Answer Man #12: Algorithm Changes: Stop Worrying About Them

Answer Man #12: Algorithm Changes: Stop Worrying About Them

I was discussing local SEO strategy with a client  of mine and the topic of Google constantly changing its algorithms came up. Before I continue let me give you a good working definition:

An algorithm is a complex mathematical formula Google uses to determine what results best match the user’s search query.

It’s complicated. Like the coca cola recipe, nobody outside of Google’s secret lab knows what’s in it. That’s why my client’s question made sense:

Will I have to change my website every time Google changes its algorithm?

Frankly I was surprised that I’d never heard that question before. Here’s the answer: Barring some earth-shattering change in Google’s direction the answer is NO.

Remember Google’s  Mission

To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Here’s my advice: Rather than worrying about changing your website every time Google updates its algorithm, think of your website as an organic, evolving marketing tool – it should always be changing. I don’t mean that every couple of months you need to trash your website and start over. What I’m saying is that your website should constantly be tweaked and improved. If you want to enjoy consistently high rankings you need to understand that the days of building a website and never touching it again are over.

Here are some tips

Produce quality content that gives users what they are looking for and then some – and give them enough of it to establish your expertise, authority and trustworthiness

Don’t take shortcuts by buying links or buying reviews. Google knows when you are doing this, and you will only hurt yourself.

Do the hard work of earning quality links and great reviews. If you want great reviews, do great work.

Make sure your contact information is accurate and consistent across the web – that means Name, address and phone number.

The Takeaway

Make sure you give your clients/customers/patients high quality content. Work toward earning valuable back links, work at getting good reviews – pay attention to your website. If you do these things you will never have to worry about what goes on behind closed doors at Google’s secret lab. Make sense?

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Answer Man Series #9: 6 Common Homepage Mistakes and Why You Should Avoid Them

Answer Man Series #9: 6 Common Homepage Mistakes and Why You Should Avoid Them

The 1970’s Polyester Leisure Suit

Just like clothes, hairstyles and cars, web design trends go in and out of style. If you saw someone wearing a 1970’s vintage polyester leisure suit you would make a judgement wouldn’t you? If your homepage is the online version of that suit, be assured that visitors are wondering if you’re out of touch or you just don’t care.

Thin Content

There’s just not enough useful information on your homepage. You might have lovely images, bells and whistles or any number of visual distractions. How does that help your visitors understand what you do, how you do it and why you’re different than your competitors?

Contact Information Not Prominent

Isn’t The goal to get visitors to call or email you? It should be. Make sure your contact information isn’t buried somewhere or worse, not even present on your homepage. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by giving your visitors what they want then making them hunt for your phone number.

The Lovely but Useless Image Slider

You’ve seen them. They’re everywhere – those full width sliders that entertain your visitors by displaying rotating images with bits of copy superimposed on them. Yes, they are engaging but beyond being fun to watch what value are they really providing? Unless you’re a photographer or an artist where the image is the message, you’re not doing your visitors any favors by hogging the most valuable piece of real estate on your homepage with that image slider. There are other ways to make your homepage visually appealing without wasting prime space that should be used to tell your visitors who you are, what you do, why you’re different/better than your competition – you’re USP (unique selling proposition) – where you do what you do, what areas you serve and how to get in touch with you.

The Disappearing Call-to-Action

We know about the call-to-action elements – you know those cool buttons that ask your visitor to click to download a pdf or sign up for your newsletter or make an appointment. Well it matters where those call-to-action elements are on your homepage. Make sure they are at least above the fold. If the page has lots of content, then put another one in the middle of the page. If the page is really long then put another one at the bottom. The point is that no matter where your visitors are on your homepage a call-to-action element should be visible.

Where’s the NAP?

NAP is an industry acronym that stands for Name, Address and Phone number. The NAP should be on every page but especially the homepage since that’s the page your Google Business profile links to. You can put this info in the footer, but I always like to include the phone number somewhere in the header as well. That way, when your site is being viewed on a mobile device, the phone number is right there at the top where a user can simply click on it to call you.

Useful Tools

There are tools available that show you where your visitors are clicking and what links they are ignoring. Use the tools to learn about what area of the homepage is attracting the most attention and make changes accordingly. I use Crazy Egg1 for this but there are other tools that do the same thing. The screenshot below is a heatmap showing where users are clicking on my homepage.

Crazy Egg screen capture

1I have not been compensated in any way by Crazy Egg for endorsing their product. I just like it.

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Traffic vs. Conversion

Traffic vs. Conversion

Would you like to see a thousand visitors a day to your website? Of course, you would. But what if you find out that your main competitor only gets around 200 visits a day but is selling 5 times more widgets than you are.

It’s About Conversion

It’s the classic traffic versus conversion conundrum. If your goal is simply to get more eyeballs on your website then the 1000 visits a day site is clearly more successful than the 200 visits a day site. But if your goal is to sell more widgets, get more newsletter signups, to get people to download your ebook, to fill out your contact form, make an appointment ….

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Answer Man Series #8: Google Analytics

Answer Man Series #8: Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool provided by Google that allows us to collect a wide range of data about how users interact with our website. When you create an analytics account, Google will provide you with a snippet of code that gets inserted into the pages of your website. Once that is done, Google begins tracking user behavior which you can then look at by logging into you analytics account.

Why Google Analytics Important?

To answer this question, you must ask another question first – what is the goal of your website? Without knowing the answer to that question then any data provided by analytics is meaningless – it’s like the old Lewis Carroll quote – “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

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Answer Man Series #7: Backlinks – You Still Need Them

Answer Man Series #7: Backlinks – You Still Need Them

So why are backlinks important? Because Google views them as a vote for your website. The thinking is: if a reputable, authoritative website considers your website worthy of linking to it, then your website must be of high quality too. Makes sense right?

So how do you get those valuable links? Well that’s a big topic – in short, you have to earn them. Here is what you should NEVER do. Buy links. Google can spot paid for links and will penalize you for it.

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Answer Man Series #6:  Are Reviews Important?

Answer Man Series #6: Are Reviews Important?

What about Reviews? Are they important? Will reviews help my visibility? Etc.

Yes, reviews are important. You see, local search is based on three factors, proximity, relevance and prominence. There are dozens of industry specific review sites – for lawyers, doctors, craftsmen, restaurants, hotels – there’s Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angies’ List, Zagats and many more.

Google Reviews

  • The Local Pack – people will click on one of top three results. Which one is most likely to be clicked on? The one with the most reviews.
  • How do I get reviews? – ask and make it easy for people to write a review.
  • Try to get reviews that talk about something specific you did for a customer.
  • Don’t consider a negative review a bad thing – it’s your opportunity to engage with an unhappy customer and try to make it right.

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