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Helpful Smartphone User Information for Your SEO

Good-to-know smartphone usage information.

The infographic below is from last year and from UK Web Host Review, but it’s still definitely relevant in 2021 in the US.

As just a single point of SEO related information, search engines have been increasingly penalizing web pages that aren’t mobile-friendly. Last year Google doubled down on its mobile-first policy.  Now your website may not just rank lower if it doesn’t work well on phones, it might not show up in the search results at all.

Here are some more relevant statistics for you.

Smartphone User Information for SEO from UKWebHostReview

Embedded from UKWebHostReview

63% of Google searches are from smartphones. That means it’s critical that your website be mobile friendly, preferably responsive. It’s also essential that your site downloads to a phone quickly, preferably within 2½ seconds. You can test your speed at Google’s Mobile Website Speed Testing site.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

How to Grow a Competitive Online Review Profile

Importance of your online review profile

  • Review stars are valuable assests for your reputation.Online reviews, whether positive or negative, affect your reputation.
  • That in turn impacts your revenue. For example, BrightLocal found that 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
  • That’s because customers see your online review profile and believe those reviews.  According to Inc. Magazine, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends.
  • Don’t go nuts. Watch your review velocity; review sites and Google certainly do. If you get too many reviews too fast, they may be seen as purchased links or spam and be filtered out.
  • Diversity is important. If a citation site you’re listed on features reviews and you have none there, your citation is incomplete. It reduces your authority and your credibility.

Action Plan: how to manage your online review profile

Look yourself up by name

Your online review star-rating registers as an important factopr in customer buying behavior.

The first thing that jumps out at people is your Google Knowledge Panel at the top right. This is probably the most important place for you to have online review stars. If you don’t have any stars here, this is the first place to get them.

What other citations appear on the page? Your Facebook page may show up, perhaps a MerchantCircle page, maybe a Yelp listing, and maybe others. Do they have review stars? If not, those should be the second priority for you.

Online reviews don’t just happen

Youronline review profile is important to rankings and click-throughs.

A good online review profile doesn’t just happen. If you have an unhappy customer their anger or disappointment provides built-in motivation for them to leave you a bad review. Happy customers are less likely to write a review without a little prompting.

Some businesses post a sign that says something like “We welcome your review on Yelp.” Or some variation on that. That plants the suggestion in the customer’s mind that they can (should) share their opinion of you.

Beyond that, you can also ask your customer for a review. Some businesses do that at checkout. Others that have customer email addresses send them an email request for a review with a link to your listing on the platform of your choice to make it easy for them.

Check out your niche

Do a keyword search like car repair shop in Morristown. Or New Jersey elder law attorney. Which industry sites and local directories show up? You may find something like a Morristown business directory. Or you may find a directory of elder law attorneys. If those directories accept online reviews, you need to have some there. If the site is fee-based, you may need to consider the relative value, but many are free.

Check out your competitors

Which of your competitors show up for your most important keywords? Search those keywords and make a note of which competitors are showing up on the first page or two. And then look up those competitors by name and see where they have citations with review stars. Those are all places you should also have reviews. Go through at least the first three pages of results for each competitor to catch the most important citation/review sites.

Consider broader sites as wellMake it easy for delighted customers to review you.

There are a number of more generic sites that are powerful sources of online reviews. Some of the best ones include:

Monitor your online reviews and respond to them

It’s not enough to just ask customers for reviews. You need to respond to reviews as they appear. It’s normal for reviews to appear that you haven’t requested. And not all of those reviews will be glowing.

Responding to reviews promptly is associated with a 33% increase in conversions. We talk about the importance of monitoring and responding to reviews in our post Respond to Reviews and Get More Business.

As you might imagine, it can be quite time-consuming to monitor all of the places that host reviews for you. Fortunately there is the relatively easy solution. Most of our local SEO clients subscribe to a service that, among other things, sends them an email every time a new review is posted, with a link to that review so they can reply. If that’s of interest to you, reach out to me and I’ll explain how it works.

Your perspective is valuable. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Here: 7 Steps to Prepare for Google’s Page Experience Factor

Page experience will affect your rankings soon

There’s a new algorithm change at Google scheduled for next May, and it promises to be a big one. Google calls it the Page Experience factor and we introduced it in this blog a few months ago. Much of what’s involved in page experience used to be referred to as user experience, or UX.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about page experience is that not only will it help you to rank better in search results, but it will also help retain visitors on your site. A good page experience encourages visitors to read more on your site and visit more pages. And that’s highly correlated with conversions of those visitors to paying customers.

How you can get ready

Let’s look at seven specific things you can do to make sure you have a healthy page experience and can demonstrate that to Google.

1 — Mobile Friendly

Yoiur web site MUST be mobile friendly.More than half of all website visits are happening on cell phones. As a result, Google’s index of website content is looking only at mobile friendly content. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, it’s awkward to use on a phone and people are likely to abandon you and look up a competitor instead. For that reason and others, Google is reluctant to rank highly websites that aren’t mobile friendly. In general, I recommend a responsive site rather than having a separate site for mobile users that’s at all different from your desktop version.

2 — Core Web Vitals

One of the most important page experience factors is your page download experience, and core web vitals grade you on that. Google scores this based on three things:

It's important to pay attention to your page speed metrics.Loading

How quickly the page displays in your browser or on a phone — in technical terms, “largest contentful paint” (LCP), or how long it takes before you have a full screen displayed. If your page displays a temporary splash screen or a loading indicator, that doesn’t count. This measures how long it takes before you have a meaningful screen. To be acceptable, this should be no more than 2.5 seconds.

Interactivity

First input delay (FID) measures how long it takes before it’s interactive (meaning responsive to your actions on the page). A page is not always usable immediately upon being displayed; for example, buttons may not work until additional code has been loaded. To be acceptable, this should be no more than 0.1 seconds.

Visual stability

This is measured as something called “cumulative layout shift” (CLS). In some websites, you may be ready to press a button when all of a sudden things move on the screen and that button is no longer where it used to be. Sometimes after the page loads, pop-ups may show up that interfere with using the page. Instability of objects on the screen is a negative experience factor. This is measured by the relative size of the unstable element and how much it moves. To be acceptable, this score should be no more than 0.1.

Google's core web vitals metrics are an important part of its evaluation of your Page ExperienceSome of this is a function of your website itself, but some may also be a function of your web hosting company. For most of us, this is the technical stuff that we leave up to our web designer or web host. To check how your own website stands up to these, there are a number of tools you can use. Google offers six ways to check your core web vitals.

Are you inclined to dig into the details? If so, here’s a good overview.

If you’re not a technical person, I suggest asking your web developer to let you know how you stack up. And if your site needs work, I encourage you to have them deal with it because this may be the single most important part of Google’s new page experience score.

3 — Readability

Poor readability is an important reason for users to abandon your page and look elsewhere for what they need. When someone finds your page in search results and immediately bounces back to the search results to choose something else, the search engines understand that to mean that your page was not a good match for that search. And it’s less likely to be shown for that search in the future.

A sample of text with poor readability.A key measure of readability is the reading level, usually expressed as a grade level. Unless you’re writing a technical thesis, you don’t want your writing to be at a grade level 13 or higher. In general you should target a grade level of no higher than eighth grade. A quick and easy test for your web pages is available at WebFX.

Unfortunately, this is not usually something you can delegate to your web team. It requires your subject knowledge, and often the assistance of a professional copywriter can be invaluable.

4 — Clarity

Make sure your website content is both readable and clear.Beyond the reading level of your content, it also needs clarity. Is it easy for the reader to determine the point you’re trying to make? People typically scan content first to decide whether to read it carefully. A web page that’s set up for quick and easy scanning makes that easy.

The use of headings and subheadings can help a user quickly scan down the page to get to where they need to read carefully. Having short, punchy paragraphs, enough white space around it, and supportive images makes content easier to digest than long, dense paragraphs. You don’t want to have someone look at your page and conclude TL:DR — “too long, didn’t read”.

Avoid belaboring the point – don’t go off on tangents either. Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” Take the time to write with clarity.

5 — Intrusive Interstitials

You want to avoid these. But it’s not immediately obvious what they are. Interstitials are usually screens that pop up in between pages as someone navigates through your website. Sometimes they pop up before the home page is displayed. Often they’re ads, but sometimes they’re something helpful like an offer to chat with a live person.

Examples of intrusive interstitial's that can generate a Google ranking penalty.Pop-ups are not necessarily bad if they’re small enough. The problem is intrusive interstitials that are so large that significant portions of the content are obliterated by them.

On a responsive website, pop-ups that aren’t intrusive in a desktop browser may be very intrusive on a phone. That’s something to keep in mind because Google’s index is based on the mobile version of your website.

6 — Safety

Danger warning icon.If your website gets hacked or contains malicious software, you can count on getting weeded out of Google’s search results. Make sure your website and your web host are safety conscious and have appropriate protective software in place.

If your website is designed in WordPerfect, I recommend the WordFence security plug-in to alert you whenever security updates are available for your website or any of the plug-ins it uses. Your web designer can make other recommendations about what’s appropriate for you.

7 — Security

Security has to do with encrypting data that travels between your website and the user’s computer or phone. A secure website has a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. It’s easy to tell because if it does, the address of your website starts with https://instead of just http://.

Originally most websites didn’t bother with an SSL certificate unless they were collecting personal data like credit card information. That’s changed now, and all websites should be secure.

Chrome will point out if a website is insecure for not having an SSL certificate.If your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, when people look at it in Chrome they will see indicator that your site is “not secure”. Some users may infer that means your website is dangerous; you can lose potential customers that way!

Now’s the time to get ready for Google’s Page Experience algorithm update.

As of this writing, we all have about five months to get our websites ready for this significant change to Google’s ranking factors. Don’t put it off.

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Join the conversation with your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

The Importance of Inbound Link Anchor Text for Your SEO

Let’s talk about how important anchor text is on your inbound links from other websites.

First off, what is anchor text?

Links to websites or other pages are usually formatted differently from the rest of the text in a sentence or paragraph so they stand out. Anchor text is simply the word or words you can click on the follow the link.

An illustration of anchor text.

And it’s more important than you might think.

Two critical factors govern where you rank in search results

Where you rank in any search engine is essentially a function of two variables, relevance and reputation. Relevance has to do with how relevant your page is for the keyword being searched. This is what classic on-page SEO addresses: keyword relevance in your content. The other variable is reputation, which search engines essentially measure by your inbound link profile. This is often termed off-page SEO.

A link with a keyword in the anchor text helps on both accounts.

Inbound link reputation value

Authority is a term used to indicate the likelihood of a page ranking well in Google, irrespective of the search term. It’s a measure of the importance of a page. The most common metric is from Moz, called Page Authority and it’s designed to mimic Google’s internal PageRank.

Every page on the web has its own Page Authority, on a scale of 1-100. In simple terms, the more inbound links your page has, the higher its Page Authority. When a web page links to you, it gives your page a fraction of its own Page Authority. So a link from a high authority page is worth many times as much to you as a link from a low authority page.

Inbound link relevance value

Some have alleged that what other web sites say in their links to you matters more than what’s actually on your web site. I don’t believe that’s true, but a famous prank clearly illustrates the power of anchor text.A classic Google Bomb perpetrated against President George W. Bush.

During the administration of George W. Bush a technique called Google Bombing emerged. If you did a search for “miserable failure” or “worst president”, the #1 result in the search engines was the official WhiteHouse.gov biography of President George W. Bush.

 

If you had gone to President Bush’s biography and searched for the word “miserable” or the word “worst” you wouldn’t have found either one anywhere on the page. So why did Google think that page was really about those search terms?

Apparently, many bloggers had created links that pointed to President Bush’s biography and said “miserable failure” and “worst president” in the anchor text . Since those words weren’t on his bio page, the #1 result people found in Google was driven entirely by anchor text.

Here’s the moral of the story

Don’t request a link just for the authority value. Make sure you have keywords in the anchor text, too.

How to Improve Local Rankings in Google

Local search rankings are critical to local businesses

Increase your local search visibility on Google.

If you’re a local business, how you rank in local search can make or break your business. If you’re not showing up in Google when people search for what you do, your competitors are eating your lunch. That’s why it’s important to understand how to improve local rankings in Google and stay competitive.

It’s important to understand that there are two different local rankings in Google: the Local 3-Pack and the organic listings. The 3-Pack is the map with (typically) three local businesses beneath it corresponding to map pin icons on the map. The organic listings are typically beneath the Local 3-Pack and are the most common rankings customers consider.

These two parts of a local search result are determined by different factors. What’s most important to show up in the Local 3-Pack isn’t the same as what’s most important to show up in the local organic results. Let’s take them one at a time.

Google's Local 3-Pack for "near me" searches. To show up here, you need to improve local rankings in Google.

Google’s Local 3-Pack

Ranking factors for the Local 3-Pack

#1 Google My Business

This is the most important factor here. Critical to success here is making sure your category is correct, that your NAP (name, address, phone) is consistent with what’s on your your website, and that you’ve filled out as much information as possible. This may be the most important step you can take to improve local rankings in Google.

Related: Don’t Show Up Missing on Google My Business!

#2 Reviews and Citations

Positive online reviews are next in line. Make sure you have reviews on your Google My Business page. And not just review stars, but informational reviews; Google considers review comments important. 9 of 10 people trust online reviews. So does Google.Get reviews on a good number of other sites, too. Facebook, Yelp, DexKnows, SuperPages and CitySearch are good ones. Also any vertical directories you’re listed on.  You can suggest that delighted customers review at some of these places. You also need to monitor any reviews you get and respond to them whenever possible. A positive customer-focused response to a mediocre review can leave a very positive impression.

Related: How to Get Online Reviews

Citations that are consistent widely across the web gives Google confidence in your location and phone number. Consistency is critical because if a number of your listings have a previous address, some have a local number and others a toll-free number or fax number, Google isn’t confident which is right. If Google isn’t sure, it’s much less likely to rank you highly.

Related: Understand Common Citation Myths

#3 On-page SEO

This relates to making sure your website is secure, fast, and thoroughly Google-friendly. Make sure keyword placement is appropriate so that Google can tell clearly what each page is all about, and studiously avoid keyword stuffing.

Related: On-Page Optimization

The better your link profile, the higher your domain authority - and the higher you'll rank in Google results.#4 Domain Authority and your link profile

Your authority across the web informs Google about how important your website is. A commonly used measure of this is the Moz Domain Authority. It’s derived from a number of factors, the most important being your link profile: the number and quality of other websites linking to you.

Ranking factors for local organic listings

#1 On-page SEO

This is the same as #3 above for Local 3-Pack listings. It’s just more important for your organic ranking. It’s clearly indispensable for showing up in both parts of the search results.

#2 Domain Authority

See factor #4 above under the Local 3-Pack.

#3 Behavioral factors

A number of behavioral factors can affect your organic rankings in Google. They include the following.

  • Click through rate reflects the number of searchers exposed to your listing on a search engine results page (SERP) who actually click on your listing. They have looked at your page title and description and concluded that it’s a good match for what they’re looking for.Google's Local 3-Pack for "near me" searches. To show up here, you need to improve local rankings in Google.
  • Mobile clicks to call are possible only for mobile searchers, since you can’t click to call on a computer. But when someone finds you in a search on their phone and clicks to call you, it’s a very concrete message to Google that your page is an excellent result for that search. The more that happens, the better.
  • Bounce rate is related to the click through rate. For either to happen, the searcher needs an impression – you need to show up on the SERP for their search. A bounce occurs when someone is on a SERP with your listing and clicks on you but immediately bounces back to the search results to pick someone else instead of exploring your site. That’s a negative ranking factor. They clearly did not like your page or determined it wasn’t a good match for what they were looking for. And Google understands that.
  • The longer someone spends on your site, the more Google assumes they liked what they found there.Time onsite is something that Google tracks and most people aren’t aware of it. When someone clicks on your site and stays there awhile, perhaps exploring additional pages on your website, that tells the search engines that your site was an excellent match for that search. The longer they spend on your site, the more good information they must’ve found there. That makes you look really good in Google’s eyes, and will help you rank higher in the future.

#4 Reviews and citations

See#2 under the Local 3-Pack above. These are important to your rankings in both the organic results and the Local 3-Pack.

To improve local rankings in Google, you really need to pay attention to every one of the above ranking factors.

[Updated 2/12/21 to include a link to an excellent  Forbes article about NAP consistency.]

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