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All About Domains (Infographic)

What is a domain? And how is it different from a website?

A domain corresponds to a physical location on the Internet. It’s analogous to a street address. And in that analogy, your website is like the building at that street address. For example, an address may be 135 Main St. But what’s there could be an office building, parking garage, a mansion, or small house. In this analogy, 135 Main St. is comparable to a domain, and the building that resides there is comparable to a website.

You might think of your domain as the brand name of your website. You may change your website (and probably should every few years) but your domain typically remains the same.

For a new business, selecting a domain name is very important. In the past we’ve suggested some rules for selecting a domain. A few years later, the Search Engine Institute came out with their own rules, which didn’t differ greatly from our own.

There’s actually a lot more to know about domains

The folks at Hosting Tribunal have published a very informative info graphic on the subject. Here it is.

Everything you ever wanted to know a bout domain names (almost).

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Need some help getting your own domain to show up better in Google? Reach out to Rank Magic — we can help!

What is Schema Markup? How important is it for local business SEO?

What is Schema (Structured Data Markup)?

Structured code markup in accourdance with schema.orhSchema is a common short term for structured data, named after Schema.org, the website for structured data markup. It was created by a collaborative team from Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It’s not too often that competitors come together with a common purpose. But structured coding is important enough for them to do it. It creates an agreed-upon set of rules for structured data that tells the search engines exactly what kind of information is on your website.

Schema code goes into the HTML code that tells a browser what information is on your website and how to display it. According to schema.org:

Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.

Schema for SEO

SEO really does improve small buisiness visibility.We always recommend that our SEO clients include schema structured data markup as an important SEO technique. That’s because giving the search engines structured data helps them understand your webpages better and results in a ranking increase for you. One study determined that websites with schema coding rank an average of four positions higher in search engine results than those without schema markup.

Schema allows search engines to better understand addresses, dates of events, phone numbers, email addresses, and other information about you. So it helps Google understand:

  • who you are
  • what you do
  • how to reach you,
  • and (critical for local businesses) where you are.

Neil Patel explains this in more detail if you’re interested in digging in deeper. There’s also a comprehensive guide to structured data from the folks at 3 White Hats. And for a strictly local business focus, Search Engine Journal has a guide on How to Use Schema for Local SEO.

You don’t need to know structured data details

Since schema is in the HTML code of your website, it’s the responsibility of your web designer to understand how to write that part of the code for your site. The structured code in schema tends to be detailed and complex. Unless you’re acting as your own web designer, the two things you need to know about schema on your website are

  1. Why it’s important, and
  2. Making sure that it’s there.

Surprisingly, according to recent research less than one-third of websites use schema markup.

Did I say this stuff is complex? True. But that’s why your small business’ competitors are probably not using it. So implementing it on your own site gives you a significant advantage over those competitors who don’t use it.

Don’t worry!

SEO really does help small businesses show up in Google.There is a stupefyingly simple way to implement this stuff on your website. It’s a lifesaver if you’re doing your own coding, but even if your webmaster does it for you, this solution can save significant time, effort, and money.

I have long been a proponent of Yext PowerListings for local businesses. Yext is the leader in local data management, and many of my clients subscribe to their Knowledge Graph service. [Full disclosure: I am a Yext Certified Partner] In a nutshell, PowerListings gives you a single place to enter tons of information about your business which is then published on more than six dozen local search engines directories maps and mobile apps.

The simple solution: Yext Knowledge Tags

Yexy Knowledge Graph PowerListings Yext Knowledge Tags is an enhancement to their Knowledge Graph PowerListings which provides a simple short snippet of code to add to your web pages that will implement full schema coding throughout. If anything changes in your Knowledge Graph, it’s automatically reflected in the schema code on your website.  Immediately.

For existing subscribers, this is a no-brainer in my opinion. But whether or not you currently subscribe to the Yext Knowledge Graph or “PowerListings”, this is worth your serious consideration. I refer you to our explanation of local SEO, citations, and PowerListings.

Reach out for a friendly phone call about your website and how much of a difference this can make for you.

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How to Avoid a Google Penalty

Oops! Don't run afoul of a Google penalty.Some “Google Penalties” Aren’t

Colloquially, the term “Google penalty” , usually means anything on your website that is harming your rankings. According to Google, though, a “penalty” is a manual action taken by Google that negatively affects your rankings.

Manual Penalties

These are real “penalties”. If you get hit with a manual penalty, you should see evidence from that in your Google Search Console. Normally Google will identify exactly what you’ve done that they don’t like. So obviously, you should fix whatever that might be.

Google penalties will reduce your online visibility and traffic.

Once you’ve fixed the offending practice on your site, you can ask Google to re-index your site with the corrective actions implemented. Normally that will restore you to Google’s good graces and eliminate the penalty. This doesn’t happen immediately, though, and you can expect the delay of possibly weeks before you see your rankings improve.

Algorithm penalties

There are a number of things that might happen on your website that can negatively affect your rankings without incurring a manual penalty. I call those algorithm penalties because they’re just a normal result of Google’s algorithms evaluating the content on your site. Here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Free hosting services
    • If you’re cutting costs by using a free hosting service, there is one common attribute of those that can get you in trouble with Google. That’s when the hosting service compensates for the free service they’re giving you by adding advertising to your web pages. Some of  that advertising may be pretty spammy, and Google is not likely to be happy with it.
  • Malware
    • If your website has been infected by any viruses, trojans, or spyware, you’ll get hit with one of these penalties. Make sure your website is malware-free. The GlobalSign blog has some excellent suggestions on how to find malware on your site and how to protect against it. You can check that out here.
  • Thin content
    • Many websites for visually oriented businesses overly rely on images on their pages and have very little text. Those photos or graphics could be pictures of your pet cat as far as Google can tell. Google can read the alternate text behind your images (you do have that, right?), but other than that images do little to help Google understand what your page is about.
    • Aside from that, if you’re overly concerned about brevity on your pages, you can run into the same problem. If there’s too little text content on your pages, regardless of why, you may be penalized for thin content.
    • You can also run into those pages being considered “duplicate content” if the actual body content of the page pales in size with other elements on the page that are common to all pages on your website (think footers, sidebars, and so forth). In this caseyou may be facing the plagiarism penalty (see below).
  • Keyword stuffing
    • This is an ancient SEO technique to make sure your targeted keyword phrase appears many times on the page. This used to work with some early search engines. But it provides a very poor user experience for those trying to read your content. Google is smart enough to identify that and consider it a negative ranking factor. I still see this from time to time.
  • Plagiarism
    • Duplicate dogs are fine. Duplicate content? Not so much.If you copied significant amounts of content from another website (even if you own that other website) Google considers it to be duplicate content. Google is excellent at identifying duplicate content and will usually try to show only the oldest of those duplicate pages. If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious that there is little benefit to the user if Google shows a bunch of pages that all say the same thing. So Google doesn’t do that. If the content on your page is not original, it may never show up in Google search results.
    • I see this sometimes on websites designed by vertical web services. These are companies that specialize in a particular kind of businesses like handyman services, dental practices, plumbers, etc. The often have lots of excellent pre-written content about the kinds of services these businesses provide. One problem with this is that many other businesses in your niche may use the same pre-written content that ends up on your website. Bingo: you have duplicate content! If you use such a company, please ensure that the content they put on your pages is unique to you.

We can help!

If you’re concerned that you might be at risk for some of these penalties, give us a call. We can review your website with you over the phone at no cost and help you understand any potential issues that may be lurking there.

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What is Local Search? Why is Local SEO Important?

Increase your local search visibility on Google.What is Local Search?

Local search is happening more and more. Pretty much everyone has a smartphone; and more voice searches are happening every month. When someone is looking for a local business they increasingly conduct a “near me” search. They look for “coffee shop near me”, or a “plumber near me”.  They also often search for services in their state, county, or town.

A few statistics from Search Engine Journal:

  • 50% of people doing a phone search visited a local store within 24 hours.
  • 34% of people searching on their computer also visited a local store within the a day.
  • 71% of people say they search for the location of a business before visiting it for the first time.
  • 60% of adults search for local services or products on tablets and phones.
  • 97% of users looked online for local businesses in 2017 and 12% reported looking for a local business online every day. That number may be even higher today, two years later.

Why is local SEO important?

Local listings on Google: the Local Pack or 3-Pack.

The Google Local 3-Pack

If you’re a brick and mortar store or service who deals with local consumers on a face-to-face basis, understand that your customers who don’t yet know your business name are looking for you via local search.

If your competitors are doing local SEO, they’re going to show up in those searches where you may not. They may be showing up in the coveted Google Local 3-Pack and you may not be.

Local SEO is a bit different from — an expansion of — standard SEO.  To show up in local searches you need a  basis of proper SEO for your website, but that is often not enough.

What’s different about Local SEO?

Standard SEO practices focus on two kinds of things. Your on-page keyword optimization and other factors in your website help Google and other search engines understand what your website and your individual pages are all about. Your off-page authority on the web helps Google understand how important your website is. On-page factors typically control whether or not you will show up in Google’s results when someone searches for what you do. Off-page factors typically influence how high in the list you will show up. Both are necessary to compete successfully with other businesses like yours.

All of that is necessary for local SEO, but there are couple of additional factors that are not included there.

  1. The first is proximity to the searcher. If someone is searching for a local business, Google will tend to show them local businesses that are close rather than local businesses that are further away. I probably don’t need to tell you that you have no control over that.
  2. The second is your “prominence” across the web. This is something you can control.  How broadly are you mentioned in local search engines, directories, maps, and phone apps? How consistently are you listed in terms of your NAP (Name, Address, Phone)?

How well are you doing in local search?

It’s really easy to tell whether your site is like a Billboard in the Woods or not. Just don’t fall into the trap of searching for your business by name on Google and thinking that’s sufficient. Unless there are other businesses with names very similar to yours, this is not a good test. You need to pretend that you’re a customer who doesn’t know the name of your business but is searching for what you sell or what you do.

Try to look yourself up by searching like that customer would, including either a local town, your county, or just searching “near me”.

  • Do you show up in the first page or two of results?
  • Do you show up in the Local 3-Pack?
  • How many competitors are showing up higher than you?

If the results of your test are disappointing, don’t despair. At Rank Magic, we can fix that.

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Protect Your SEO Investment: Own Your Domain

True Story: A Cautionary Tale of Domain Ownership

Do you know who owns your business’s domain name?

A client of mine was a local chiropractic center. They had a reasonably acceptable website, but it had never been optimized. Without SEO, they just did not show up in search. To fix that, they hired us to optimize their site. When it came time to apply our optimization to their site, they had a falling out with their website design company. It was so bad that they decided they needed to move to a new company to host and support their website.

Their old web person had registered their domain for them; let’s call it LocalChiropractor.net. When it came time to move it, their web person wouldn’t allow it, wanting to retain the income for hosting the website. Suddenly it became clear that this client did not own their domain name. Their web company had registered it in their own name and refused to release it.

Aarrgghh! Domain ownership isn't always obvious to a small business owner. But it's important.

Make sure you own your own domain name.

Moving to a brand-new domain name would have caused them to lose all SEO benefits and search visibility that had been earned by the old website. Only because they had no visibility at all yet did they really have nothing to lose. And fortunately for them their web company had registered them a .net domain name. Having a .com domain instead of a .net domain is important for small business.  Fortunately, I was able to help them register LocalChiropractor.com which matched their previous domain except with .com. We optimized that and they now have enviable visibility on Google.

If this client had earned good Google rankings on their old domain, all of that would have been lost and they would been starting from scratch. It would have taken them many months to catch up to where they had been before.

Moral of the story

Make sure you, and not your website or marketing company, own your own domain name. It’s your business and you’re entitled to full control. If you’re not sure, check with whoever registered your domain for you.

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Finally, how do you show up when someone searches for you without knowing your company name? It’s easy to find out! Just click here.