new sites and useful links. Google does exist, of course, but thinking outside of that box produces some interesting results.

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