‘Tis the Season!

Season’s Greetings to all our clients and other friends.

This season is rife with holidays and celebrations in many countries and among many faiths (and non-faiths). Whatever your personal preference, we hope you have a safe and healthy holiday season and a prosperous 2015.

Merry/Happy/Joyous/Prosperous (as appropriate):

winter holiday logo

  • Boxing Day
  • Christmas
  • Festivus
  • Global Family Day
  • Handsel Monday
  • Hanukkah
  • Hogmanay
  • HumanLight
  • Jól
  • Jul
  • Junkanoo
  • Korochun
  • Kwanzaa
  • Makar Sankranti
  • Malanka
  • Montol Festival
  • Mummer’s Day
  • New Year
  • Saint Stephen’s Day
  • Saturnalia
  • Seol-nal (Korean New Year)
  • Sinterklaas
  • Soyal
  • Winter Solstice
  • Wren Day
  • Yalda
  • Yule
  • Zartosht No-Diso

I hope we’ve mentioned your favorite celebration.


Why Do I Still See Keyword Stuffing?

Some things never go away.

Avoid keyword stuffingIt’s just about 15 years since I began doing SEO under the company name of Treloar Associates.  One of the frowned-upon SEO techniques I advised against back then was keyword stuffing.  People would cram their web page full of many repeated iterations of their target keywords. It didn’t work particularly well, and when Google noticed it the offending web site suffered a Google slap-down.

I thought it was a thing of the past. Good riddance.

Well, no, not quite. I still run into websites with offensive keyword stuffing. They’re painful to read, which may be why most people don’t  — they get a couple of sentences in and leave in disgust. But they’re still out there.  Why??? Perhaps those sites simply haven’t been updated in 15 years? Maybe someone read just enough about SEO to be dangerous and doesn’t know any better?

Well, thinking about keyword stuffing and a sort-of birthday for my involvement in SEO reminded me of this great comic from the folks at Ranked Hard.

Happy Happy Birthday Birthday

Think keyword stuffing, whether accidental or on purpose, may be hurting your online visibility? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re unsure of how to fix things, Rank Magic can help.

 

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Local Search Ranking Factors

The folks at Moz have completed their survey of ranking signals for local search results for 2014, and there are some changes.

local ranking factors

Here are what I think are the high points:

  1. On-page optimization and link popularity seem to be the heaviest influencers.
  2. Domain authority is increasing in importance. This is something we actively follow and report for our clients.
  3. Proximity to the searcher has increased greatly in importance. Search engines are getting better at identifying a searcher’s geographical location and comparing it with potential local search results. There’s not a whole lot you can do about that.
  4. Clickthrough rate for search results has gotten more important. This means its important that your listing in search engines be as attractive as possible so more people click on you. Of course that’s always been an extremely important thing..
  5. Clickthrough rate can easily be compromised by a high bounce rate, or “pogo-sticking” where a searcher clicks on your listing and bounces right back to the search results and tries someone else. This means it’s increasingly important to make your site “sticky” so visitors don’t immediately leave.

Have you noticed any significant changes in your own local visibility? Share with us in the comments below.

Having visibility trouble in local search results? Rank Magic can help.

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Don’t Try to Cheat on Google

Fooling Google.

It happens with regularity: somebody comes up with a new scheme to fool Google into ranking your website higher than it deserves. Often those “Black Hat” techniques work quite well at first. But then when Google discovers your chicanery, you get a well earned slap-down. And you may be totally banned from Google for many months, if not longer.

The latest scheme is an online tool that purports to rewrite a web page so as to avoid Google’s “duplicate content” filter. With this you can, supposedly, steal someone else’s work and make it look like you didn’t plagiarize it. Or you can adjust duplicate pages of your own copy so that (you hope) they will all show up in search results without Google realizing they all say the same thing.

The product is called Article Rewriter, and I’m mentioning it here not as an endorsement, but as a warning. Completely apart from the fact that it’s despicably unethical, this product clearly doesn’t work well.

I’m suspicious.

Their website nicely offers to let you test their product. Paste in your own copy and it will rewrite it for you, claiming the result will not trigger Google’s duplicate content filter.

Not so fast!

I entered the copy from my blog post dated October 9 of this year about Google’s rollout of the Panda 4.1 algorithm update. You can check the original content there, and then compare it with what this new tool produced:

Google Panda four.1 Rolls Out

Google has extended a replacement version of the Panda algorithmic rule, and it’s believed to have an effect on 3-5% of internet sites. which will sound sort of a tiny variety, however as Google algorithmic rule changes go, it’s a fairly massive one.

Google’s state capital so much proclaimed the update on his Google+ page fortnight past. He explained that it’s not a straightforward update as a result of it truly adds some additional signals to assist Panda establish inferiority websites higher. assumptive your web {site} isn’t an occasional quality site, this could add your favor. In fact, he says this update leads to a”greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher”.

There’s a pleasant Panda summary and guide to Panda four.1 over at The Huffington Post.

The rollout may be a slow one, not touching all Google knowledge centers at an equivalent time. It wasn’t expected to continue into on, however in line with Moz it absolutely was still rolling out as of 3 days past. square measure saying} “fluctuations and ranking changes you’re seeing are doubtless associated with that.”

There ar a series of queries you’ll raise and answer concerning any given website that ought to offer you an inspiration of whether or not Panda can am passionate about it (improve its rankings) or not (potentially drop its rankings). The Moz web log of 2 days past goes through that for a few representative sites that were helped by Panda four.1 and a few that were hurt. There are links there to some places wherever you’ll get a page evaluated … however the simplest one (PandaRisk) prices concerning $100 to judge a couple of pages for you.

How ar you doing beneath the new (and improved?) Panda algorithm? Please allow us to apprehend within the comments below.

Egad.

If you know anyone who might be taken in by this, please share this post on the social media platform of your choice.

And if you need assistance with ethical SEO or recovery from damage done by less scrupulous SEO companies, Rank Magic can help.


How Expensive is SEO?

Expensive? A Common Question and a Reasonable Concern.

SEO-best-practices-words1Since Rank Magic’s main market is “small and very small businesses”, expense control is always an issue. We hear often that business owners fear that SEO will be too expensive. We are very price-conscious here, and will be reluctantly raising some of our rates next year; our hourly rate has been the same since 2008. Nevertheless we remain highly competitive price-wise, and much more than competitive value-wise.

What do most SEO companies charge?

That question was asked on the LinkedIn SEO, SEM, and Social Media Marketing group, and here are some typical answers:

  • Around $700 per month for ongoing SEO, $350 per month for basic SMM.
    Karen Godfrey, Melbourne, Australia
  • In India generally around 50,000 – 80,000 for (SMM) close to $1000 and SEO ($400) per month [in US dollars]
    Raveesh Shrivastava, India
  • Depends on what client wants to achieve and the timeline in delivering it. For a small to medium campaign, $500 – $850 per month budget could drive a better ROI from the campaigns.
    Humar Priyam, India
  •  I have seen smaller agencies begin their pricing around $400-$500 in the U.S.
    Todd Bacile. New Orleans, LA
  • Hyper-Localized Management: $250-$750dollar-sign
    • This is based on a small business operating in a specific geographic region
      Example: Family-owned store in a local town that sells natural foods
      Anthony Capetola, Hicksville, NY 
  • Larger Brands w/ National Reach: $2000-$10,000 +
    • High competition range, National or Semi-National Reach
      Example: A new mortgage firm that operates along the eastern seaboard of the United States
      Anthony Capetola, Hicksville, NY 

Want to know how Rank Magic compares? Ask for a copy of our free Overview & Pricing Guide.


Google Panda 4.1 Rolls Out

Uh-Oh.

Google Panda algorithm

Google has rolled out a new version of the Panda algorithm, and it’s believed to affect 3-5% of websites. That may sound like a small number, but as Google algorithm changes go, it’s a pretty big one.

Google’s Pierre Far announced the update on his Google+ page two weeks ago. He explained that it’s not a simple update because  it actually adds a few more signals to help Panda identify low quality websites better. Assuming your website is not a low quality site, this should work in your favor. In fact, he says this update results in a”greater diversity of high-quality small- and medium-sized sites ranking higher”.

There’s a nice Panda overview and guide to Panda 4.1 over at The Huffington Post.

The rollout is a slow one, not hitting all Google data centers at the same time. It wasn’t expected to continue into this week, but according to Moz it was still rolling out as of three days ago. They say “fluctuations and ranking changes you are seeing are likely related to that.”

There are a series of questions you can ask and answer about any given web page that should give you an idea of whether Panda will like it (improve its rankings) or not (potentially drop its rankings). The Moz blog of two days ago goes through that for some representative sites that were helped by Panda 4.1 and some that were hurt. There are also links there to some places where you can get a page evaluated … but the easiest one (PandaRisk) costs about $100 to evaluate a handful of pages for you.

How are you doing under the new (and improved?) Panda algorithm? Please let us know in the comments below.


The 7 Steps to a Perfect Blog Post

Can you really write a perfect blog post?Blog orange

Well, “perfect” is a little tough to pin down, but yes, you can make your blog posts far more powerful. A recent blog post of mine went wildly viral (at least from my own, limited perspective). It was read more than any other blog post, shared more than others, and picked up and syndicated by several blog sites like Business2Community.com. I’ve often wondered what made that blog post so special. I think the secret was that I inadvertently applied some of the seven steps below from the folks at Buffer. There’s a more thorough discussion of this over there, but here are the highlights.

Start with the perfect headline

You may realize that people tend not to read online: they scan. Research shows  that people tend to read the first three words in a headline and the last three words. I’ve used that technique in this very post.

There are also a number of headline techniques that catch readers’ attention:

  • Surprise: “Don’t optimize for Google”
  • Question: “Are You Getting Screwed by Google’s Pigeon Update?”
  • Curiosity Gap: ” Top 10 Rankings Factors – #4 Is a Shock!”
  • Negatives: “Never Ignore the User Experience”
  • How To: “How to Fix Your Keyword Stuffed Copy”
  • Numbers: ‘The 7 Steps to a Perfect Blog Post” (I’m using that one in this post)
  • Audience Reference: ‘You Need Video on Your Site Now”
  • Specificity: “Six Ways to Get More Out of Your SEO”

 story-impactHook readers with a story

After you grab them with the headline, hook them with a story introduction. This turns out to be surprisingly important in turning a glancing reader into one who stays and reads your whole blog post.

I’ve started out this very post with a short story. Did it help hook you?

 Cut down on characters per line with an image

Placing an image in the top right corner of a blog post does two important things. First, It provides a picture to attract attention and hopefully focus the reader on the subject at hand. But second, It makes the first several lines of text shorter. Shorter lines are easier to read and easier for the eye to scan; it’s easier to comprehend and it seems less complicated. That makes your post almost subliminally more appealing for someone to read. An alternative is to make the font size larger for the first paragraph of your post., I’ve actually done both in this blog post.

Use sub-headings

As I said before, people tend to scan on the web rather than read left to right, one word after the other. They scan down the page seeking morsels of information that appeal to them. Then they read.

Headings and sub-headings provide the perfect scan-fodder for your readers. They also add white space and break up your text, making it more approachable. Another technique that can help is using bullet lists  — for the very same reasons.

Consider your word count

Word count does play a role here. Too low a word count makes the page look like it’s not going to be very informative. After all, how much important information can you glean from 100 words of text? On the other hand a 3,000 word post is just over-kill. It may appear too complex to read, the reader may think they don’t have enough time right now to read it, or they may think it’s got too much information to digest at one sitting. All those are turn-offs.

There does seem to be a sweet spot.

socialsharesThe folks at QuickSprout have an extensive article about this, and their research shows that longer posts get more social shares. Social shares is a simple measure of how many people read the article and found it worthwhile. Shares really start  to pick up once the post length exceeds 700 words, and is best over 5,000.

Add one or two “tweetables” to your post

Tweetables are little snippets of text — like soundbites on the news  — that are memorable and easy to tweet. You can even use a quick blog plugin to help you create them. You’ll find one of those about three paragraphs up in this post, using the Click to Tweet WordPress plugin.

 Four little things to consider in your blog post

  1. Include a call to action. “Share this post” “Call us for an appointment” “Visit our website” There’s a reason the person who takes your order at the fast food burger chain always ask “Want fries with that?”
  2. Include images. We remember photos 6 times easier than text.
  3. Include social share buttons. You want your readers to share your post with their own circle of friends and colleagues, right? You’ll notice our social share buttons at both the top and bottom of this post.
  4. Create a readable URL. Instead of the URL for this post being http://www.rankmagic.com/blog/2014/09/7-steps-perfect-blog-post/ it could be improved to http://www.rankmagic.com/perfect-blog-post/.

stopwatch-timingTiming matters

When your blog post appears has an impact, too, but I’m not convinced this is as important as the other factors. For one thing, most blog posts are published during the workday, but most social shares of blog posts happen between 5 and 11pm, after the workday. More social shares also occur on weekends than during the work week. Do posts published outside of working hours get shared most often? Or are those posts that were published during the workday but not read and shared until after work? The research doesn’t tell us.

There you have it. Seven steps to a perfect blog post.

How many of these things do you employ in your blogging?

There’s plenty to agree and disagree on here. Which are most important? Which do you think are hogwash?Which have worked well for you? Let us know what you think about these in the comments below.

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If perfect blog posts aren’t helping your visibility on the web, maybe the problem’s with the rest of your SEO. At Rank Magic, we can fix that. Drop us a note.


Are You Getting Screwed by Google’s Pigeon Update?

PigeonRankIn late July, Google released a new algorithm change nicknamed the Pigeon Update. Not to be confused with PigeonRank, a Google April Fool’s posting we reported on back in 2007, this one is very serious, indeed.  And not everyone is thrilled by it.

The “Yelp Problem”

Yelp had complained they it was being discriminated against in Google local results. It seems that even if someone included the word “Yelp” in their search Google often listed is own local listings ahead of Yelp listings. According to Search Engine Land, the Pigeon Update does in fact solve the Yelp problem.

Google's new Pigeon updateThe question now is whether that comes at the expense of your own local listings. Has solving the Yelp Problem caused a new problem for you?

Directories Win. Do You Lose?

It seems that local directories like Yelp, InsiderPages, CitySearch and others are showing up more prominently now than they used to. That’s great for those directories, but it may come at the expense of listings for individual small business websites like yours.

How do you respond?

Google is constantly trying to improve the relevance of its results, so over time the Pigeon Update will be refined and improved. But how do you respond in the meantime?

Those local directories are showing up more prominently now and are seeing a bump in traffic. The folks at Social Media Today have written why it is more important than ever for you to have fully optimized listings in those very local search directories, hopefully supported by positive reviews there. For our own locally oriented clients, we’ve been doing that for some time but for the immediate future that seems to be a more critical activity than ever before.

If you’d like to learn more about that, check out our local search category.

What’s been your experience? Have you seen a loss of local rankings? Have you seen any negative impact on traffic? Please let us know in the comments below.

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The Most Common Mistake for a Local Business Website

The local business error we see more than any other

You serve people within a limited geographic area.

Oops-250So when consumers in your area search for what you do or what you sell, you need to show up in the search engine results. And to maximize the likelihood of that, search engines need to understand where your business is, and what geographic areas you serve.

Despite how much better search engines have gotten in understanding the focus of a web page, they’re not yet as smart as a person. If you have a page all about in-home widget repair, search engines will understand that very well. And if you have another page about your service area, they can understand that. But what they don’t do well is connecting those dots. To a search engine, each web page is like an island. It connects with others via links, but it needs to do the dot-connecting itself. In other words …

You need location information on every page of your website.

Depending on your business, it’s good to have your phone number posted prominently near the top of every page. And make sure it’s a local area code. Toll-free numbers for local businesses make customers suspicious.

Then, make sure your address, including state and zip code is on every page. Beyond that, you might allude to your service area: counties you serve, or even the major cities and towns, as long as you don’t make that annoyingly long. The easiest place to include this is in your page footer because that allows you to put and maintain it in one spot that will be inherited by all the pages on your site. For example, if Rank Magic was limited to local business, I might place this in our footer:

Serving the north Jersey counties of Morris, Essex, and Sussex
from offices in East Hanover, NJ 07936

If you serve customers (or clients, or patients) at your office or store, you should obviously include the street address as well.

How do you deal with this on your site? Let us know in the comments below.

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How Your Clichés Turn Off Potential Customers

You probably don’t use clichés in the marketing copy on your website.

Or do you?

I learned a simple rule from a marketing consultant years ago that’s stuck with me ever since. Don’t make your reader think “well, I should hope so”. But I see that all the time in website copy  — empty phrases and promises that prompt exactly that response.

  • Quality service!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We do it right the first time!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We always honor our agreements.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We have expertise in [whatever it is we do]
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Free estimates.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • At [company name] you’re the boss.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We pride ourselves on working hard for our customers
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We provide a job well done and done to your satisfaction.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We respect our customers
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Fully insured!
    Well, I should hope so.
  • Your satisfaction is our goal.
    Well, I should hope so.
  • We work to make you happy.
    Well, I should hope so.

You get the idea.

The next time you write or revise your web content, I hope you will keep this principle in mind.

Well, I should hope so.

What are your thoughts about this? Let us know in the comments below.

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